Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I was an former D&D player from back in the day and so when I heard they were doing a new version of the game in live action I thought… meh. The reason I thought that was there have not been any good versions of Dungeons & Dragons on the screen, live or animated, big screen or small one, yet. The closest it came was the old animated TV show from the 1980s. There have been some just horrendous adaptations since.

The early trailers looked okay, but then a few weeks ago, I saw a trailer at the theater with a voice over and that trailer was just terrible. It made me not want to go see the movie.

Despite positive word of mouth, I went to the early access event at Cinemark to see Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves a week before it was officially released and I had my doubts.

I am happy to say that my worries were unfounded and that this movie was a lot of fun and presented the audience with one of (if not the)best versions of the role playing game we have ever seen. It was a great adventure and it gave us a fantastic spirit and feel of being in a group going through an adventure.

Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) were in a prison camp, hoping for a pardon for their crimes. They had been captured during an attempt to steal a relic that Edgin could use to raise his wife from the dead. Unfortunately, this meant that Edgin had to leave his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) with his con man friend Forge (Hugh Grant).

When the pair escaped from their prison, they discovered that Forge had assumed a position of power and had been behind them being captured.

Edgin and Holga formed a team, which included their friend, the insecure sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and the shapeshifting tiefling druid, Doric (Sophia Lillis), and they came up with a series of plans to try and re-steal the artifact and free Kira.

The cast is excellent here. Chris Pine is so over-the-top that he fits this role beautifully. He just feels so genuine in his performance that I believed everything he said and did. And he was extremely funny. Hugh Grant was also a hoot as the slimy Forge. Both Sophia Lillis and Justice Smith gave their characters just enough traits and heart to make them easy to root for and they displayed some definitive chemistry not only with each other, but the entire ensemble.

The story absolutely felt like a D&D adventure, with the side adventures and the confrontations with the creatures of the world. The special effects looked real solid. I believed they were fighting a dragon when they were fighting a dragon (even though one of the dragons they fight is not the typical dragon you are used to seeing).

The film’s comedy worked very well, reminding me of the type of comedy one would see in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. There was an absolute Marvel flair in the humor (in the good way). I could not help but get a few reminders of Monty Python and the Holy Grail during the questioning scene in the graveyard. It was easily the funniest moment of the movie.

I was not as fond of the Red Wizard, Sofina (Daisy Head) character as it reminded me too much of the Enchantress from Suicide Squad. Still the third act with this character went much better than the third act of that movie.

This may have been a touch too long and could have benefitted from cutting maybe one side encounter, but it was truly an overall fun time at the movies and, by comparison to other D&D properties, this was a massive home run.

4.2 stars

John Wick: Chapter 4

I was a big fan of the first John Wick film. However, if I am being honest, while I remember liking the next two in the franchise, I can’t remember anything specific about either one outside of the fact that John Wick just went about killing fools. They really just blended together into the films that followed the first John Wick film. Chapter 4 is not going to have that trouble because this is the most memorable and, arguably, the best entry in the entire franchise.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still in all kinds of trouble with the mysterious Table as he is trying to stay alive. New threat, Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) is looking to take down John for his trespasses against the Table and he has hired/blackmailed John’s old friend, blind assassin Caine (Donnie Yen) into taking John’s name and killing him. There is also another assassin, Tracker (Shamier Anderson) and his dog coming after John. John kills a ton of fools trying to stay alive (did I mention that already?).

The story is straight-forward. John Wick is trying to stay alive while bunches of people are coming after him. They gave the antagonists hunting John Wick their own motivations here (as well as a ton of cannon fodder to die). Caine was a complex individual who had a motive that you could understand, though that did not make him a good guy. I kept wondering if John, Caine and Tracker were going to eventually team up as an all-star assassin team at some point because they all had a strange connection.

The key to this movie is the action. It is absolutely insane. I do not know how many times I gasped or laughed out loud or dropped my mouth open in utter shock at the amazing set up for each of these action set pieces. The car chase/fight in traffic in Paris was perhaps the most outstanding sequence among all kinds of exceptional scenes. The way these scenes are choreographed and designed are brilliant, as the precision of each moment required knowing what was happening with every shot (or stab or blast etc.). There was also an awesome shot of John Wick moving through a building killing fool that gave us a bird’s eye view of the events. It felt very much like a video game in all the best ways possible.

After all the action leading up to the final act, I thought what they had set up might not deliver the goods, but I was so wrong. No spoilers, of course, but the ending sequence was tense and filled with so much suspense while taking everything to a more low key moment. It was done exceptionally well and felt perfectly satisfying after the huge battle scenes.

The film is long, but you do not feel that length. It is well paced and there are so many action beats that you are grateful for those few breaths that you get throughout the run time.

RIP Lance Reddick, who passed away just recently. His scenes as Charon were quite bittersweet and it was sad to know that this unique presence would no longer grace us with his acting skill.

I was unaware that John Wick’s suit was made of Kevlar. I do not remember that fact bein introduced in prior films, but, if it was, it goes to show you how I have found these middle two films not that memorable. I definitely got that idea from this film.

It was good to see Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne once again and the addition of Clancy Brown is always welcome. Three LOST alumni appeared in Chapter 4: Clancy Brown, Lance Reddick and Hiroyuki Sanada and I love seeing these talented character actors.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is full of fun, excitement and ‘holy s**t’ moments that I found thrilling, funny, completely engaging and worth every second.

5 stars

Boston Strangler (2023)

I have always been intrigued and fascinated by serial killers so when I saw that Hulu was having a film based on the Boston Strangler, I was looking forward to seeing it. I was not that familiar with this case heading in and, now that I have, I was unaware that this case may not have been the slam dunk that it seemed.

This film reminded me of David Fincher’s Zodiac. I will state right now that Zodiac was one of my favorite movies and Boston Strangler is not close to that masterpiece. However, there are distinct similarities between the two films.

This film follows the journalistic investigation from the newspaper the Boston Record American into the serial killer. Reporter Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) was the first reporter to link the different Strangler victims together to indicate that they were connected. Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), a more experienced reporter, was assigned to work the story with Loretta by their editor Jack Maclaine (Chris Cooper).

Loretta and Jean faced not only the challenges of investigating these murders, but also the reigning feeling of misogamy among the police and in general during the early 1960s when this case was going on. Seeing how these reporters faced the sexist thoughts and words of the police was a fascinating layer added to this movie.

Albert DeSalvo (David Dastmalchian) became one of the leading suspects in the Strangler case and then wound up confessing to all 13 murders Some of the tricks pulled in this case by DeSalvo’s attorney F. Lee Bailey were really slimy. Bailey was not cast in this movie, as they simply spoke about the things that Bailey had DeSalvo do.

Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon worked extremely well together and they had a chemistry with one another. Knightley gave a Pitbull-like performance as Loretta and we got a chance to see (much like Jake Gyllenhaal’s character from Zodiac) how this case/investigation took a toll on the marriage.

The tone of this film was decent, but it was not as tense as some other films of this irk. The music was lacking on the soundtrack and that took away from the overall feel of the crime movie.

While this may not reach the epic levels of Zodiac, Boston Strangler is a fascinating watch and provided me with parts of this story that I was unaware of. I did not know that some believe that Albert DeSalvo did not murder all 13 of the women and that there were multiple people who committed these crimes. It may not be the greatest film of this subgenre I have ever seen, but I was engaged fully and anxious to see how the film would end up.

3.8 stars

Shazam: Fury of the Gods

I really enjoyed the first Shazam movie so I had some excitement for the follow-up, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, starring Zachary Levi as the Big Red Cheese. It’s too bad he can’t just keep the name Captain Marvel as he originally had because calling the character Shazam, which is the magic word that transforms him, means he can never introduce himself to anybody. Anyway…

Zachary Levi returned as Shazam, who is trying to keep his Shazam Family as a group, preventing them from flying off (literally) and doing their own things. Shazam said that they needed to be all together and never alone.

That did not sit well with the others who had plans of their own. When three sisters, the Daughters of Atlas, arrived looking to reclaim the power that Shazam had gotten (and shared), the family was put into a dangerous situation and have to try and survive, even without their powers.

This was fine.

That is about the nest review I can give. There were several parts that bothered me about the film, but overall, I had a decent theater experience with it. The film was paced nicely, and never felt like it was a 2 hour and 10 minute film. It moved at a brisk pace and kept me interested in the overall story. That story was simplistic, but it worked more than it did not.

The special effects of the film were pretty solid. The look of the dragon that was summoned was cool and the fight with Shazam was well done.

I especially liked Jack Dylan Grazer (most of the time) as Freddy Freeman. I thought he had the best arc of any of the Shazam family and got to show off his range. He did act too hectic at times, but that felt like something that was common for the film. Zachary Levi did the same for most of the film. It felt like Shazam was too immature for too much of the movie. As Billy Batson (Asher Angel) he was almost 18, but he felt nowhere near that.

And I always love Helen Mirren, who played head villain, Hespera. Her very presence gives the film a bit of gravitas that it might not have had with another actor in the role. However, the villains of the film (which also included Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler) felt very inconsistent character wise. Rachel Zegler, who was amazingly beautiful, was intended to be connected with Freddy, but I never believed or understood why she was so taken with him that she would do the things that she does. Hespera made some switches in her character in, what felt like, a real sudden manner.

One of the biggest issues I had was the Shazam Family. Outside of Freddy, the rest of this group of characters were underdeveloped and lacked anything more than a character trait here or there to define their characters. None of them were interesting or felt like anything but background characters in colorful suits. Even Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), who is a major player in the DC Comics, was regulated to a scene or two that did not display anything more than surface level characteristics.

Djimon Hounsou returned as the not-so-dead Wizard who had given Shazam his powers in the first film. This was another character that did not feel well written and bounced all over the place between seriousness and comedy.

Sadly, I would say that a lot of the comedy did not work for me. There were some good laughs, but most of it just felt flat. Too much of the comedy was based on the hectic dialogue from Zachary Levi that I just was not a fan of.

Then, there was a special cameo that was SPOILED for me by a TV ad that really wasted a good moment. I won’t spoil it here, but I was actively mad when I saw that TV spot wondering why they wouldn’t have left it a surprise.

Shazam: Fury of the Gods had some definite high moments while there was plenty of mess too. Again, I think the theater experience was good enough to recommend Shazam: Fury of the Gods. The positives outweighed the negatives, but I wish it would have been more focused and written a little less chaotic.

3.4 stars

The Magician’s Elephant

A new, computer-generated animated film dropped this weekend on Netflix. It was entitled The Magician’s Elephant, which was based on a 2009 novel of the same name. This animated film was directed by Wendy Rogers.

In an attempt to show the town of Baltese that magic was real, the Magician (Benedict Wong) accidentally summoned an elephant that fell on wealthy Madam LaVaughn (Miranda Richardson). Meanwhile, young orphan Peter (Noah Jupe), who was being raised by  an old soldier Vilna Lutz (Mandy Patinkin), was discovering that he had a fate to follow an elephant to find his long-lost sister that he believed to have died.

The magical appearance of the elephant was too much of a coincidence for Peter and he went to see what he could find out. However, the King (Asaif Mandvi) and the Countess (Kirby) were deciding the fate of the elephant, as they leaned toward putting the animal down.

Peter is able to stop the killing of the elephant, showing that the elephant was not mean, but was instead in pain from his eye. When he begged the King to let him have the elephant, the King decided that he would allow Peter to have the elephant if he could do three impossible tasks.

The Magician’s Elephant is a fine film, very enjoyable for families to sit down and watch. It just has nothing that really stands out as special. Everything about it is decent, but nothing that makes it better than any other animated movie that we have seen over the last several years. The animation was good, though there was nothing here that really jumps out as being beautiful. It is solid. The voice cast is a strength as there are some wonderful actors involved here. The film had a decent pace so you do not feel as if it overstayed its welcome. The story was fine, if not a bit predictable. I did like how the conflict of the story was not provided by an evil character, just a group of people who, in their minds, were trying to do what was best.

I feel as if this is a film that I will not necessarily remember much about by the end of the year. It was a good film, but it would not stand out in a field of several animated movies. It had some moments and would be a decent time for family viewings.

3.2 stars

Luther: The Fallen Sun

I have never seen an episode of the British TV series Luther, which ran on the BBC from 2010-2019 and starred Idris Elba as the titular character. However, that did not prevent me from wanting to see the new Netflix film featuring the character and said to be a direct continuation of the show.

I would say that I never felt that, because I had never seen the TV show before, I was confused or not sure what was going on. I would venture to say that you do not have to have seen the show in order to watch this movie. It may give you more background or a deeper understanding of the characters but it is not a necessary requirement.

Luther: The Fallen Sun saw the return of Elba to the role, as he matched up with cast members Cynthia Erivo and Andy Serkis.

John Luther was on the case of a serial killer who was murdering individuals that he would blackmail into helping him by certain secrets that the people did not want revealed. However, when Serkis, whose character was named David Robey, found out, he used his connections to pull all of the dark secrets from Luther’s time as a brutal cop and send him to his own justice and a prison cell.

When Luther learned of David’s victims through a video David sent to him, he decided that he needed to escape from prison and continue his pursuit of the murderer.

Andy Serkis is downright chilling in this film. He is such an amazing performer because I bought him 100% as a brutal serial killer who was getting off on his machinations. He pulled off some horrendous cruelty along the way and displayed a cold, calculating evil unlike few I have seen before.

Idris Elba was excellent here as well and the pair of them had some powerful confrontations during the two hour plus movie. Dermot Crowley revisited his character Martin Schenk from the show as the retired Detective Superintendent, the former head of the Serious and Serial Crime Unit and Luther’s former boss. Crowley brought an inside man for Luther, despite Martin’s own moral creed.

The story is fairly basic and by-the-numbers, but the performances elevates the material. There are a few scenes that really make me like the character of Luther, despite the obvious hatred that he may hold for himself. It might have been a touch too long but there were several decent moments that helped make this a strong addition to Idris Elba’s filmography.

3.5 stars


I like Adam Driver. I like sci-fi. I like dinosaurs.

65 however, not so much.

I had come into 65 (which implied 65 million years ago) unsure what the premise of the film was going to be. I saw previews of Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs with sci-fi weapons, which I thought would be hard to mess up. I did not know what was happening. Was it time travel? Was it another planet? No to either of those.

Apparently, Adam Driver was a man who lived on a planet somewhere out in space that was very much like earth in all ways (including English language) except it has some special ray guns. He was on mission that was going to take him away from his daughter, who was sick, for two years. The money was meant to help make her well. On this mission, his ship crash landed on earth and it was earth 65 million years ago (to us, not Driver, I guess).

Once there, he discovered a young girl, the only other survivor of the crash, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), who he claimed was nine, but seemed more like 14 years old.

They discovered that the undiscovered planet had dinosaurs on it, both small and giant. They started on a path to find an escape pod that had fallen on a mountain.

By the way, Adam Driver’s timing is just horrendous, as he landed on earth as the asteroid, that we know killed the dinosaurs, was preparing to crash on the surface (right where he landed, too. How unlucky?)

I had so many problems with the plot. Many of them were small things that would have been an easy fix, but 65 does not seem to care about these details that pulled me out of the film every time. For example, Adam Driver had a computer thingy that could identify the oncoming asteroid that was going to strike earth. But it called it an asteroid. Why? Isn’t that something that an earth based scientist named it? Since this was in the earth’s past, how did that detail get out to Adam Driver’s planet? If this was not the actual earth in the past, I could guess that the vocabulary could sneak out to other planets, but that has not happened yet. Like a said, it was minor, but those kind of details can ruin a sci-fi movie.

The movie also made the odd choice of having Koa speak a different language than Adam Driver or us, the audience. This was meant as an obstacle for Driver, but it never was because he would just say the word slower and everything seemed to work fine. Koa speaking a different language only kept me from connecting to her as a character.

Because of the language barrier for the audience, I did not care much about Koa and I cared even less about the relationship between Adam Driver and Koa. This relationship was basically the same one as Joel and Ellie have in The Last of Us video game and TV show, except Driver was not as awesome as Joel was nor was Koa anything like Ellie.

The movie did have very impressive special effects. The dinosaurs looked great, but the lack of a story or characters that I cared about did not overcome the strong fx.

Adam Driver does a decent job with what he is given, but all he is given is running around, shooting some laser guns and yelling ‘Koa!” A subplot with his daughter is tossed out and then aside before you ever had a chance to care. Ariana Greenblatt was fine, but she should have been speaking English. It would have helped that character immensely.

This felt like a film that could have benefited from another trip or two through the writer’s room. Use time travel and lots of the little problems go away and I can get past them instead of thinking about why they made the choices that they did.

2.4 stars

Scream VI

Scream has been one of the most successful horror franchises of all time. Each film in the series has been decent, if not excellent. Now, the franchise moves forward with the new characters from last year’s Scream 5, although there remained other legacy characters here as well.

Scream VI took the franchise out of Woodsboro and moved it to New York City. By doing so, the film felt to be much fresher than it has in several years while still maintaining much of the Scream style.

Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) and her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) are still having plenty of issues with the events from last year in Woodsboro, when Sam’s boyfriend and a friend became Ghostface and tried to kill them. Sam was in therapy and Tara was in denial over the memories.

When a new Ghostface gets murdered himself, things get wild once again as the Carpenter sisters find themselves in constant danger from Ghostface all over NYC.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was a lot of fun and it made everything feel new, even though we got Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) as legacy characters returning for the film. They did not feel as if they were just there for nostalgia. Scream VI walked that tightrope between new and old brilliantly. To the film’s credit, it really felt as if anyone was vulnerable to Ghostface as well as anyone could have been under the mask.

Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown returned as brother and sister Chad and Mindy from Scream 5. Skeet Ulrich was back again as Sam’s delusion-daddy Billy Loomis. Dermot Mulroney joined the cast as Detective Bailey. Jack Champion, Josh Segarra, Liana Liberato, Tony Revolori, Samara Weaving, Andre Anthony and Henry Czerny all had significant roles in the new film.

New York City was really a cast member of this film as well. As a setting, The City stood out as great moments in a bodega and on the subway. Both times, you can see New Yorkers and how they stepped up.

I loved how this film started off. It was familiar and, yet at the same time, original. I was surprised by the twists in the beginning and found it very intriguing. No spoilers of course, but I really was engaged in the film right off the bat.

The kills were pretty brutal and bloodier than I expected. Ghostface built suspense with its stalking of plenty of the characters.

The humor was well done and the meta-narrative continued as they moved into describing the situations from rules for a ‘requel’ to rules for a franchise.

Scream VI should be given credit for moving away from Neve Campbell’s Sydney Prescott and reinvigorating the series with new characters that feel very important and who fit wonderfully into the Scream franchise. The film was exciting and tense and I enjoyed the whole thing.

4 stars

Creed III

The third film of the Creed franchise was release this weekend with star Michael B. Jordan taking over directorial duties from Ryan Coogler, who directed the first three. Creed III continued the success of the Rocky spin off franchise with top level performances and some of the best boxing you’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Adonis Creed had retired from the world of boxing on top. His final fight led to a victory and Creed became a stay home dad and embrace the world of post boxing. When old old childhood friend, Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) returned after 18 years in prison, Creed found that dealing with the guilt of the incident that caused Damian to end up in prison was difficult for him.

When Creed was able to finagle a championship boxing match with his own protégé, Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez), the current champion, Creed did not expect the result that they got, and then he found out the real intention of his old friend.

I thought that Michael B. Jordan did a very solid job as the director of this movie. He certainly had huge shoes to fill in Ryan Coogler, and he did not reach that level, but he did a very solid job. There were some excellent shots in the film, in particular during the final boxing match, that you had never seen in this franchise (or the previous Rocky franchise) and that should be commended.

The performances were really great. Jordan was very confident in this role by now and you could see that he was comfortable in the skin of Adonis Creed no matter what they asked of him to do. They looked to explore residual guilt from the events of the night when Adonis and Damian were kids.

Jonathan Majors is a super star. Coming off his excellent work as Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Majors was full of intensity and felt like he could explode at any moment. Yet, he tempered it with an understanding that this character was not an outright villain. He was not the Mr. T character from Rocky III. Damian had layers that brought a much more balanced character to oppose Creed.

Phylicia Rashad brought her best work in any of the films she has appeared as Mary-Anne Creed to date. Rashad stole several scenes and dominated ever moment she was on screen. There was a particular scene between Rashad and Jordan that could be Oscar worthy.

I will say that I found some parts of the story lacking somewhat. Now, this was not something that I noticed much during the film itself. It is more upon reflection afterwards that a few storyline beats popped up as areas that bothered me. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the scenes, but let’s just say that the event from Creed’s past did not necessarily work well for me, and that tarnished a lot of the story moving forward. It is not like I couldn’t get past it, but it was a weak point of the film.

A strong point was the boxing scenes. These scenes felt less exaggerated like the Rocky boxing matches always felt. These were well filmed and constructed in a vey exciting and dramatic manner.

This was a really solid installment in the franchise and I enjoyed watching the movie. I was impressed by Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut inside a huge franchise project. It could not have been an easy feat and he should be considered extremely successful in what he accomplished.

3.9 stars

We Have A Ghost

Netflix brings us a new way to look at the haunted house subgenre with the new film, We Have A Ghost, starring David Harbour and Anthony Mackie.

Though the movie is listed as a Horror/Comedy, I think it really reminds me more of those types of movies from the 1980s and 1990s that were the over-the-top paranormal adventures filled with cheesy moments and silly action. A film like The Frighteners comes to mind when comparing the style as well as Beetlejuice, Caspar and even Ghostbusters.

The Presley family was looking for a new start and they moved into a low cost, fixer-upper. Frank (Anthony Mackie) and his wife Melanie (Erica Ash) along with their sons Fulton (Niles Fitch) and Kevin (Jahi Winston) had plenty of issues among them. Kevin was especially saddened by everything that had happened.

Hanging out alone in the attic, Kevin comes across a ghost named Ernest (David Harbour). Despite Ernest’s best effort to scare Kevin away, the teen was unfazed and recorded a video of the ghost on his phone. Kevin and Ernest bonded, despite the fact that Ernest could not speak or remember anything about his life.

When the rest of the family discovered the existence of Ernest, Frank saw an opportunity and posted the video online, eventually sending the social media world into a storm, attracting Dr. Leslie Monroe (Tig Notaro), a washed-up paranormal scientist, who saw her own opportunity to reclaim her lost career.

As I said, We Have A Ghost is a throwback to the action/adventure films of the 80s and 90s where young people were involved and dealt with the supernatural events in a humorous and family friendly manner. Yes, the movie is definitely cheesy and fully plants its figurative tongue in the cheek, but it is entertaining and does take a new spin on the haunted house story.

Jahi Winston does a nice job as Kevin, the lead protagonist and best buddy to Ernest. He has a solid screen presence and I liked him as the focus of the film. David Harbour shows again that he is always awesome. Whether he is Red Guardian, Hellboy, or Hopper from Stranger Things, Harbour gives his best effort in every role. Harbour is even more challenged in his role as Ernest because the ghost is unable to communicate via words and so Harbour is required to use his expressive face and body movements even more to show the personality of Ernest.

There is a mystery of what happened to Ernest, which is interesting. I did not expect the film to go in this direction, but it did make for an exciting third act.

The film may have been too long, clocking in at over two hours. I do think there is an effective version of this film that runs around 100-110 minutes instead.

I was not a fan of the character Dr. Monroe, who I think flip-flopped too quickly after spending most of the film working in one direction. You see a character like the one played by Tig Notaro in many of those older movies so her role was not surprising.

I would have liked to have seen more from Anthony Mackie, though he does do a very good job with the screen time that he gets.

The film does seem to have something to say about the effects of social media and the grasping of fame through likes and viral videos, and how the instant fame can create such chaos in the lives of the people involved.

Again, We Have A Ghost is not a brilliant movie, but it is fun, filled with a feeling of nostalgia for a type of film we haven’t seen for years, and likeable and charismatic actors. Though it is overly long, We Have A Ghost is an entertaining romp with a restless spirit.

3.6 stars

The Strays

The Netflix film The Strays was dropped on the streamer this weekend and it really was a mixed bag. Or at least, it felt like a film of two halves.

According to IMDB, “Neve (Ashley Madekwe), who leads an idyllic life in the suburbs with her loving family, and works a fulfilling job at a private school. But when she begins to notice a strange man and woman appear unexpectedly at odd moments, she starts to doubt her sanity. Of course, she turns to her family and friends for assistance, but Neve is helpless when they hesitate to believe her.”

Without going into spoiler area and revealing what happens in the switch, the first half of the film where the IMBD synopsis is featured, is the weaker section of the film. I do not feel as if the film really played up the insanity aspect. It felt uneven and a little dull. Then, there was some hints that there was something mysterious going down. It touched upon some racial and Privilege bits that is never quite developed to the proper amount.

When the answer comes at about the halfway point, this movie picks up big time and the third act is very tense and tough to watch. In fact, there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach at the end of the film.

Ashley Madekwe is definitely the standout of the film. She expresses a ton with her face and has to go through a ton of emotions. Unfortunately, the character is so inconsistent that it hurts the overall flow of the movie. The second half though was much tighter and worked so much better.

This is better than the typical Netflix film, but it seemed like it tried to be all different kinds of movies but never committing to one.

3 stars

Cocaine Bear

I have been excited about Cocaine Bear since I saw the first trailer. It just looked like an insane concept that was going to be a ton of fun, in a B-movie type of way. That is exactly what Cocaine Bear is. It is a movie that knows exactly what kind of film it is and does not stray too far from that idea.

It is based on a true story. What that means is that there was a drug runner who threw out a bunch of cocaine from a plane over a mountain where they usually dropped these loads. Unfortunately, the drug runner did not survive the leap from the plane himself, leaving the cargo unclaimed in the woods. It was found and consumed by a black bear.

That much is true. After that, the story of the movie takes a bit of a turn into fiction. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As in many of these types of horror/monster movies, the human characters are introduced to give the monster something to do. Some of these characters are simply there to be fodder for the Cocaine Bear.

However, there were several characters that I liked and wanted to root for. Keri Russell played a mother whose daughter ditched school to go to the woods instead. The daughter, Dee Dee (Brooklynn Prince), went with her friend Henry (Christian Convery). Christian Convery was the titular character in Netflix’s series, Sweet Tooth, and he was great here. He had some excellent comedic timing and he delivered some of the movie’s best lines.

The main drug runner, Syd, was played by the late, great Ray Liotta. Liotta brought some credibility to the film, though his character was fairly underwritten. He did much more with the character than was on the page, like many top actors are able to do.

Syd sent two henchmen, Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich), to retrieve the coke, but Eddie had just recently had a loss in his life that was making his inclusion on the trip a challenge. Eddie also turned out to be the son of Syd, whom he had left his son with while he mourned the loss of his wife.

I really liked the pairing of Daveed and Eddie and I wanted them to survive the cocaine bear.

The film has some very funny, very dark moments of comedy that I appreciated. There is also some very gory, brutal scenes of the cocaine bear on its rampage. One in particular involving Ray Liotta, that I will not spoil any further. There was also a jaw-dropping moment with Margo Martindale, who was a forest ranger, that you’ll know when you see it.

Martindale is always great and she dominated nearly all the scenes that she was included in.

While Cocaine Bear is never going to win any awards for acting or movie making, the film has plenty of fun and some great dark humor. I enjoyed watching this movie and I would recommend it to anyone as long as they approach it with the right mentality. It’s a dumb movie, for sure, but dumb can be fun if done properly and I thought this movie was just that.

3.75 stars


I wanted to watch this over the weekend, but my Apple TV + did not want to work, which pushed the viewing of the new film Sharper until tonight.

Sharper dealt with the world of the con. We see Tom (Justice Smith), the son of a New York Billionaire (John Lithgow), and his girlfriend Sandra (Briana Middleton) who was having major money problems with her brother. Tom told her that he could cover the $350,000 dollars that her brother owed. Little did Tom know that Sandra was setting him up.

Sandra was working with con man Max (Sebastian Stan) in an attempt to get this money. However, there was more to this than just that. Tom’s father was dating Madeline (Julianne Moore), who appeared to be Max’s mother, but this is also a can. Madeline was working with Max to try and scam even more money.

Our three confidence people are untrustworthy and you never know who is telling the truth or who might be scamming whom.

This was a good time because you are never sure what is real and what is not. These three are traitorous among each other and their own betrayals are great.

Sebastian Stan was excellent in the role as Max. There is a scene of his dancing in celebration that is just fantastic and made me feel connected to this character despite him being a horrible person. The relationship with Max and Madeline was really gross, but Julianne Moore creates this amazing character who is really unlikable, but still engaging.

The film tells the story in different sections. We see a black screen with certain character’s names on it, telling us which character is to be focused on during the next section. These different POVs are fascinating and give us a great look at each character.

The fact that there are nobody in this movie that are good people does not hurt the film. In fact, the fact that they are focused on each of the characters help show us who they were.

I enjoyed this movie. It started a little slow but once it became clear what was happening, the film truly picked up. When Sebastian Stan arrived on screen, things start to pop. I thought the story was really good (although I had guessed the final con) and the performances from Stan and Moore are very good and elevates the material.

3.5 stars


The classic Raymond Chandler character Phillip Marlowe is a noir detective and is currently appearing in a new movie starring Liam Neeson entitled Marlowe. Is the private detective a hit or is he just a private dick? Unfortunately, this detective story bored me to no end.

Liam Neeson was the titular character and was involved in a case brought to him by the blonde dame Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger). The case was complex and confusing and hardly worth the time it took to unfurl the tale. The part that I enjoyed the most was the scenes from Clare’s on-screen mother, played by the exceptional Jessica Lange. She was chewing up every scene she was in and she had some chemistry with Neeson, which was something that the film lacked a lot of.

Neeson was pretty stoic in his portrayal of Marlowe and I did not find him very entertaining. The best part what picking out the words where you could easily hear the brogue coming through Neeson’s dialogue.

This felt like a much longer film than it was, with so few highlights that I was bored through all of it. Nothing Neeson did brought me any enjoyment. I will say that I was happy to see Mr. Eko himself, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, make an appearance as a secondary character that became important from out of nowhere.

In the end, I had been intrigued by a trailer for this movie earlier this year, but I found this dull and prodding and that the strong cast just lacked any real energy or interest.

2 stars

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

I will be honest. I am a Marvel stan. There is no doubt that if Marvel Studios has create a new project, I am going to, most likely, be entertained at the least. I will even admit to overrating several of their films at times. Still, I believe I can approach a film and see its weaknesses as well as its strengths. It is just such an important part of my childhood, heck, my adulthood, that I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt easier to a Marvel movie than others.

Having said that, I approached the latest installment of the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania with trepidation considering the number of negative reviews it had received. Now, after seeing the film, I found myself thoroughly entertained and I am not sure why there is such vitriol toward the Payton Reed directed film.

Quantumania is absolutely a full fledged science fiction movie. In fact, about an hour into the movie, I was thinking this was more like the next installment in the Star Wars franchise starring Ant-Man than a Marvel film. That might be some people’s problems with the movie, but I enjoyed the aspects. It reminded me a lot of the Disney animated movie Strange World that came out last year too. That film was also not that well received.

Scott Lang (Paull Rudd), Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Cassie (Kathryn Newton) get trapped in the Quantum Realm after a lab accident and they hope to find their way back home. Unfortunately, Janet knew of a dangerous person who was also stranded in the Quantum Realm from her time before and she was scared that they may come across him.

Jonathan Majors (who appeared as a Kang variant in the Loki series) arrived in this film as Kang the Conqueror, the next big bad in the MCU and you can tell why the actor was cast in this role. He was menacing in every word while still being charismatic and engaging. He gave off that frightful feeling that he might, at any moment, rip your head off. Majors is an amazing actor and his presence absolutely could put him in the same class as the Mad Titan, Thanos.

Paul Rudd is always great as Scott Lang. He started off the movie cashing in on the celebrity of a super hero who saved the world, even if the people really didn’t know who he was. Scott wrote a book, among other things. However, his daughter Cassie was getting in trouble with the law when she would be sticking up for homeless protestors against the police.

The other major standout among the cast was Michelle Pfeiffer, who was exceptional as Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp who had the dark secret of the Quantum Realm inside her and just did not want to share it.

The visuals of the film were mostly awesome and looked great. There were a few moments where you could tell it was a green screen but it was mostly stunning. I saw the film in a XD theater and I would absolutely recommend watching this on the biggest screen you can.

One of the parts of the film that is going to be divisive for sure is MODOK. While I did not mind the film altering the Marvel character’s origin, I am not sure I liked what they did with the character. MODOK felt like a disposable piece that could have been left out of the story and not lost any importance.

I would also say that most of the freedom fighters from the Quantum Realm were one dimensional characters that were not worth the time. Sure, some of them had cool designs, but there were not any of them that were a full-fledged character.

Michael Douglas had some bad ass moments in the movie as Hank Pym. Bill Murray had a guest star role that was minor, but fun. I would have wanted more for Evangeline Lilly. As one of the titular characters, I would have thought that she was going to be more front and center. I mean, Wasp did have a few major moments, but they were few and far between. She did have some solid spots in the third act, but she really blended into the backdrop until that.

The third act did feel a little messy, but I think that it was intended to be that way. By the time we had reached that third act, I was completely in and so any possible flaws did not bother me.

I do think that the trailers for Quantumania gave away too much of the story and gave us too many moments in that third act that wound up hurting the film.

As I said, I found this to be a great MCU offering, with some great performances, a fantastic villain and some excellent visuals in an entertaining world. The story was simple, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ll be curious to see what a second viewing will do to my thought process.

4.25 stars