Welcome to Marwen

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I went into Welcome with Marwen expecting it to be bad because of the critical scores that I have heard about it.  Rotten Tomatoes score was low (27%) and the audience score was in the 50s.  I also was not a huge fan of the trailers so I had pushed off seeing it until today.

This is why you should always make your own mind up.

I thought Welcome to Marwen was way better than I expected and I enjoyed the film.  Now, there are some issues that I will get to, but this is, in no way, a film that I would expect to be at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Welcome to Marwen tells the story of artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) who had been attacked at a bar one night three years before because, while drunk, he had told a gang of thugs that he liked to wear women’s shoes.  They savagely beat him within an inch of his life and left him for dead.  Mark had lost all his memories from before the attack and could no longer draw with his hand.  So he took up photography and used dolls to tell his story about the Belgian town of Marwen, set in World War II.

However, the dolls he had in these photos represented people that he knew in the town he lived in, mostly women and the villainous Nazis were the thugs who had attacked him.   Every time these Nazis would be killed in his photos, they would come back.

When beautiful new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann), “Nicole but without the ‘e'”, moved in, Mark got a crush and introduced a new redhead doll into the mix.

The movie is the story of how Mark was able to overcome the attack and to gain a modicum of his life back.  The dolls’ adventures were shown on screen via motion capture in some real creative ways.  The connections between the story of Hogie and the Women of Marwen in World War II echoed the real life of Mark.  It was not very subtle.

Steve Carell was great again in this role. He has become a consistent performer, delivering strong work in every role he takes.  There was an innocence about Mark that helped get him past the panic attacks and the memories that he did have.

Now, yes, I do believe that the women in Marwen were too accepting and, I personally, if I were Nicol, the introduction of the red head doll named Nicol as Hogie’s love interest, should have set off some alarms.  In fact, I think that she was just not creeped out enough about this man she just met and his strange obsession with the toys.  Maybe it speaks to the strength of her character, but it did not feel realistic.

You would think that as soon as the doll Hogie and the doll Nicol were being set up kissing, she may have wanted to have a talk with him about where they stood.

There is also a weird feel when watching the film because I am not sure that the movie specifically knows what it wants to present.  Still, I found myself liking this more than I thought I would.  Perhaps the lowered expectations paid off again.  I thought Welcome to Marwen, despite its flaws, has some wonderful scenes and gives a tale of a man overcoming his fears and his obstacles.  That is a lesson that we need to hear more.

Remember, make up your own mind.  It does not matter what anyone else says.

3.4 stars

Bird Box

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A Quiet Place showed us a world where making a sound was the first step to death.  Bird Box takes that same idea but changed it to the sense of sight, presenting us with an entirely new set of conflicts to deal with.

Sandra Bullock stars in this Netflix original film that tries to capture some of the tension and anxiety associated with A Quiet Place, and succeeds for the most part.

A strange compulsion for mass suicide swept the world, caused by the humans seeing something that caused them to take their lives.  Malorie (Bullock), pregnant and scared after her sister (Sarah Paulson) dies, finds herself barricaded in a house with a group of other survivors who have avoided seeing the strange force.

Unfortunately, we know that this situation is temporary as that part of the story is unfolding, we see, at the same time, five years in the future as Malorie and two children named Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) make a desperate trek down a river, blindfolded and frightened.

The dual stories play out together as we see how the one time frame eventually melds into the other.


Like in A Quiet Place, we never really get any answers about what it is that has caused the world so much terror. Although, in A Quiet Place, they do drop some distinct hints in the background information.  I feel like there is absolutely zero explanation in Bird Box.  I really think this film needed something to tell us what this monster/force was.  The unknown here subtracted from the story and, while I do not need a detailed explanation, something would have helped.

END of Spoiler

The cast does a fine job in creating the terror of the situation, even if it is difficult to believe that they are able to avoid looking during this entire time.  Sandra Bullock is great, as is Trevante Rhodes, who played Tom.  John Malkovich was here as Douglas, aka jerk #1.  Every apocalypse needs one.  Lil Rel Howery is here too as the tension needed to be broken once and awhile.

Then, I was almost certain that Andrew Lincoln was stepping out in a scene.  He didn’t but you’ll know the place.

Bird Box is a decent ride with some definite tension, but the fact that we know Malorie has the kids on the river really bodes poorly for the others in the house, cutting down the tension in that situation.  And it is difficult to believe that she could maneuver through the woods blindfolded without killing herself.

Still, it had its moments and was enjoyable enough.

3.4 stars

The Favourite

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This is the second period piece surrounding a Queen of England this holiday season.  Mary Queen of Scots was the first one I saw, which featured Queen Elizabeth while The Favourite features Queen Anne.

Of course, the two films could not be more different.  Mary, Queen of Scots is a drama surrounding the power of a woman and the men looking to bring her down where as The Favourite is a dark comedy featuring the nasty things a couple of women would do to gain favor with the Queen.

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is ruling over a country at war with France, but she has to deal with the daily problems of a monarch.  Her friend and confidant Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) helps with the oft-ill Queen and aids in decision making in her stead.  When new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the castle, she begins playing different sides against one another to raise the level of her happenstance.

The interactions and manipulations between the three lead ladies in this movie is the main strength of the film.  Olivia Colman is just brilliant as the lonely and forlorn monarch.  She brings so much emotion and gravitas to the role that you can see why her name has been bandied about in Oscar discussions.  Queen Anne has to deal with physical pain from the gout, emotional pain from the loss of children, and the loneliness of the throne which finds her snapping into uncontrollable rages over the littlest things when she feels slighted (in particular from a low self-image about her appearance) or feels as if there are parts of life in which she is missing out upon.

Rachel Wiesz’s Lady Sarah has taken to the power of having the ear (among other body parts) of the Queen and she is not afraid to play that power with the household staff or the heads of state.  When Abigail arrives, Lady Sarah takes a liking to her and, before she realized what had happened, Abigail had usurped her place at the Queen’s side and in her bed.

You can tell immediately that Emma Stone was more of a force than she was being given credit for and that Lady Sarah would regret the oversight.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), The Favourite dives deeply into the world of these three women and their desires and wishes.  Two women who want to gain power by the hand of the Queen and a Queen who encourages the jealousy while slowly succumbing to pain and anguish.  The movie lacks a strong conclusion, but the darkness of the comedic takes makes up for the missing aspects and three dominant performances make this a must see.

3.75 stars



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Vice is the story of Dick Chaney and how he became the most powerful vice-president the United States had ever seen.

Vice is written and directed by Adam McKay, who also did The Big Short.  There are many techniques that are used here that are used similarly to that movie.  The use of breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience is used effectively again and again.

The film definitely has a left lean to it, but, as the film itself says, these are the facts.

This biopic follows the adult life of Dick Chaney (Christian Bale) through some early life drinking problems to public service (which could be argued about exactly what public was being serviced).  Amy Adams was his wife Lynne, who is shown to be loyal, remarkably strong and nearly as power hungry as her husband.  Steve Carell portrays Donald Rumsfeld, a man tied to Cheney throughout the years.  Sam Rockwell is President George W. Bush, who is shown as someone who just wanted to be President and was happy to have someone take some of the “heavy lifting” away.

The film is darkly funny.  You see the manipulative things Cheney did to get himself ahead and you wonder how he got away with it.  You also can see how we came to be in our current state of politics in the U.S. today.

The whole Iran deal really makes this group of people look terrible.  As if they cared more about their own goals than those of the country.  One wonders how close to the truth this movie comes because if it is close, these people are responsible for some terrible choices in American history.  History may judge them sharply.

In the middle of the film, SPOILERS… the credits begin to roll and it acts as if the movie was over.  It was a great and extremely funny bit, interrupted by a phone call to the Cheneys.  One wonders what would have happened had George W. Bush and his people had not decided to give a call to Dick Cheney.   How different would our world be or would someone else have stepped into the vacuum and been just as bad?

Also, the narrator (Jesse Plemons)…whoa.

Vice was entertaining and took a dark and controversial time in our countries history and was able to show both the outrage and the humor.  Adam McKay was able to once again use a difficult topic to create an entertaining movie.  It may be too political for some people’s taste, but I loved it.

4.25 stars

Holmes and Watson

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I wish I knew how to start this review.

It is complete and total sh*t

How about that?

I have never been a fan of Will Ferrell, but every once in awhile he does a film that I do not hate, and I like John C. Reilly quite a bit so he helped elevate the hope.

No…no hope.  This is horrendous.

Ferrell plays legendary Sherlock Holmes and Reilly plays his companion Dr. Watson in a film that might have been meant to be a farce, but failed in every way possible.  The pair has to try to stop the evil Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) who has challenged them from preventing him from killing Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris) in four days.  These two then bumble around London trying to solve this mystery before the Queen is murdered.

Sherlock Holmes is shown to be a buffoon, loud and obnoxious, as if he were just any other character that Will Farrell ever plays.  Making Holmes an idiot could have worked, I suppose, if Watson was made to be the smart one, but he is every bit as much of an imbecile and Holmes is.

There is no humor in this movie.  Nothing but dick jokes and stupidity that might (and I say MIGHT) appeal to the lowest of lowbrow.  If you giggle every time someone says the word “penis” then you MAY find some of this funny.  If you want more from your humor, well, this is the wrong place to look for it.

The film was a slight 90 minutes, but it felt like it was forever.  And that was despite having the story flying by at a breakneck pace.  There was no time to set up jokes or to allow something to build up because we were on to the next unfunny moment.

The film even completely steals a joke from the Tick animated series.  When Sherlock goes to see his brother Mycroft (Hugh Laurie), Watson is taken to the Companion lounge to wait for him.  This is the exact joke of the Sidekick Lounge from The Tick episode Tick vs. Tick.  The difference is that the Tick episode took some time and milked the laughs out of the premise where in Holmes and Watson, it is nothing more than a sight gag.  If you’re going to steal a joke from someone, you should at least do it justice.

At IMDB, Etan Cohen is listed as sharing writing credit with Arthur Conan Doyle, EYG Hall of Famer.   I am sure that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is rolling over in his grave being connected to this travesty in any way, let alone as a writer.  Just imagining how this film treats the iconic Sherlock Holmes would fill Doyle with anger and disgust.

I was preparing to give this film 0 stars, but then the film tossed in a musical number with Sherlock and Watson singing and, while completely out of place for the movie, felt reasonably clever, and I did enjoy the song.  It was in the third act and really did not have any sort of consequence to the end of the movie, but it had cute lyrics and was catchy.  And it was not completely horrid as the rest of the film was.

Of course there was a vomit joke, which I absolutely hate, but why not.

The film tossed in plenty of current day allusions (selfies, Trump, women equality) into the 19th Century story.  They were clearly meant to be funny, but they all failed miserably.

There were multiple times that I considered leaving the movie, but I stuck it out until the bitter end.  I actively thought to myself that my bathroom break in the middle of the film was the best part of the movie.  The strong supporting cast (Ralph Fiennes, Steve Coogan, Hugh Laurie, Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, Noah Jupe) is totally wasted and I had to wonder what exactly Ferrell had on them to get them to be in this painful movie.

Save your money.  Go see Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee or Aquaman.  All are heads and shoulders better than this piece of crap.

0.25 stars

First Reformed

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There have been a lot of chatter about this movie being considered for Oscar nominations, for both the film and for Ethan Hawke, its main star, but I have to say, I am not seeing that.

Ethan Hawke is solid here, but I did not enjoy First Reformed very much.

Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a middle-aged pastor with a tragic backstory at a small church in upstate New York.  He spends his days giving tours of the church, which was once a stop on the Underground Railway.  When one of his parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) comes to him and requests that Reverend Toller talk with her husband, a radical environmentalist who could be planning something violent, a crisis in faith and hope springs into the heart of Toller.

The film deals with many weighty topics, including climate change and how the people of the planet are affecting the negative change and the church’s silence on the topic.  This felt a bit preachy, ironic I know.

Toller is also sick, suffering through a tumor that is slowly causing him to fade away.  The tumor continued to work on his faith as does his developing relationship with Seyfried to lead Toller to take some drastic steps.

Reverend Toller is having a crisis of faith and, perhaps even, a breakdown of some sort.  It is unclear how much the cancer that is destroying his body (if that is even a real thing) is causing this to happen.  There is a dream-like point of view throughout the movie that makes specifics difficult to maintain.

All I know for certain is that the film failed to maintain my attention very well and, despite a strong performance from Ethan Hawke, I was not happy with where the film was going.  Then, the underwhelming ending did not help in the consideration of the movie.  I have very little faith for this film.

2.4 stars


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Finally had a chance to watch Roma on Netflix today and I have to say that it was extremely powerful and emotionally affecting.

I have never been a big fan of reading my movies, so I have avoided other foreign language films, but if they are all the quality of this movie, maybe I need to rethink that.

I will admit that I had some difficulty following the story early, partially with the language barrier and partially with the fact that I was streaming the film at home and there were plenty of distractions around me.

However, once the story was well involved, I was fully engaged.

The performance of Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo was heart-wrenching and powerful.  She certainly will deserve the Oscar attention that she is going to receive.  There were two or three moments in the movie that felt like I had been punched in the gut and that I had to hold my breath to make it through.

This is probably the biggest criticism I have of Roma is that there are some moments that are just tremendously emotional, but these moments are connected together with too many unremarkable scenes.  I believe the idea was to show the family life of a typical family but there are too many moments that do not catch my attention.  So it is like both ends of the spectrum.

The film itself is a beautifully designed and shot masterpiece.  The black and white it stunning and the cinematography is masterful.  Director Alfonso Cuarón shows his remarkable skills in putting together the technical aspects of the movie.  It is a piece of art.  Word indicates that this is a personal story for Cuarón who created a film that details much of his own story as a youth in Mexico and the life of his mother.

Roma is a wonderful movie that may have a difficult time with audiences that do not want to take that leap of a foreign language film.  The scenes that really hit, hit amazingly hard, but there are others that seem mundane.  That actually may be the idea behind it, but I think it may end up being a drawback.

4 stars


Mary Poppins Returns

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I have heard decidedly mixed reviews about the sequel and return of Mary Poppins in the new Disney film.  It had sounded as if many people liked the film, but did not love it.  To me, the film is magic.

Just magic.

This was way better than I anticipated.  I loved this film.  I loved the portrayal of Mary Poppins by Emily Blunt, stepping into the shoes of Julie Andrews.  I thought Lin-Manuel Miranda was wonderful.  I loved most of the music.  There was just so much to love.

Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) has had some troubles.  Since his wife passed away, Michael has been struggling.  He is about to lose his house and his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) wants to help him.  Because of this, Michael’s children have had to grow up quicker than they should.

Enter… Mary Poppins, who returned as if she hadn’t aged a day, and takes up her mantel as the nanny for the Banks children, helping teach lessons to everybody, especially the adults.

Now, the film itself really hits the same beats as the original Mary Poppins.  There is the animation section.  The big dance number from the lamplighters instead of chimney sweeps.  The bank drama was here as well.

However, that did not matter.  There were so many wonderful scenes here.  I found myself completely engulfed by the story and the songs.  I had tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face from the joyous nature that I was feeling.

Emily Blunt was perfectly cast.  I can’t imagine the idea of having someone try to take the role of the iconic nanny over but Blunt does it unbelievably well.

The new Banks children are played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson and they do some great work here.  The children in this movie had to be charming and solid because they carry a lot of the narrative and if they are average, this movie does not work at all.  Thankfully, these kids are great.

There were also several fun cameos, including Dick Van Dyke (who can still break a move), Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury.

I am so happy that I finally saw this tonight. I took my mother to this on Christmas Eve and I was very happy to share this experience with her.

4.75 stars

Mary, Queen of Scots

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I knew very little about the history of this time period in England and Scotland.  I would have known Mary, Queen of Scots by name and that is about it.  After watching this film, I am still not sure I know much about her.  All I know is that Saoirse Ronan is quite an actor.

This pseudo-biopic (I believe much of the history is fudged) followed the temperamental reign of Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) over Scotland and the political drama that engulfed her, not only from Elizabeth of England, but her own court that surrounded Mary.

Watching this, I felt very badly for Mary and I wanted these traitorous men to pay.  Sadly, justice was not coming for these scummy men and the end of the Queen of Scots turns out quite tragic.

Saoirse Ronan is amazing as the titular role.  She brightens the screen every time she is there.  Elizabeth is played by Margot Robbie to a lesser extent.  Elizabeth was also a tragic figure in the world of British monarchs, but she feels very much less connected to the audience than Ronan does.

This is typically the opposite of what these two historical women are seen as.  In fact, Mary, Queen of Scots is also referred to as “Bloody Mary” and there are no examples that would require that sort of nickname.  It makes one wonder exactly how history is being told and from whose perspective they are recording it.

Casting aside the questions about the historical accuracy of the film (which honestly, is not that important of a detail), the film itself is fine, but it is considerably better because of the strong performance by Ronan.  The males in the film are basically just there.  Heck, I saw David Tennent’s name in the credits, but I never realized that he was in the film.  That is how unnoticeable the males turn out to be.

The powerful women being harassed and manipulated by the men in their lives is a definite theme here and can be connected to the current world easily.  It would have been interesting to see Mary, Queen of Scots with a little more backbone, able to take on these weasels, but I suppose it may be what happened.

The film did feel fairly long and I was not overly happy with the outcome.  Again, I get it.  It is what happened.  Still, there is a great performance by Saoirse Ronan and a solid one form Margot Robbie.

3.1 stars



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Last year, I sat in the theater and watched the travesty that was called Transformers: Last Knight.  It became my worst film of the year and in the top 5 worst of all time.  I so hated that movie.  The other Transformers films were bad, but that thing was just horrendous.  So, to say that I was excited about seeing another Transformers movie, this time focused on the single Transformer, Bumblebee would be a gross exaggeration.

However, with director Travis Knight at the helm instead of Michael Bay, there was a glimmer of hope that they could find the missing ingredient to make the movie worth seeing.  I wasn’t holding my breath.

Then, positive word of mouth started coming from critics, and I was cautiously optimistic.  Not hopeful, just optimistic.

Today I saw Bumblebee.  It is easily the best Transformers live action movie that there ever was and I would argue that it would give the classic animated movie a run for its money.

This gives us the origin story of Bumblebee, starting on a war torn Cybertron.  Optimus Prime sent his dedicated soldier Bumblebee to earth to scout out if the planet would work as a base for the remaining Autobots. Bumblebee was to protect the earth from the Decepticons and keep it secret.

Bumblebee landed on earth in the middle of some war games from military man Agent Burns (John Cena) who immediately tries to destroy the robot.  Bumblebee winds up in a junkyard for an uncertain amount of time.

When teenage girl Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) discovers the yellow Volkswagon-looking Bumblebee, she takes it home and then discovers that the Volkswagon bug was more than met the eye.

The relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee is the crux of the film.  They are remarkably sweet together and this film creates a real and human person to interact with the Autobot, unlike any of the Michael Bay movies.  Hailee Steinfeld shines in every scene as the outcast teen who had suffered a terrible loss that has shaken her life to the core.  Bumblebee helped fill that gap.

Meanwhile, two Decepticons (voiced by Justin Theroux and Angela Bassett) discover a signal from Bumblebee and trace it to earth.  They team up with Agent Burns to try and capture the renegade Transformer.

I have heard some negative comments about John Cena’s work in this movie, but I thought he was great.  He was actually very funny and had some of the best lines of the movie.  I will admit that he does feel like someone who fit more in the old Bay movies than this one, but I think he has a place here.

The battles are exciting and considerably easier to follow. One of the biggest problems in the other films was you never knew who was fighting who because it just seemed like big robots fighting.  These fights were well shot and directed beautifully so I cared about watching them.

Charlie had a good dynamic with her family as she was doing her best to keep them at arms length.  The screen time that these characters received were all well done and furthered the story.

This movie was sort of a prequel to the other films and was set in the 1980s (specifically in 1987) and the film did not hide the fact that it was the 80s.  Songs were constantly blaring in the film of the greatest hits of the decade and we got allusions to the Breakfast Club.  They were anything but subtle with their references.  I enjoyed the music, even though there were a few stretches where it felt more like a music video than anything else.  I love 80s music so this was fun for me.

There were allusions to the Bay series of movies as well as the Transformers: The Movie.  Although it was challenging at times because the movie Bumblebee played fast and loose with the continuity during this movie.  This is completely fine with me.  I would be all for pretending like those other movies did not happen and building a new continuity starting with Bumblebee.

This is the best Transformers movie ever and it owes a great deal of thanks to director Travis Knight.  The film is extremely engaging with Steinfeld and Bumblebee and has a pretty basic, yet successful story.  Optimus Prime was perfectly used here.  This is what Transformers fans have been wishing for since the beginning.

4 stars

Vox Lux

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There were parts of Vox Lux that were downright haunting.

Then there were parts of Vox Lux that were just there.

After surviving a devastating school shooting, Celeste (first played by Raffey Cassidy and then by Natalie Portman) is discovered when she sings at the funeral.  The Manager (Jude Law) pushes her in the direction to become a huge pop star.  We then see how this woman devolves from the innocent youth to an embittered middle aged pop star.

This film was all over the place.  I was extremely compelled by the opening scenes involving young Celeste.  To say that the scenes of the school shooting was not frightening would be a lie.  However, I do not think the film brought together the extremely powerful scenes into a common narrative.

Unless that narrative is that Celeste is a bad person who has been affected by her past.  As she gets older, we see this young girl lose her innocence (which I supposed one could argue happened at the school shooting) and slip into bad behavior,both with drugs and with sex, and destructive tendencies in relationship with her sister (Stacy Martin) and her daughter (also played by Raffey Cassidy).

The end of the film, without spoiling it, felt like it came out of nowhere.  The people in my theater sat and waited for the credits to finish because it seemed like something was missing.  There was certainly no wrap up of the film.

There were parts of the movie where I thought we were going to get a deep psychological study of the results of survivor’s guilt or how trauma affects the life of young people, but that all felt unimportant in the overall story.

Natalie Portman was good in the role, but I thought Raffey Cassidy was much better as Celeste.

This felt like two completely different movies.  The first part was haunting, but the second half felt like most party-hardy musician story you’ve ever seen. That is until the ending just jumps up at you.

3 stars

Mortal Engines

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Did not like this one much at all.

To be fair, Mortal Engines, which I had dubbed the “London-on-wheels” movie, looks tremendous.  The visuals and the CGI of this film is top notch.

That is where the positives end.

Mortal Engines is the story that sees cities on wheels rolling around the countryside “consuming” other smaller towns and a group of heroes look to help stop a conspiracy led by the one note villain Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving).

Our main heroine is Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) whose mother was killed by Valentine when Hester was a young girl.  She tries to gain revenge on Valentine but fails and she then escapes with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan).

I was unbelievably bored through most of this movie.  The beginning 10 minutes or so had some promise, but the remaining time of the film was just so dull and lifeless that there was not reason for it.  I had zero care about any of the characters so I anything that might have happened to them did not effect me in even a little bit.

Oh, and, despite what the trailers may want you to believe, Peter Jackson is only one of several writers and one of several producers on the project.  The promo material makes it sound as if it was straight from the mind of Peter Jackson and that is stretching the truth considerably.

Mortal Engines was boring and I did not like much about it.  It did look great though.  I have nothing more to say.

1.5 stars


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I was really rooting for Aquaman to be a good movie. I got a chance to see it early as part of Amazon Prime’s special offer of an early screening a week prior to the official release.  That was great.  As for the movie….

It’s okay.

I found Aquaman, the latest DC Comics movie, to be a mixed bag.  In the places where I thought the film was good, I thought the film was REALLY good.  When I thought the movie was bad, I thought it was cringeable.

The under sea kingdom of Atlantis is beginning to make waves about launching an assault on the surface world.  Orm (Patrick Wilson) is pushing for the title of Oceanmaster over the Atlanteans but Mera (Amber Heard) has other thoughts.  She goes and recruits Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and tries to get him to come and claim his birthright as the King of Atlantis.  Aquaman does not believe himself worthy.

So, mixed bag, right?  So let’s do a point-counterpoint type review.  The visuals of the undersea nation and animals was beautifully rendered.  A DC movie with bright colors?  I watched several scenes in the film where it was like a beautiful artistic design.  Most of the underwater scenes worked very well visually.

However, there were also several moments in the film where the CGI was terrible.  The Nicole Kidman fight scene at the very beginning of the movie is one example.  The people looked very rubbery, as if they were not real people being thrown around.  I hated the designs of the white armored Atlantean flunkies.  They made me think too much about Stormtroopers.

Jason Momoa was great as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman.  I liked him here considerably more than I did with him in Justice League.  Amber Heard was good as Mera too and there was a strong cast including Willem Defoe, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison.

Unfortunately, I was less impressed with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who played Black Manta.  I found him to be overacting big time in the early scenes on board the submarine.  His performance took me out of the movie during that time.  I am not sure I felt the overall chemistry between Momoa and Heard.  Separately, they were very good, but together it was iffy.

There were some great action scenes. My personal favorite was the scene in Italy with Black Manta chasing Arthur and Mera.  I thought that was well developed and intensely carried out.

The problem was there was too much action.  Because there were too many action scenes, the film felt too long.  A friend of mine said that maybe they should have cut out the Black Manta stuff and saved it for the sequel, and, in retrospect, even though I loved those scenes, that might have helped the film out.

The film has some fun moments and it is very silly at times. You see this with Aquaman himself as he embraces his role of big blockhead.

Unfortunately, there are too many tones in the film and they shift, sometimes, within the scenes.  Much of the humor did not land in Aquaman.

I do not know why DC movies insist on third act CGI fights with red backgrounds.  I swear that they are in every DC movie since Man of Steel.  I was hoping that we would not have the red since we were under water here, but the lava showed up just in time for a big fight between Aquaman and the monstrous creatures.

However, at least the red backdrop was kept at a minimum in the third act and did not show itself in the final battle with Oceanmaster.

Another major gripe is about the trailers.  Why did we need to see Aquaman in his orange outfit in the trailers and the promotional materials prior to this movie?  When he gains the outfit and the trident is a huge part of the movie and, if I did not already know that he was coming out dressed in his orange outfit, that moment might have been a classic moment, maybe even a cheer out loud moment, but the movie itself spoiled that for me.  Did seeing Aquaman in the orange outfit put anybody extra in the seats?  If not, then they wasted what could have been a brilliant moment.

Amber Heard’s red wig distracted me all the way through the movie.  I don’t have a counterpoint for that one.  The wig just was bad.  Nitpicky? sure.

As I said, Aquaman was a mixed bag for me, but I do think that what they did well out weighed what was done poorly.  This is a step in the right direction for DC movies because they allowed the audience to have some fun and to look at the movie with a marvel.  Aquaman does spectacular well, but the small scenes were lacking… or were punctuated with an explosion (and there were a ton of explosions).

3.35 stars


The Mule

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The newest Clint Eastwood directed movie features Eastwood as the lead character, and there are some strangely uncomfortable moments in a 2018 movie.

First off, the trailers made this look like something more violent in tone and more like Eastwood’s character is trapped in a life that he did not want to do and was uncertain how he was getting out of it.  However, that was not the tone of this movie.

This movie was more comedic than it was violent.  It was more weirdly uncomfortable than it was vicious.  Eastwood played a character who was an old man with old world values who did not know when he should not say something or know when he was saying something inappropriate…or racist.

Earl Stone (Eastwood) was a 90-year-old horticulturist is having money problems and is shown as a deadbeat father and husband.  He takes a job “driving” for some people, who turn out to be a Mexican Drug Cartel, and he is driving drugs.  However, Earl does the job very well and the cartel wants to increase his load.

Meanwhile, DEA agents Bates (Bradley Cooper) and Michael Pena (who has no name in the film) are trying to operate a sting inside the cartel which puts them on the trail of earl as the mule.

Earl’s family is having severe problems as well and he finds himself split with his attempts to be there for his family now, making up for the years he missed.

The film is very odd.  As I said, Eastwood’s Earl is extremely likable, but he says things that show him to be somewhat racist, or, at the very least, not empathetic toward people of different races.  He comes off more as an old guy who doesn’t know any better rather than a racist, though.

He also did not seem to be bothered much about driving these drugs around for this cartel.  He liked the money they were paying him for sure.  The film did a great job keeping Earl likable despite his outright criminal behavior.  Sure he needed the money to help his family, but that really did not excuse his activities.

There were several storylines that began but were dropped.  There was a relationship begun between Earl and his “handler” Julio (Ignacio Serricchio), but nothing came from it.  Serricchio was a former General Hospital star and was seen recently in Netflix’s Lost in Space reboot.  He was good here, but I was looking forward to a pay off of that relationship, but it never came.

There were plenty of things that happened in the plot that did not make a whole heck of a lot of sense either.

It was a strange movie because I found myself unsure of how I felt about the characters involved and Earl just was shuffling his way through this movie and he never felt as if he fit in with the narrative being told.  It was in opposition to the trailers that they showed and made me kind of uncomfortable.

That is not a bad thing.  The film was okay.  It is not up to par with some of Eastwood’s best films, but it was better than many, especially some of the recent one. Eastwood fans should enjoy this movie.

3.4 stars

Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse

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What were the odds that I wasn’t going to love this movie?  I mean… Spider-man is my all-time favorite character.  It seems to be receiving rave reviews from almost everyone.  The first time we see Miles Morales.  There is Peter Porker Spider-Ham and Spider-man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage).  Of course I was going to love this, right?



Am I building the tension?  Do you think I am waiting to pull the rug out?  No?  Of course, I loved this. It was fabulous.

Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is the origin story of Miles Morales(Shameik Moore) and how he became his universe’s Spider-man.  Miles is an incredibly smart and talented young man who is on his way to a new, special school throwing his life into a spin.  Unable to talk with his father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry), Miles heads to his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) for help.  After going with Aaron to a secret location, Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider from Alchemex.

Miles finds himself in the middle of a big fight between Spider-man and the new Green Goblin around a gigantic collider that is potentially tearing a hole in the time-space continuum.  Tragedy strikes and Miles winds up with the only thing that can stop the machine.

He is approached by a group of time displaced Spider-people including an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Spider-man Noir (Nicolas Cage) and Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and this group is trying to find their way home.

And come one, Spider-Gwen is just cool as can be.

So is Spider-man Noir.  The whole black and white thing was such a cool joke.

And Spider-Ham.  C’mon.

The story is so tremendous and very deep.  The characterization is beautiful, the plot is intense and the relationships between characters, especially between Peter and Miles, is special and original.  We get a fun version of Aunt May (voiced by the classic Lily Tomlin).

The animation of Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse was unbelievable and was the most creative type of animation I have ever seen.  It felt like a comic book come to life, literally.  It was weird, artistically astounding, filled with texture and style.  It seemed as if it were in 3D, but it wasn’t.  This was not a typical animated movie.  They took a chance by making this film different and it worked extremely well.  I could see some people having problems with the animation, because it is so different, but I found it to be an awesome stylish piece of art.

Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman were the directors of this movie, but many people seem to be giving a ton of credit for the film to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were involved as producers and Lord was one of the writers too.  They brought their trademark humor to the film and it worked perfectly for Spider-man.  The witty banter from Spider-man is such an important aspect of the character and it is the best example of it here than any previous Spider-man movie to date.

The fact that they showed that Miles Morales is half African-American and half Puerto Rican is a moment of inclusiveness that takes the world to another level.

The only thing I was not wild about was the portrayal of Kingpin.  The character was well done and I liked the voice by Liev Schreiber, but the look of the character was something that I had a hard time getting past.  It was the one negative that I can state of Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse.

This is one of the best movies of the year.  I need to see it a second time to really judge where on that year end list this is going to land, but it will certainly be in the single digits.  This film could open up the market for theatrically released superhero movie and that would give the genre even more ability to tell amazing stories.

4.95 stars