Kick Ass (2010)

This past Friday’s episode of WandaVision had a scene where Wanda and Pietro made a reference to Kick Ass. It was funny because both the actor who played Pietro in the episode, Evan Peters, and the actor who originated the role of Pietro in the MCU, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, appeared in the movie Kick Ass. It had been quite awhile since I saw the Mark Millar inspired comic book movie.

Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. originated the characters of Kick Ass and Hit Girl in a Marvel Comics book (under the company’s Icon Comics imprint), which was reprinted in Image Comics.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) was a comic book geek who always wanted to be a superhero. One day, Dave decided to order himself a green wet suit and become Kick Ass, posting his adventures online. Since Dave had no specific super powers, his fights as Kick Ass were less than impressive, though the exploits did create an online sensation.

Kick Ass’s efforts drew the attention of vigilante Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), whose revenge campaign against drug kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) was just beginning. Dave finds himself deep in a violent world of vengeance.

Kick Ass is a remarkably violent and bloody film, anchored by the fun and charismatic characters of Kick Ass and Hit Girl. I have never been a huge fan of the bloody murdering super hero (Punisher type). Growing up with Spider-Man, I have always been of the mind that super heroes do not kill. However, there is no denying the charm of the film and the heroic aspects of the characters, especially Kick Ass, who lacked any measurable skills or abilities for the role. His desire to do good outweighed his own personal danger and that is absolutely what a hero is.

Nicolas Cage was fantastic here. Kick Ass marked a bit of a resurgence for Nic Cage, moving into a different stage of his career. Big Daddy loved his daughter above all else…except perhaps for his vengeance. He is the type of character that could have been fascinating to go into a deeper dive with considering the argument that he is totally off-kilter would not be incorrect. Cage dresses Big Daddy in a Batman-like outfit and the connection to Batman, using his young ward in his fight against crime, is unmistakable. The film touches on, but does not go into great detail, about the moral implications of this partnership.

There are some gay moments and uses in the movie that may not play as well in 2021 as they did in 2010.

Kick Ass does a great job of combining the world of four-color comic books with the brutal world of vigilante heroes. The violence, at times, borders on comical, but there are other times (for example the internet streaming of the torture of Big Daddy and Kick Ass) where the violence was all too real.

Director Matthew Vaughn brings his typical level of style and visual acumen to Kick Ass, overcoming, perhaps, the slightness of the plot. The film was a huge success in the early days of the current renaissance of the comic book movie genre.

Coming to America (1988)

In March, there is a film releasing on Amazon Prime that is a sequel of a movie that came out 33 years ago, which makes me feel really old. Next month see the release of Coming 2 America, the sequel to Coming to America which starred Eddie Murphy as a prince of the African country of Zamunda who comes to New York to find a bride, became something to revisit and remind me of its goodness.

Prince Akeem wanted to find a woman who he loved, who was more than just a subservient, who had a mind of her own. His father, King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) had an arranged marriage waiting for his son, but Akeem wanted. Accompanied with his loyal servant Semmi (Arsenio Hall), Akeem headed to Queens, New York to find his own potential queen.

To avoid any gold-diggers, Akeem decided to pretend to be destitute, a decision that did not sit well with Semmi. Eventually, Akeem met a woman named Lisa (Shari Headley), who works with her father Cleo McDowell (John Amos) at his fast food restaurant, McDowell’s, not to be confused with McDonald’s. Lisa was already dating a selfish and arrogant jerk, Darryl (Eriq La Salle). Lisa quickly is attracted to the kind and regal nature of Akeem, who takes a job mopping the floor at the restaurant.

Coming to America had always been a favorite of Eddie Murphy’s oeuvre for me, however, watching this film today, I saw some of the drawbacks to it. It did feel long, and I thought there could have been some scenes early in the film that were droppable. It did take Akeem quite a chunk of time to get to New York and he did not find Lisa for awhile. While that makes sense, some of the scenes that were included felt unnecessary.

Still, this movie is very funny and tells a sweet story with Akeem and Lisa. Their relationship felt real and they were very much worth rooting for. I might have liked a little bit more with them, since it seemed as they wound up together pretty quickly. Maybe some of the other scenes could have been edited out to include more of the interactions with Akeem and Lisa.

Eddie Murphy is fantastic here, truly embracing the sweetness of the character of Akeem. He is the most likable character Eddie has ever played, and his sweet attitude bordering on nativity. However, the film does an excellent job of showing Akeem as the fish out of water without letting him cross over into parody.

Murphy and Hall played multiple characters here, including people at the barber shop, and I am not sure that does much for the film. It certainly showed off the skills of these two actors, but it may have taken away from the narrative.

The trailers for Coming 2 America have not looked promising to me, and most times when a sequel comes this long after the original, the results are iffy. Still, Coming to America continues to be a classic and a great film to enjoy.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

The time loop/repeating day film has started to become its own genre as there have been a bunch of these films over the years. Groundhog Day is what everyone always goes to at first, but there has also been Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt’s action adventure Edge of Tomorrow and last year’s surprise hit on Hulu, Palm Springs. If done correctly, these can be very compelling films.

We have reached the next installment in this type of movie with Amazon Prime’s new movie, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.

Mark (Kyle Allen) is a high school teen who appears to have everything in control. We then discover the secret. Mark is repeating the same day over and over on a loop. Becoming complacent with his life, Mark’s world was suddenly rocked when a blonde girl walked through his sight. changing what he knew. He became fascinated in who she was and started trying to find her. When he finds Margaret (Kathryn Newton), he discovers that she is in the same situation as he is.

The two of them began spending time together and started looking for those tiny perfect things that fills out the time in life between the major events.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a charming, fun and entertaining and uses the familiar idea of the repeating day in a new and creative manner. One of the key aspect of the success of the movie is the wonderful leads, Kathryn Newton and Kyle Allen. They carry much of the film with their chemistry and their allure. You enjoy watching these young actors whether they were together or alone.

There are some strong moments as we follow the pair along, adapting to their new regular circumstance. Both have internal struggles with their lives and facing them are developing their characters. They approach the idea that maybe they did not want to escape the time loop, which is something that we have not seen yet.

This is a enjoyable movie that is romantic and funny, with some very good performances from young and charming lead characters. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things makes for a good time.

4 stars

Judas and the Black Messiah

One of the big Oscar possibilities for this year dropped this weekend on HBO Max, as well as select theaters. It is a biopic set in the racially explicit 1960s after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X where the chairman of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, rises to the top of the FBI’s target list and an FBI informant is sent into the world of the militant organization to gather information.

Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) was a small time car thief who would pretend to be an FBI agent to make it easy to rip off the automobiles. Caught by the police, O’Neal was pressured into becoming an informant and sent into the Black Panthers. The film then records the tragic events that followed involving Hampton and the rst.

Daniel Kaluuya is wonderful as Fred Hampton, showing both his dedication to the ideas of the organization as well as his connection to his family. Kaluuya most likely will receive an Oscar nomination for his work here and it would be very deserving.

LaKeith Stanfield is compelling as William “Bill” O’Neal, showing us the conflict he had within himself over what he was being forced to do by the FBI, in particular, Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). It was obvious that O’Neal did not want to be in this situation, but he found himself stuck and he made a decision that put himself first.

The one actor who stood out like a giant prosthetic nose was Martin Sheen, who had a limited role as FBI head J. Edgar Hoover. I have always enjoyed the work of the former President Jed Bartlett (from West Wing), but as soon as I saw him with that nose, I was completely distracted and it pulled me out of the film. As I said, Hoover had very limited screen time and that was a good thing for me.

Unfortunately, Judas and the Black Messiah continues to feel relevant for the world today, as black people continue to be treated poorly, if not fatally, by police. You can see some of the outright cruelty shown by the police and the FBI of the time and the use of the black revolution as an excuse to attempt to keep them down and maintain the white privilege that has, sadly, remained active to this day. There are some shocking moments in this film and it is an important story to tell.

Some of the quieter moments of the film were less intriguing as the conflict within, but the film is elevated by some top line performances from both Kaluuya and Stanfield.

3.75 stars

WandaVision episode 6

WandaVision has become what I look forward to the whole week. When I get home from work on Thursday, I know that the next thing I am going to be able to do is watch WandaVision.

Spoilers for WandaVision Episode 6

Where to start?

There are so many places that I could start. Maybe we start with the big cliffhanger from last week that seemed to break the Internet… the arrival of Pietro, Wanda’s brother, but played not by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as it was in the Age of Ultron, but Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver in the Fox X-Men movies. Theories abounded about what this meant for the MCU, for mutants, for Evan Peters himself. We still do not know what exactly this guy’s deal was, but he absolutely rocked the comic accurate costume with the unbelievable hair.

We see Pietro using his powers all throughout episode six, but is he truly Pietro? The show addresses the fact that he looked different, explicitly from Wanda herself and Pietro says he does not know. He does seem to know a lot about what his sister has done here, going as far as saying he was impressed with what she did. There were times that he felt like he was the MCU Pietro (like the time that he referred to their childhood or when he talked about getting gunned down in the street), but there were also a bunch of times where he felt as if he were pumping Wanda for info and doing things intended to gain a reaction from her.

Either way, Evan Peters was absolutely fantastic here and played the part of the fun-uncle in the 1990s/early 2000 sitcom perfectly. There were several times when Pietro himself commented on the tropes of the fun uncle within the dialogue of the show as if he knew what was happening. It is a brilliant piece of writing that continues to tie the show into the world of sitcoms.

Which, by the way, this week’s episode is honoring Malcolm in the Middle, from the theme song through to the changes in the camera work that was brought into by that show. We also had the twins, Billy and Tommy, both turning to the camera and talking about what was happening, just like Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) would on Malcolm in the Middle.

Speaking of the twins, Billy & Tommy gain their powers this episode as comic fans know will lead to them being Wiccan (Billy) and Speed (Tommy) in the Young Avengers. I’m not saying that these kids will be in those plans, but there is certainly a possibilities. Both of the young boys do an amazing job of acting in this episode. Julian Hilliard played Billy and Jett Klyne played Tommy and they have a couple of tough scenes and they bring the goods, which is important since Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany are consistently exceptional in WandaVision.

That brings us to one of the darkest moments in MCU history. An animated commercial for Yo-Magic yogurt. Yes, the commercial this week takes a bit of a turn and features a young boy stranded on a deserted island. The boy says he is hungry, and things look bad for him. However, a shark swims up to the island and offers the boy some Yo-Magic in a container. The boy tries to open it, but he cannot get his fingers to open the foil on the top of the container. We see a progression of time as the boy continues to try to get to the Yo-Magic, until he dies of starvation and is left behind as a skeleton, still grasping the yogurt container.

It was shocking watching the commercial. There a a ton of theories about what this commercial represents. As the previous commercials all pointed to trauma and bad experiences in Wanda’s life, this could represent the people of Westview, or Vision or Wanda herself. The magic can not be reached and the kid dies slowly because of it. Could this be a reference to the “big bad” that helped give Wanda the power to take over Westview, a power level that she had never displayed before? Is the shark a specific metaphor for something else in the story (I would say for sure)? No matter what, the commercial is quite sinister and devastating.

This week is the first week that I believed that SWORD Director Hayward had some ulterior motives in the story. I still do not believe that he is any sort of a maestro of what has happened to Wanda, but he is definitely looking to track Vision. I have seen a cool theory about Hayward being the person to create Sentinels in the MCU and that he was using the technology of Vision to do it. Hayward clearly had a grudge against super powered people, which he let slip in an argument with Monica Rambeau. There is something hidden behind his final firewall that Marcy had not breached yet. What is Project Cataract?

More points of interest this week:

  • What is going on with Agnes? Is she more than what we think or not? The meeting with Vision in her car seems to have thrown the theories of her being connected to the big bad into chaos.
  • Monica’s cells are being re-written? Is this how mutants are coming?
  • Vision being ripped apart by the Hex was horrifying
  • So was the image of zombie Pietro with bullet holes.
  • Jimmy Woo is good for more than just getting coffee!
  • Darcy gets swallowed by the Hex. What will happen to her?
  • Monica’s “guy” is still coming. Who is this aero engineer? Blue Marvel? Reed Richards? Her skrull friend? etc.
  • The Hex turned SWORD agents into clowns. Ha Ha Ha. Wanda throwing shade.
  • There are kids everywhere now. Where did they come from? Did Wanda have them “tucked in their beds until she needed them”?
  • The single tear of the woman frozen in place was heart wrenching.
  • As Vision is getting torn apart, he thinks of the people trapped in Westview.
  • People on the outskirts of town seem to be nearly frozen. Could it be that the farther you are away from Wanda, the less you are able to do?
Image result for wandavision episode 6 outskirts of westview

I can not wait until episode 7!

Specter Inspectors #1

Specter Inspector #1

Writer: Bowen McCurdy & Kaitlyn Musto

Artist: Bowen McCurdy

Cover Art: Bowen McCurdy

Last week, I went to my comic shop for the Wednesday releases. I am still a huge Marvel fan, but I have been picking up more independent comics over the last few years because I have found so many great stories. I generally look at new #1s of independents just to see. I looked at Specter Inspectors and it looked like a kids book so I let it stay on the stand.

However, as I was sitting there reading some of the books that I had purchased, the owner Ben arrived. Ben was the one who practically forced me try Somebody is Killing the Children #1 and he asked me if I had picked up Specter Inspector #1. Before I knew what had happened, it was in my box to buy the next week.

This week I purchased it but I read some of the other books first. As I was getting ready to leave ComicWorld, Ben asked me again about Specter Inspector so I figured I better read it.

Wouldn’t you know it… I really loved it.

Specter Inspectors was like Scooby Doo meets The Ghost Hunters meets Rumpelstiltskin and maybe with a splash of a G-rated Evil Dead.

I have to say that I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. There was a creepy haunted town, a group of young kids out to film the paranormal and make a name for themselves. There was a cool twist to set up the story and the interactions between the characters are great.

It is simply a lot of fun.

It is a five issue series, and, I can’t believe it, I’m looking forward to the rest of the Boom! Box series.

Malcolm & Marie

John David Washington and Zendaya are the only actors in this film from Sam Levinson that arrived on Netflix this past weekend. It is shot in beautiful black and white, and both actors are strong. Unfortunately, the film is chock full of anger and resentment that it is simply an uncomfortable watch,

Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) are a couple, returning from Malcolm’s movie premiere, a “tour de force” that was certain to be a rave review from critics. However, as they return to their home, deep seeded issues come to the surface, threatening their relationship.

Both of these characters then proceed to rip into each other with a viciousness and a cruelty that made me really want to shut it off. It was brutal and off-putting. Malcolm was so verbally out of control that you could not help but wonder why Marie would stay with him. It made me think about the abusive relationships out there that are toxic and do damage to people’s self-image. However, Marie had her moments of destructive tendencies as well.

The film also had some strange obsession with a “white woman writer from the L.A. Times” as well as a couple of other critics. She is apparently based on a real person at the LA Times. They spent a lot of time in this movie slamming this writer for her opinions and her criticism. It was really ugly and truly petty. There was so much time donated to the attack on this critic that it feels as if it was nearly as important of a plot point as anything that came out of these two people’s mouths.

Malcolm & Marie is supposed to be a romantic film, but I did not find anything here romantic. Not even in the least. In fact, this had more moments of me felling dirty and disgusted that someone believed that this is what a relationship had to be. While Zendaya and Washington are really passionate and powerful while delivering their monologues (and oh, there are lots of monologues), there is little character development and I felt nothing in chemistry. In fact, it feels as if the film used some sexual situations and titillating imagery to force the chemistry between them. I never felt it. The anger and vitriol overcame any sensuality. It was an unhealthy relationship and I wanted Marie to just leave the house.

Whatever positives I get from Malcolm & Marie come directly from (to a lesser extent) John David Washington, whose Malcolm is an unlikable, verbally-abusive dick, and (to a greatest extent) Zendaya, whose Marie felt as if she was trying to defend herself more than just be cruel. Zendaya embodied Marie with a lot of sadness and her pain comes across considerably more than any professed love does.

There is just too much bile in this film for me. Bile between the characters and bile towards the “white woman from the LA Times.” It was not an enjoyable experience. Sorry if my criticism offends anyone.

2.1 stars

Synchronic (2020)

I got a message from a friend asking about my review of Bliss. He said he was desperate for new sci-fi. Then he asked if I had ever seen Synchronic. I had never even heard of it before so I watched the trailer and it was definitely intriguing. I went over to Vudu and rented the film so give it a try.

I am really glad Chris mentioned this to me.

Synchronic started Anthony Mackie as Steve and Jamie Dornan as Dennis, two paramedics in New Orleans who respond to all sorts of troubles. There is seemingly a ton of drug related issues in the area. Close friends, Steve and Dennis have a great comradery with each other which is pushed by their individual drama within their lives.

Steve and Dennis come across a series of deaths that have been connected with a new designer drug called Synchronic. Steve, who has received some terrible news, took it upon himself to target the removal of the designer drug from New Orleans. Along the way, he discovered a surprising side effect.

As Steve is pursuing this mystery, Dennis’s family is starting to fall apart as his 18-year old daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) disappeared.

This was a gripping story that took elements from a family drama and a buddy movie and engaged it with this science fiction story. While the third act does stretch it a bit too far, the plot here was filled with tension and anxiousness.

I love Anthony Mackie, but to be honest, outside of the Falcon and the MCU, I have not been a huge fan of the movies that he has appeared in. His IMDB page shows him as a solid secondary character, but his lead work lacking despite his clear charm and acting ability. Synchronic is perhaps his best performance outside of the MCU to date. He has great chemistry with Jamie Dornan, who also gives a very strong performance here as the husband struggling with his family. The pairing of Mackie and Dornan is the strength of the film.

There are several disturbing images at play in Synchronic too. There is an element of horror that finds its way into the imagery, building the feeling of uneasiness that is pervasive throughout the film.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, successful independent film directors of The Endless and Resolution (and Benson has been tapped as the director for the upcoming MCU Disney + series Moon Knight), have received probably their highest profile film to date. It certainly has the two biggest stars that they have worked with as well. There inclusion of the character aspects of the film brought it to a much higher level than many other directors may have taken it.

It is a shame that this movie did not receive as much attention as it deserved. Synchronic is a definite challenging watch and provides some creative ideas with a strong character piece.

Bliss

There was a new original science fiction film on Amazon Prime this weekend starring Owen Wilson called Bliss. I was unimpressed.

It had been a bad stretch for Greg (Owen Wilson). He had gotten divorced and then fired from his job. After making a huge mistake, he found himself in a bar looking to drown his sorrows. There he came across a mysterious woman named Isabel (Salma Hayek), who tells him that the world that is falling apart around him is not real, that he is trapped in a computer simulation.

I have to say that I think Owen Wilson does an admirable job here. Despite the silliness of the film, he is giving his very best performance and effort. The problem is there is just not enough here to justify it.

I have always enjoyed Salma Hayek too, but this character of Isabel is just not one that I can connect to. She seems to be all over the place and I am just not certain what she is meant to be. That maybe is done for a purpose, but it made her unlikeable and she was hardly written in a manner that made her someone I wanted to root for.

The story itself was was messy and lost my attention several times. Much of what happened felt coincidental and unearned while the movie spent more time explaining the rules of the film and then breaking them as it went. Some of the dialogue was unintentionally funny and really gave a disservice to Wilson and Hayek.

The third act just took the entire setup and just flushed it down the toilet. The ridiculousness of the third act took any of the possible good will from earlier in the movie or the potential of the premise and tossed it aside.

Bliss’ core premise has some possibilities, but the execution of this film does not come anywhere near those. Despite the likeable actors involved, Bliss is just not worth the time.

2.1 stars

WandaVision episode 5

This week…on a very special episode of WandaVision….

[EDIT: Here is something wild. I wrote this before I was aware that the title of the episode was actually “On A Very Special Episode.” When I saw that, it blew my mind. Obviously, they did a great job of working in that trope about special episodes of sitcoms because that is exactly where my head went.]

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION EPISODE 5

At least, that is the way it felt. As we moved into the 1980s style comedy heavily influenced by Family Ties, things are starting to crack in Westview. And we get a massive “recast.”

Vision is beginning to see things the way they are. It started with a strange encounter with Agnes and their crying babies (who…by the way… appear to be immune to Wanda’s magic). The moment where Agnes asks Wanda if they should “take it from the top” continued to plant the seeds of confusion in Vision that started last episode.

He discovers even more as he “freed” Norm for a moment while at work, revealing his true personality away from Wanda’s control. Paul Bettany is masterful as he portrays the confusion and the feeling of betrayal while still having deep feelings for his family.

His family, which includes the twins, Tommy and Billy. The twins age twice in the episode, once to stop crying constantly and once to keep the dog that they found outside. Sparky is named after the dog from the Tom King Vision series, though that one was a synthezoid as well. Tommy and Billy end up as ten-year old children.

This is the basis behind the “very special episode” comment I made earlier. When Sparky winds up dead (in Agnes’s arms…hm), Tommy and Billy have to deal with the death of a loved one, and they, quite rightly, think their mom could fix it. Back in the 80s, many of these sitcoms handled these deep subjects in, what would be referred to as, a “very special episode.” That was the feel given off here. Sparky’s entire presence here felt outside of Wanda’s control and she appeared to be uncertain about what happened. She does prevent the twins from “aging up” again, saying that people cannot run from their grief. Ironic.

This episode also contained two major confrontations. The first was with Wanda and SWORD outside of the Hex (thanks Darcy). Wanda let it be known that any further interference from Director hayward would not be tolerated. This scene gave us a bunch of tidbits, including the idea that Wanda brought Monica into Westview (as we saw last episode) as a way to get help.

Image result for wandavision episode 5 wanda vs SWORD

There was a high level of stress with this standoff. Understandably, Wanda was ticked off. Hayward had sent a 80s style drone into the Hex to take out Wanda. It failed, of course, but it directly led to Wanda coming outside of Westview to warn him. The way she redirected the agents who had their guns set on her to direct the guns on Hayward instead was frightening. I really thought she was going to finish him off right there.

Then the second confrontation was between Wanda and Vision as he told her about Norm and how he knew she was behind this. Vision had said that Wanda could not control him and she implied that she could. This tense war of words were interrupted by the doorbell and the arrival of Evan Peters as Pietro. Darcy, watching on the screen, was surprised and said “she recast Pietro” confirming that Peters was not the MCU Pietro. We know he appeared as Pietro in the FOX movies, but there had been a ton of speculation about what his role would be here in WandaVision. Wanda seemed as surprised as anyone leading one to think that there might be more to this than we think.

This was a fantastic episode with so many things happening Things I did not include in the write up”

  • Monica’s weird reaction to the comment about Captain Marvel
  • Wanda’s use of magic in front of Agnes
  • The credits rolling when Wanda wanted the show over to avoid the argument with Vision
  • New commercial connecting to Lagos. Paper Towels- for cleaning up the mess you didn’t mean to make
  • Confirmation that there has been no “Scarlet Witch” name in the MCU as of this moment
  • Vision’s ability to break Norm out of Wanda’s control (although Norm never says Wanda by name. She only says “she”. Could it be Agnes?)
  • Wanda’s line to the crying babies “Why won’t you do what I want?”
  • Bulletproof vests
  • No children in Westview
  • Wanda doesn’t “know how this all started”
  • Wanda steals Vision’s corpse.

This was a tremendous episode. I felt myself tearing up a bit when Sparky died. You know they have got me.

Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself

Boy, oh boy.

I was watching Fatman Beyond last week, as much to catch Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin’s views on the new episode of WandaVision as anything else. Then, Marc Bernardin made a recommendation of a film on Hulu called In & Of Itself, and he said it the was the best thing he had seen that week. He said it was a filmed version of a stage show featuring magic and storytelling and he called it “revelatory and remarkable.” So with that recommendation committed, I wrote the movie title down on my notepad to remind me to catch it when I could.

Marc Bernardin was 100% correct. This was a masterful piece of entertainment that was both awe-inspiring and emotionally transcendent. This film grasped me and took me to a place where I didn’t know that I wanted to be. Honestly, the last film that has made me feel like this one did was the Mr. Rogers’ biopic documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor.

Derek DelGaudio is a magician and this is a one man show where he uses the magic he does, some of which is utterly amazing, to emphasize and illuminate the stories that he would tell. The idea behind the stories was to reveal to the audience not only who Derek DelGaudio was, but who they were are as well. The use of the audience in this film was part of the masterful manner DelGaudio makes these stories feel universal and connects us to the emotions and feelings of a group of strangers.

It is the type of interactions that we really need to have in this time in our history.

I do not want to go into too many specifics because part of the magic of the film is not being sure exactly where it is heading as it moves you along. The very first story DelGaudio tells us was tremendously gripping and carried through as a throughline, effectively connecting everything together. It was truly powerful.

The whole time, Derek DelGaudio looked haunted or ravaged as the stories continued, draining the emotions rom him. I cannot imagine how he could do this as a one-man play for a year and a half without being overcome with emotion constantly. It is an amazing performance.

The film is directed by Frank Oz and was executive produced by Stephen Colbert and Evelyn McGee-Colbert. Colbert had seen the stage show and was so impressed with the manner of the show that he wanted to help create the film version to preserve the experience.

In & Of Itself is a powerful film that is truly an important piece for the world we live in now.

5 stars

2021 Golden Globes Nominees

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

THE FATHER (Trademark Films; Sony Pictures Classics)

MANK (Netflix; Netflix)

NOMADLAND  (Highwayman / Hear/Say / Cor Cordium; Searchlight Pictures)

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (LuckyChap Entertainment / FilmNation Entertainment; Focus Features)

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (Marc Platt Productions / Dreamworks Pictures; Netflix)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

VIOLA DAVIS    MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

ANDRA DAY    THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY

VANESSA KIRBY    PIECES OF A WOMAN

FRANCES MCDORMAND    NOMADLAND

CAREY MULLIGAN    PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

RIZ AHMED    SOUND OF METAL

CHADWICK BOSEMAN    MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

ANTHONY HOPKINS    THE FATHER

GARY OLDMAN    MANK

TAHAR RAHIM    THE MAURITANIAN

BEST MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM (Four By Two Films; Amazon Studios)

HAMILTON (Walt Disney Pictures / RadicalMedia / 5000 Broadway Productions / NEVIS Productions / Old 320 Sycamore Pictures; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

MUSIC (Pineapple Lasagne Productions / Landay Entertainment; Vertical Entertainment / IMAX)

PALM SPRINGS (Party Over Here / Limelight Productions; NEON / Hulu)

THE PROM (Netflix / Dramatic Forces / Storykey Entertainment; Netflix)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

MARIA BAKALOVA    BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM

KATE HUDSON    MUSIC

MICHELLE PFEIFFER    FRENCH EXIT

ROSAMUND PIKE    I CARE A LOT

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY    EMMA.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

SACHA BARON COHEN    BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM

JAMES CORDEN    THE PROM

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA    HAMILTON

DEV PATEL    THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

ANDY SAMBERG    PALM SPRINGS

BEST MOTION PICTURE – ANIMATED

THE CROODS: A NEW AGE (DreamWorks Animation; Universal Pictures)

ONWARD (Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

OVER THE MOON (Netflix / Pearl Studio / Glen Keane Productions; Netflix)

SOUL (Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

WOLFWALKERS (Cartoon Saloon / Melusine; Apple / GKIDS)

BEST MOTION PICTURE – FOREIGN LANGUAGE

ANOTHER ROUND (DENMARK) (Zentropa Entertainments; Samuel Goldwyn Films)

LA LLORONA (GUATEMALA / FRANCE) (La Casa de Producción / Les Films du Volcan; Shudder)

THE LIFE AHEAD (ITALY) (Palomar; Netflix)

MINARI (USA) (Plan B; A24)

TWO OF US (FRANCE / USA) (Paprika Films; Magnolia Pictures)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE

GLENN CLOSE    HILLBILLY ELEGY

OLIVIA COLMAN    THE FATHER

JODIE FOSTER    THE MAURITANIAN

AMANDA SEYFRIED    MANK

HELENA ZENGEL    NEWS OF THE WORLD

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE

SACHA BARON COHEN    THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

DANIEL KALUUYA    JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

JARED LETO    THE LITTLE THINGS

BILL MURRAY    ON THE ROCKS

LESLIE ODOM JR.    ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE

EMERALD FENNELL    PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

DAVID FINCHER    MANK

REGINA KING    ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…

AARON SORKIN    THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

CHLOÉ ZHAO    NOMADLAND

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE

EMERALD FENNELL    PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

JACK FINCHER    MANK

AARON SORKIN    THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

FLORIAN ZELLER, CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON    THE FATHER

CHLOÉ ZHAO    NOMADLAND

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT    THE MIDNIGHT SKY

LUDWIG GÖRANSSON    TENET

JAMES NEWTON HOWARD    NEWS OF THE WORLD

TRENT REZNOR, ATTICUS ROSS    MANK

TRENT REZNOR, ATTICUS ROSS, JON BATISTE    SOUL

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE

“FIGHT FOR YOU” — JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Music by:    H.E.R., Dernst Emile II
Lyrics by:    H.E.R., Tiara Thomas

“HEAR MY VOICE” — THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
Music by:    Daniel Pemberton
Lyrics by:    Daniel Pemberton, Celeste Waite

“IO SÌ (SEEN)” — THE LIFE AHEAD
Music by:    Diane Warren
Lyrics by:    Diane Warren, Laura Pausini, Niccolò Agliardi

“SPEAK NOW” — ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…
Music by:    Leslie Odom Jr, Sam Ashworth
Lyrics by:    Leslie Odom Jr, Sam Ashworth

“TIGRESS & TWEED” — THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY
Music by:    Andra Day, Raphael Saadiq
Lyrics by:    Andra Day, Raphael Saadiq

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

THE CROWN – NETFLIX (Left Bank Pictures / Sony Pictures Television)

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY – HBO (HBO / Afemme / Monkeypaw / Bad Robot / Warner Bros. Television)

THE MANDALORIAN – DISNEY+ (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

OZARK – NETFLIX (MRC Television)

RATCHED – NETFLIX (Fox21 Television Studios)   

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

OLIVIA COLMAN    THE CROWN

JODIE COMER    KILLING EVE

EMMA CORRIN    THE CROWN

LAURA LINNEY    OZARK

SARAH PAULSON    RATCHED

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA

JASON BATEMAN    OZARK

JOSH O’CONNOR    THE CROWN

BOB ODENKIRK    BETTER CALL SAUL

AL PACINO    HUNTERS

MATTHEW RHYS    PERRY MASON

BEST TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

EMILY IN PARIS – NETFLIX (Darren Star Productions / Jax Media / MTV Studios)

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT – HBO MAX (HBO Max / Berlanti Productions / Yes, Norman Productions / Warner Bros. Television)

THE GREAT – HULU (Hulu / Civic Center Media / MRC)

SCHITT’S CREEK – POP TV (Not A Real Company Productions / Canadian Broadcast Company / Pop TV)

TED LASSO – APPLE TV+ (Apple / Doozer Productions / Warner Bros. Television / Universal Television)   

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

LILY COLLINS    EMILY IN PARIS

KALEY CUOCO    THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

ELLE FANNING    THE GREAT

JANE LEVY    ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST

CATHERINE O’HARA    SCHITT’S CREEK

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES – MUSICAL OR COMEDY

DON CHEADLE    BLACK MONDAY

NICHOLAS HOULT    THE GREAT

EUGENE LEVY    SCHITT’S CREEK

JASON SUDEIKIS    TED LASSO

RAMY YOUSSEF    RAMY

BEST TELEVISION LIMITED SERIES, ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

NORMAL PEOPLE – HULU (Hulu / BBC / Element Pictures)

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT – NETFLIX (Netflix)

SMALL AXE – AMAZON STUDIOS (BBC Studios Americas, Inc / Amazon Studios)

THE UNDOING – HBO (HBO / Made Up Stories / Blossom Films/David E. Kelley Productions)

UNORTHODOX – NETFLIX (Studio Airlift / RealFilm)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES, ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR A MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

CATE BLANCHETT    MRS. AMERICA

DAISY EDGAR-JONES    NORMAL PEOPLE

SHIRA HAAS    UNORTHODOX

NICOLE KIDMAN    THE UNDOING

ANYA TAYLOR-JOY    THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES, ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR A MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

BRYAN CRANSTON    YOUR HONOR

JEFF DANIELS    THE COMEY RULE

HUGH GRANT    THE UNDOING

ETHAN HAWKE    THE GOOD LORD BIRD

MARK RUFFALO    I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SUPPORTING ROLE

GILLIAN ANDERSON    THE CROWN

HELENA BONHAM CARTER    THE CROWN

JULIA GARNER    OZARK

ANNIE MURPHY    SCHITT’S CREEK

CYNTHIA NIXON    RATCHED

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SUPPORTING ROLE

JOHN BOYEGA    SMALL AXE

BRENDAN GLEESON    THE COMEY RULE

DANIEL LEVY    SCHITT’S CREEK

JIM PARSONS    HOLLYWOOD

DONALD SUTHERLAND    THE UNDOING

Nominees found: https://www.goldenglobes.com/

Batman: Soul of the Dragon

DC Animation continues to be a top notch storytelling company, bringing some extra special stand alone content featuring DC superheroes and characters.

Yes, many of them include The Batman, which only makes sense since the Caped Crusader is arguably the most popular superhero character in the world.

This time, they toss Batman into the world of martial arts and they created a film honoring the different types of martial arts movies that have populated the genre for years.

Batman: Soul of the Dragon features Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) head back to his roots of his original training to recruit his former allies in order to stop a villainous cult from bringing back an evil god.

His associates included Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) and Ben “The Bronze Tiger” Turner (Michael Jai white). Interestingly enough, three of these four characters are considered villains in DC Comics 9with Lady Shiva being an assassin). However, these characters are portrayed much differently here than they are in the comics.

The story is told both in present day and in flashbacks, featuring Bruce Wayne and his training with his O-Sensei (James Hong).

The film has some great animated martial arts action and does not skimp on the violence of the genre. I was shocked once at the decapitated head rolling off the screen. There are examples of all kinds of martial arts type films here, including Blaxploitation, snake monsters and Bruce Lee inspired action.

The animation itself is the regular DC Animated fare, passable, but anything but impressive. I have said for years that if the DC Animation company would invest some money in the animation, they could present some wonderful movies. As it is, the animation used here is fine. Unremarkable.

Batman feels like he is just a tag along on this adventure. He only dons his Bat suit a couple of times during the fights and he is far from the standout. While that is not the worst take for the character, there are plenty of Batman fans who may find this lacking because of the lack of Batman.

And the main villain of the story, simply put, looks just like a low budget Serpentor from the old G.I. Joe cartoons. I had a problem getting past that.

Still, taking this as a martial arts movie, Batman: Soul of the Dragon was a fun time and I was happy that I got a chance to watch it. The Elseworlds story could have been better, but it was a decent enough film.

3.75 stars

Palmer

I was having trouble with the Apple TV app yesterday morning as I was attempting to watch their new streaming movie, Palmer starring Justin Timberlake. It would start up and then shut down saying that there was something wrong with the video (or that it was not available…something like that). It was frustrating and made me nervous for Cherry (with Tom Holland) which I am looking forward to this month.

However, I tried again last night and thankfully everything seemed to be straightened out and I was able to watch Palmer.

Eddie Plamer (Justin Timberlake) was a former star high school football player who got in trouble in college with drugs which led him to breaking the law. Eddie wound up in prison for his offenses and he spent 12 years behind bars.

During the time, Eddie was on his best behavior, straightening his life out. He was released and went back to his hometown to live with his grandmother Vivian (the always awesome June Squibb). Vivian, a wonderfully kind and giving person, temporarily took in the neighbor’s son Sam (Ryder Allen) when Sam’s mother Shelly (Juno Temple) ran off. This was something that was not uncommon, something that Vivian had done before.

So as Eddie is trying to find a job and rebuild his life, this young boy entered the picture. Sam was a unique boy, preferring non-traditional gender activities for a boy his age. Because of this, Sam was the victim of bullying at school and in the community.

The relationship between Eddie and Sam was the single most important relationship of the film. If it did not work, the film would immediately crash and burn. Fortunately, there is a strong connection between the actors and you can see how they bonded. I really loved the fact that Eddie, while uncomfortable at times, never looked down upon Sam because of his differences. Through the actions with Sam, you could see that Eddie was a really good person. Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen gave us very strong performances and carried the film on their shoulders.

Again, I love June Squibb. Every time she is in a movie, I find myself drawn to her as an actor. I wonder if SPOILERS she ever gets tired of being cast in roles where she dies. It seems like she is always dying in the films she is in. Maybe she has reached a place in her life where she just does not give a crap. END OF SPOILERS.

Another great cast member here is Alisha Wainwright, who played Ms. Maggie, one of Sam’s teachers who fell into a relationship with Eddie. Wainwright glowed on the screen and there is just no doubt in my mind that she is a star in the making.

There were several moments in the film that I found to be so unrealistic in this type of film that took me out of it for some time. I had a hard time accepting that a school would hire Eddie as a custodian with his criminal record (especially with the violent nature of it). I love the idea of second chances and redemption, but I just have a doubt that it would happen. Especially in a community where we see a few times, including the sheriff, where people said to Eddie that he should not have been released from prison.

It also felt as if some of the conflicts of the story are handled in a simplistic way. I am not sure that everything would have worked out like it did most of the time. That gave the film a Lifetime movie vibe more than a big screen drama.

Though the story is simple, the strength of the chemistry between Timberlake and Allen do the heavy lifting for the film and you absolutely root for the pair to make it through their struggles. None of the problems I had with the situations took away from that and it did not affect my overall enjoyment of the film. Palmer was worth the effort of having to return to Apple TV to view it.

3.4 stars