Voyagers

The new sci-fi film hitting the theaters this weekend is Voyagers, and the basic premise of the film is Lord of the Flies in outer space.

In order to find a new world to inhabit because the earth was dying, a group of children are bred and birthed for a specific purpose: to be the people who give birth to the kids who would reestablish humanity. Since the trip would take 86 years, they needed a multigenerational approach.

As these young kids are growing, they are being instructed and protected by Richard (Colin Ferrell). When strange noises start happening outside the spaceship, Richard and Zac (Fionn Whitehead) were going to find out what it was. However, Zac and Christopher (Tye Sheridan) had discovered that the blue liquid that the group was required to drink daily was a drug to suppress sexual feelings and other emotions and they decided to stop taking it.

Without the drug, Zac became more wild and uncontained. When tragedy struck, Zac and Christopher wound up on opposite sides among the crew.

Sela (Lily-Rose Depp) was the medical examiner and one of the group of kids was with Christopher. She was pretty good here though I was not sure the reason why she and Christopher had the connection they had.

This movie had a couple of moments and a fascinating premise, but not enough for this to be successful. The characters are dull and uninspiring. I could not get the idea of Lord of the Flies out of my head the entire time. I was connecting characters with the novel and that became a distraction for me.

Fact is the movie is pretty forgettable and there is nothing that stands out. It is lightweight and unremarkable.

2 stars

Thunder Force

Melissa McCartney and Octavia Spencer gain super powers to try and stop a group of super powered sociopaths called the Miscreants in the new super hero farce/comedy Thunder Force, arriving on Netflix this weekend.

In the world, an event gave random people super powers, but, unfortunately, only people who were sociopaths. This was, obviously, not good for the people. Now, Emily (Octavia Spencer) is trying to fulfill her lifelong goal to find a process to grant super powers to regular people to fight the Miscreants.

Emily is preparing to undergo the process to give herself super strength and invisibility, but an old friend from high school, Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) accidentally winds up getting the initial injections for the super strength. She then has to complete the process or her body might explode.

Emily continues to give herself the invisibility and the pair become a super hero team called Thunder Force. They confront the Mayor who insists on being called “The King” (Bobby Cannavale), who was also a Miscreant. He has Miscreant henchmen Laser (Pom Klementieff) and The Crab (Jason Bateman).

This is really pretty dumb and really fairly thin. It is a super hero comedy that did not have many laughs. It was a typical Melissa McCarthy film with super powers. Characters are two-dimensional with motivations that are simple and not complicated. They spend plenty of time dealing with the normal super hero tropes of an origin film and creates a minor story.

It was harmless though. It gave me a few laughs here and there. Not enough of them to really enjoy the film or to make up for its complete lack of depth, but it was not the worst movie I have seen this year.

The film does not give its talented cast much to do but they do their best anyway. These actors, McCarthy and Spencer especially, are likable and fun to watch. They both have had much better material in the past however.

Not much to this one, but it is not offensive and moves along reasonably. Since it is on Netflix, it may be worth a lazy Saturday/Sunday watch.

2.4 stars

Concrete Cowboy

What is supposed to be the final season of Stranger Things should be hitting Netflix later this year, but that talented cast should be fine once it is over. Case in point, Caleb McLaughlin teams up opposite one Idris Elba in a modern Western premiering on Netflix this weekend, entitled Concrete Cowboy.

McLaughlin played Cole, the son to Elba’s Harp, who had been taken away from him as a child by Cole’s mother, was getting into trouble in Detroit. His mother chose to send Cole to Philadelphia for the summer to be with his estranged father. Harp was a member of a community of cowboys in the Philadelphia area, maintaining stables filled with horses. Money is tight, but the group of people are dedicated to the lifestyle.

Cole, however, does not find this situation to be happy, as he immediately hooks up with an old friend Smush (Jharrel Jerome). Smush is involved with street wise trouble and is looking to bring Cole in with him. Harp insists that Cole stay away from Smush, but Cole plays both sides.

Meanwhile, Cole has bonded with a horse named Boo that is a horse no one can handle.

The film is a decent story and has some powerful acting. Caleb McLaughlin really carries his work load with some more established actors. He had to bring plenty of layers of performance here, as the realm of emotion spread across the spectrum. He does a great job and he is the heart of the film.

Idris Elba had some moments, but he stands out the most with his scenes with McLaughlin, as a father who is trying his best to provide his emotional support despite not being there for the majority of his son’s life. He had plenty of problems he faced and came out of it a stronger person.

The secondary cast is fine, but few of them are memorable. Method Man, Byron Bowers and Lorraine Toussaint are here as well.

Based on the novel Ghetto Cowboys by Greg Neri, Concrete Cowboys provides a fascinating look at the urban cowboys that exist in Philadelphia and the way their lives exist. When you add the strong father-son dynamic of the story, this movie has some very strong parts. It might be a tad overlong, but the performances keep it rolling.

3.5 stars

Nobody

The second film I saw at Cinemark today was the good one. This is a revenge thriller starring Bob Odenkirk (of Better Call Saul & Breaking Bad fame). Odenkirk may not seem like an actor who would fit as an action star, but he proves his worth in this movie.

Odenkirk played Hutch Mansell, a seemingly milquetoast man, who cannot even protect his family from a pair of bumbling thieves. His monotonous life has him going through the motions daily. His life is dull.

However, the break-in triggered something that Hutch had been holding inside of him for years and he went out to hunt down the thieves. Along the way, we discover that there is more to Hutch than we had expected.

A conflict with a group of drunken Russians on a bus brought out the vicious side to Hutch and put the Russians into the hospital. This drew the attention of the brother of one of the Russian, Yulian (Aleksey Serebryakov), and set up a wild revenge story.

Bob Odenkirk is great here and brings a realness to a film that desperately needs it. His deadpan reactions really work well in the violent situations that he finds himself in. Odenkirk is an Emmy Award winner and you can see how much of a range he has. How he started as a man who did not have that spark and then as he became more and more alive as the violence increased.

Christopher Lloyd has a wonderful role as Hutch’s father David. It was fun to see Lloyd here and placing him in this situation that we may not have seen him in before, much like Odenkirk, is cool.

Written by Derek Kolstad, who also wrote the first three John Wick movies, you can definitely see the similarities to the Keanu Reeves franchise. However, the use of Bob Odenkirk brings a different level to Nobody that takes the ideas that we have seen multiple times in revenge flicks and made it entertaining.

3.8 stars

The Unholy

I returned to Cinemark today, fully immunized, for a double header. I have not been feeling desperate to go back to the theater though. Watching at home has been pretty convenient and comfortable. However, with a light, yet extended, weekend, I had some time to head out. So I grabbed my heavy-duty mask and headed for the theater.

Of the two film I saw, one was great, one was not.

This is the not.

A hearing-impaired girl named Alice (Cricket Brown) is visited and healed by what she believed was the Holy Virgin Mary. She also gained the ability to heal others through the prayer and belief. Disgraced journalist Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is coincidentally in the area investigating a cattle mutilation story and stumbled across an artifact that freed up a demon. Fenn connected with Alice and hoped to use her story to get back his prime job.

There are a couple of familiar faces in the church with Father Hagan (William Sadler) and Bishop Gyles (Cary Elwes). I have to say, there were two moments where I was quoting The Princess Bride because of the familiarity of the scenes. And not in a good way.

Sadly, there is a lot of dumb here. Characters who are dumb doing things that are dumb. Jeffrey Dean Morgan feels as if his character is remarkably inconsistent and has a back story that is touch on, but not developed in any way. Alice is even less of a developed character.

The whole religious line of the story is surface level at best. There might have been an idea here that the film could have said something about, but it does not. The mysterious demon was never scary and the jump scares were nothing new or original. You have seen this all over the place.

There are some seriously laughable scenes. There was one scene where one of the priests ( it was actor Diogo Morgado) was trying to light a match and the spirit/demon kept blowing it out from over his shoulder. It was hilarious. Unfortunately for the movie, it was not supposed to be funny.

There were as many eye rolls for me here as anything else. The Unholy is not a good movie.

Go listen to EYG Hall of Famers Kiss’ song Unholy. It is much more entertaining and has been going through my head since.

1.8 stars

Godzilla vs. Kong

Monster super slugfest. When you get two of the most iconic giant monsters together, monster super slugfest is what you should expect. Thankfully, Godzilla vs. Kong delivers in that department.

When Godzilla unexpectedly attacks an Apex Cybernetics technical site, CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) approached expert/author/scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) for ideas on what to do. Nathan traveled to Skull Island to try and convince a former colleague, Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), to use Kong, who she had been studying for years, to lead them to Hollow Earth, the legendary location believed to be the birthplace of the Titans.

Bringing Kong with them, the giant ape’s very presence attracted the attention of Godzilla, kicking off the ultimate battle of the alphas.

I believe that this movie is the best of the recent series of monster movies that include Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. None of these movies were bad, per se. In fact, I liked most of them. However, they all suffered from the same misstep. The film focused way too much on the human characters and limited the amount of time with the monsters.

Admittedly, these movies require some form of human characters to hold the film together between huge monster fights, but some of the previous films may not have known exactly what the intent was of the film.

There are a couple of interesting characters here. The little deaf girl who had formed a connection with Kong, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) was one of the best. Kaylee Hottle makes her film debut in this role and she does a fantastic job. Millie Bobby Brown returns in her role as Madison from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Kyler Chandler returns as her father with very little to do. Brian Tyree Henry plays a paranoid podcaster filled with conspiracy theories the whole way.

Godzilla vs. Kong does a much better job of balancing the humans and the monsters. The film seems to clearly have these human characters as thin plot points. They exist to put the minutes in the film as down periods. This film knows what we want.

The battles with Kong and Godzilla are some of the best of the series. The CGI and effects are beautiful and awe-inspiring. Once the film brings Kong and Godzilla together, it picks up the pace dramatically. While the first 30-45 minutes are fairly slow, the first watery fight is amazing.

The third act of the movie is just fire. Some of the best monster fights you could hope for. These battles are planned out perfectly and the choreography is on point. Yes, the plot is thin and contains plenty of holes, but it is good enough for what it needed to be. It needed to be there for an excuse to bring Kong and Godzilla face to face.

And kudos to the writers in having a clear cut winner between the two Titans while still maintaining the aura and the mystique of both of these icons.

Godzilla vs. Kong is a lot of fun and a full blown spectacle that should be enjoyed as what it is. A monster throwdown.

4 stars

The Father (2020)

One of the movies that has received some Oscar nominations that I had never seen was The Father. Sir Anthony Hopkins was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a film that I was not 100% sure actually had been made. That’s a joke, but it has not been readily available for sure.

However, The Father arrived this weekend on streaming (specifically Vudu) and I decided that the air of mystery on this film needed to end.

Hopkins played Anthony, an elderly man, whose daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) has been taking care of him and he has been becoming confused.

However, this is not simply a movie talking about Alzheimer’s Disease or any sort of decline in mental acumen. It is more than that. The film gives us scenes from the POV of Anthony. By doing this, the film creates a enigmatic jumble of memories and scenes that change per each one and we, the audience, have no idea which one is the actual reality. This is because Anthony was not sure of which of the moments was reality either. It kept the viewers totally off balance and uncertain about what they were seeing.

Anne might be movie to France or she might be looking for someone to move in and help take care of her father or she might be living with a man or they might be living in her father’s flat or her flat or … well, you get the idea.

By choosing this style, director Florian Zeller creates a symbolic reality about what living with this horrendous disease is like and going out of the way to provide an air of confusion to the audience.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is wonderful here, never sure exactly what is going on or why he is unable to straighten the thoughts out in his head. He keeps referring to another daughter, a painter named Lucy. We never are sure what had happened to Lucy, or honestly if she ever really existed in the first place, though it seemed as if she was killed in some kind of accident. Hopkins masterfully brings all kinds of emotional moments to the haze around him in reacting to Anne and the others that come in contact with him.

Olivia Colman is excellent here too, given a difficult assignment. She plays off what Anthony does and shows how important he is to her and yet, we understand the pressures and frustrations that go along with the role. She is shown in each of the POVs with a differing reaction but equal amounts of guilt and pain.

This is a powerful story with a lot of pain and depressing moments. It might be a film that is challenging to watch and may stick with you for awhile.

4 stars

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

It is here.

After years of squabbling and online trolling, the fans of Zack Snyder have helped accomplish it. The infamous “Snyder Cut” has arrived on HBO Max after WB approached Snyder to complete his vision of what should have been in the 2017 Justice League movie that he had started but had to leave before it was completed. Snyder tragically had to leave the project when his daughter passed away.

WB had brought in Joss Whedon to finish the project and he wound up doing a lot of re-filming and re-editing, taking Zack Snyder’s ideas and repurposing them. The Justice League (2017) was a failure and cast members and fans were calling for the release of the Snyder cut. Some did not believe that this mythical “Snyder cut” actually existed. But, as I said earlier, it is here.

We will get this out of the way immediately. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a better movie than the Justice League (2017). Period. It can not be debated. Of course, it is double in time (4 hours compared to 2) and there is no sign of the CGI-killing Superman mustache so that has to be considered a vast improvement right there.

The story in this new version is considerably more coherent and it is easier to follow. Many of the scenes that appeared in both films make more sense here than they did in the previous movie. The characters get a considerable amount more time and it helps them tremendously.

In particular, Ray Fisher, who played Victor Stone (aka Cyborg), had an amazingly different film role here. Fisher was one of the earliest and loudest voices about releasing this film and how unhappy he was with Joss Whedon, and you can absolutely see why. Victor Stone is way better here than he was in the previous version. He was wasted away in that film, but here, you can see the relevance and the importance of Cyborg. His story with his father Silas (Joe Morton) was so improved here (although it is a typical father-son estranged story). It worked much better and provided some important emotional beats later in the film.

Ezra Miller’s Flash though felt a little creepy considering the situation Miller found himself in a year or so ago. The memory of his choking that girl, whether it was real or not, did play on my opinion of this character. Flash did get some funny lines, but he felt off to me.

It is a four hour movie and, I will be honest, the first hour or so dragged for me. There was a lot of set up and I am usually in favor of such things, but it just did not move with the flow that I would have hoped. Perhaps it is the downtrodden tone that seems to cover much of Zack Snyder’s DC films. However, I think the film really picked up and I found myself really engaged in the third act battle with Steppenwolf.

Let’s talk about Steppenwolf. In the 2017 film, he was the single biggest problem I had with the movie. Every time he was on screen I could not see anything but a failed and sloppy CGI character. The CGI felt unfinished and just constantly distracting. Here, Steppenwolf is much better. I would even go as far as to say, he was watchable. The face on Steppenwolf was still a problem, but it did not become a huge issue and I found it acceptable.

However, this film had too many moments of CGI that were poorly rendered. Especially the CGI used to create Darkseid. Darkseid did not make a lot of appearances (considerably less than I had thought he was going to) and I did not like the look of the character. Cyborg too had several moments, though fewer overall, of CGI issues. When the super hero genre has a character such as Thanos, the CGI for the big bad guys need to be stepped up.

Though some of the characters had some iffy CGI, the backgrounds and the settings were consistently beautiful and was extremely artistic. Though, in my opinion, it could have used some brightness here and there, for what was here, the art was gorgeous.

A couple of other problems I had fall under the realm of SPOILERS so be aware. First, there was the weirdest cameo in the middle of the movie that was revisited at the very end. I am not sure why they felt the need to include this character. Secondly, I found the “futurescape” dream that Bruce (Ben Affleck) had where Superman is evil and Darkseid has taken over Earth, was a silly and unnecessary tag on to the film simply to get the Joker (Jared Leto) into the movie and to show Flash in his outfit from Batman v. Superman (when he appeared to Bruce in another dream). This was just a waste of time and it goes nowhere. END OF SPOILERS.

I did not like the use of the Amazons this time. It felt different than the first film, which I thought was one of the better moments. Here it just did not work for me. I also was not a huge fan of the exposition drop of the past battle with Darkseid and the “age of heroes.”

The best part of the film is still the cast and their interactions with each other. We did lose that great scene with Aquaman and the magic lasso, but there was so much more there that it balanced out. Zack Snyder’s Justice League was better than I thought it was going to be and I enjoyed the overall film.

3.8 stars

Cherry

I am a fan of Tom Holland and the Russo Brothers. Unfortunately, their new collaboration does not match the work the trio reached in the MCU.

Cherry is the new movie debuting on Apple TV + this weekend, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and starring Tom Holland. It was based on a novel of the same name that told the story of a troubled young man who, after it seemed as if Emily (Ciara Bravo), the love of his life, was leaving him to go to college in Montreal, joined the army and wound up a medic in Iraq. He spent two years in the horrors of war in the Middle East, pushing his mental wellness to the edge. When he returned, he was suffering from severe PTSD and had to turn to drugs to get through the day.

There are several problems with Cherry, but Tom Holland is not one of them. Holland gives a stellar performance, elevating the material that, in many cases, really let him down. He was very believable in every moment of his pain and his suffering trying to make it through the day. He has good chemistry with Ciara Bravo, who is also excellent in her performance.

However, the script never goes above the expected steps that would take this movie into a different, more original direction. It is overlong and drags in the middle badly. Cherry has a feel like Forrest Gump on crack.

There are too many attempts to turn the film into a stylish artistic piece. The POV from Tom Holland’s butthole took things just too far for my taste. Most of these shots felt like a desperate attempt to find a relevancy for the movie because the movie’s story was lacking in anything special.

None of the other characters in the film, outside of the two main ones, are anything more than stereotypes and poorly drawn caricatures. Any attempt at giving them more to do was wasted by the movie and just felt like more clutter added to an already messy tale. It felt as if several of these characters and moments involving them could have been cut out to make room for more exploration of the main story.

Motivations of the characters were messy as well, including some of the decisions made by Cherry that would end up affecting his life forever. The ending as well felt tacked on and did not seem to fit with the narrative that had been told up until that point.

Good performances and director tricks do not a movie make. Especially one that lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes.

2.4 stars

Monster Hunter (2020)

What a difference a year makes.

If Monster Hunter would have come out in theaters a year ago (around that at least), I would have gone opening weekend.

however, then the pandemic struck and I had to wait on Monster Hunter. It popped up on streaming during that time and I looked at it, but, with the low Rotten Tomatoes score and critical question marks, I did not want to rent it for $19.99. I figured it could wait until the price dropped. Again, unlike prr-pandemic. Bad reviews did not keep me from attending the film in theaters, but the viewing at home was a different beast.

So the price on Monster Hunter finally dropped to a reasonable level this weekend and I decided that it was time to watch it.

Should have kept pushing it off.

Lt. Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her loyal troops are somehow transported to a different world where gigantic monsters are out to kill and eat unimportant side characters. As her crew fall one by one, Artemis meets another person, a mysterious Hunter (Tony Jaa) in a struggle to survive and an attempt to find her way back home.

Just thought that the premise sounded somewhat like Land of the Lost, only more violent.

So many problems here. I couldn’t give two craps about any of the characters. The film does not give me any reason to care about them. It barely introduces them. These extra characters are here simply for slaughter. It is like a slasher movie. Because of that, I felt no concern for any of them when they were being eaten or stabbed or…whatever.

When Artemis and Hunter meet, they spend more time fighting and mistrusting one another and I am not allowed to see them as friends or any other type of relationship.

Ron Perlman is in this too. After appearing in a nonsensical cold open, he does not return until late into the film to provide some needed exposition so the audience understands what is happening. It is far too late for that as I had stopped caring about anything well before this.

There is the absolute minimal plot happening here. The dialogue is utterly terrible. When Hunter arrives and speaks a different language, the dialogue actually gets better.

To be fair, the CGI monsters do look cool. It could have been much worse but it was easily the best aspect of Monster Hunter.

Based off a video game series, Paul W.S. Anderson’s latest film is very much like the rest of his oeuvre. Loud and limited. Dumb. Do not waste your time on Monster Hunter, and if you do, shut off your brain and stuff your face full of popcorn.

1.25 stars

Raya and the Last Dragon

I fought it as long as I could.

I am not a fan of Disney + releasing these movies on Disney + as a Premium premier film. Charging the customers an extra fee (especially the large fee of 30 dollars) to watch a movie on a streaming service that they already pay for is really Capitalism at its worst. While I paid for Mulan, I wanted to ignore the latest film Disney released in this manner.

It lasted about a day and a half.

Although I do not believe any movie would be worth spending that much money to view, Raya and the Last Dragon comes pretty dang close.

Years ago, humans and dragons lived together in the land of Kumandra. That time of peace would not last. When the monstrous creatures called Druun arrived, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity, leaving behind one gem of the dragon power. The lands of humans fractured apart and fought over the gem, ending the time of Kumandra.

Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran)were the gem’s guardians, but Benja had a hope to bring the land back together and reached out to reclaim Kumandra. Unfortunately, betrayal would be the order of the day as Namaari (Gemma Chan), the daughter of one of the separate lands, pretended to befriend Raya, by sharing the connection they had over the rumor of the last dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), to get her hands on the gem. In the battle, the gem was shattered and the different pieces went to members of different lands. This also saw the return of the dangerous Druun. which would turn to the humans to stone.

When Raya’s father turned to stone, she set off on a quest to reclaim the shards of the gem and find the last dragon to save the world from the Druun.

This film was immensely beautiful and featured spectacular animation. Disney continues its amazing animated work with this artistic masterpiece. The character designs and the settings are a master class of animation.

The voice cast was every bit as wonderful. There was subtlety in the voices that both inform and create character. Awkwafina’s work is extra special and both Tran and Chan play their parts perfectly. Add to the impressive voice cast Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Izaac Wang, Alan Tudyk, and Jona Xiao. The voice cast brought their top game to help tell this emotional story.

Now, the story itself certainly had some familiar beats to it. However, that was not necessarily a bad thing. It depends on what you do with the story that matters and the creators of Raya and the Last Dragon do a wonderful job of tugging at the emotions of the audience and creating new steps among the recognizable tale.

I believe the theme of this movie is one that is vital in today’s world. The shattering of the Kumandra society over material items and the loss of trust among the people led directly to the divisive nature of the land. The true magic only comes from trust and having the people of the world, despite their differences, work together for a common goal. This is a warning to the world that we currently live in that our separation can rob the world of the magic.

I am happy I decided to go ahead and pay the money that the execs of Disney deemed necessary for me to see this movie at home. I wish they would make such a fee a little more affordable so that the strength of this beautifully positive message could be seen by more people of the world.

4.5 stars

Boss Level

It seems like every other week now, we are getting a new film that falls into the sub-genre of Groundhog Day/repeating the day films. Just within the last couple of years there has been Happy Death Day, Palm Springs, Before I Fall, The Map of Tiny Little Things and I am sure that there are some that I did not see. We could go back even further if we had to. And now we have the newest entry into the sub-genre: Boss Level.

Frank Grillo is Roy Pulver, a man who is being pursued by a group of assassins and who have died multiple times so far. Roy kept reawakening in his bed on the same day. He has no idea what or why this is happening, but as he is learning about the events, he continues to press through the day, in trial and error, to discover the truth.

Naomi Watts is here as Roy’s former girlfriend Jemma and Mel Gibson is her boss Colonel Clive Ventor. Gibson is not actually that important to the story, which is fun.

Boss Level, which is a reference to video games, is funny, fairly clever and entertainingly violent. The assassins that are chasing Roy are all just excellent and are such an awesome piece. One of the best was Guan Yin (Selina Yo) who has a Chinese sword that she uses to decapitate Roy several times, in which she responds, “I am Guan Yo and Guan Yo has done this.” LOL.

The story went in different directions as it progressed and it had some real heart, especially with Roy and his son Joe, which makes perfect sense as Joe is played by Frank Grillo’s real life son, Rio. Rio Grillo may not have had a huge role in the film, but what I saw I really liked. He seemed to have a calm presence and a natural aura about him. I really liked his performance.

This feels like the perfect vehicle for Frank Grillo and the type of character that he has played up until this point. I will say that I am unsure how I felt at the very end of the movie as they left the last scene on a bit of a cliffhanger. The more I think about it, the more I think this is a great way to wrap up a movie like this. I can see some people being unsatisfied by this result.

This time loop sub-genre has been a pretty successful one as there have been more positive movies in it than ones that failed. Boss Level was a lot of fun and had me on the edge of my seat for much of the run time. It debuted on Hulu this weekend.

4.25 stars

Coming 2 America

Dropping a night early on Amazon Prime, Coming 2 America was trying to do something that is really difficult to do: be a good sequel to a comedy movie 30 years later. There are way more sequels that were terrible (Zoolander 2, Dumb and Dumber 2, Anchorman 2 etc) than those that are good. Coming 2 America had a huge hurdle to get over to avoid falling into the same club.

Sadly, it could not do it.

I was disappointed with Coming 2 America. I had been excited for this project and was anticipating watching this movie. When it dropped early, it was so unexpected that it felt special, and, while I would not put it in the same category as some of those other sequels I mentioned, this was nowhere near what I had hoped it would be.

Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) is still in Zamunda with his princess Lisa (Shari Headley) and his three daughter. As Akeem’s father King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) is on his deathbed, a neighboring despot General Izzi (Wesley Snipes) is looking to grab some power, either by marrying off his son to one of the daughters of Akeem or by something more violent.

Trying to look strong, Akeem discovered that he had a bastard son Lavelle (Jermaine Fowler) when he went to America to “sow his royal oats.” Apparently, Lavelle’s mother Mary (Leslie Jones) had been a set up by Semmi (Arsenio Hall) and she wound up drugging Akeem and having sex with him. She wound up pregnant, and Akeem did not know it had happened.

Ignoring that date rape part, Akeem came back to Queens to find his illegitimate son, which he does easily, thanks to the same old barbers that were there thirty years ago (without changing one bit). He brings Lavelle back to Zamunda to attempt and make him into a prince which includes a pre-arranged marriage.

One of the biggest problems with this movie is that it plays on the nostalgia of the original Coming to America so hard that large sections of the movie feels like a repeat of what we saw before. They even replay several scenes from the first movie in the sequel. Why do we need to see the same bits over again in 2021?

There are some strong parts to the film as well. It is not a total failure. Westley Snipes is tremendous as General Izzi, continuing his revitalized career with such interesting choices. Snipes was surprisingly funnier than many of the comedians in the movie. Jermaine Fowler developed Lavelle into a decent character, though he started out as an obnoxious kid. There were some definitely funny moments as well. My favorite scene may have been Akeem and Cleo (John Amos) having a heart to heart talk in the back of the Zamunda version of McDowells.

Unfortunately, parts of this did not work either. Lavelle’s “true love” story with the royal hair dressed felt forced and unrealistic. There was not enough scenes between the two of them to really find the investment in their relationship. There were too many characters who were there to just scream. Not only was there Murphy, Arsenio, Leslie Jones, but also there was Tracy Morgan. Historically, I have not been a fan of that style of comedy.

There were a ton of cameos here too including Morgan Freeman, Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue, Colin Jost, Gladys Knight, Dikembe Mutombo, and Louie Anderson. These were fun and kept you on your toes while watching.

It is just such a Xerox copy of so much of Coming to America, with just a few little tweaks, that it did not feel new or original. In fact, I found a good chunk of the movie to be boring because I knew what was going to happen. I like al these actors, but there just felt as if there was to much. This version did not take its time like the original and it did not have the same amount of heart or innocence.

I had seen a trailer and it made me nervous because I did not find it funny. Sadly, for me, the trailer did display the movie as I saw it. While I did not hate this, I was absolutely disappointed.

2.75 stars

The Mauritanian

Based on the novel Guantánamo Diary, The Mauritanian tells a tragic and painful story about a man in Guantánamo under suspicion that he was involved as the organizer of the 9/11 Attacks.

I had not heard anything about this movie until I was watching Collider’s FYI with Scott Mantz, Perri Nemiroff and Jeff Sneider and they were talking about award nominations and they came across a nomination for Jodie Foster. None of them were familiar with the movie, The Mauritanian, which intrigued me.

When this came across the streaming services, I had learned that it was a thriller and had some court elements to it, both of which appealed to me. I rented it.

It was a difficult watch at times, but the performances were outstanding and the story was one that struck at the heart of the United States and the policies of torture that engulfed the foreign policy of our country from the days following the fall of the Twin Towers. It was ugly. It was difficult to wrap my mind around it.

In this true story, Tahar Rahim played Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the man who was captured and held in prison for years because of a apparent connection between him and Osama Bin Laden. Defense attorney Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) wound up on his case, despite not being sure, at first, that he was innocent.

Rahim, in particular, delivers a knockout performance and dominates his screen presence./ He creates such a character that an audience could root for. The building relationship between Rahim and Nancy Hollander is another strong point of the movie.

Benedict Cumberbatch is Stuart Couch, the military man who was supposed to prosecute the case against Rahim. His American accent was a little iffy.

The Mauritanian was a tough watch and had one of the best go-to-black moments at the end of the movie ever. Great performances and a heartbreaking story carries this film. There may be other films more powerful, but that takes nothing away from this.

3.8 stars

Bigfoot Family

Found this new animated movie on Netflix last night and it found its way onto the list to watch this weekend. I have always been a big fan of bigfoot and this premise intrigued me. Unfortunately, the actual execution of the premise was lacking.

I did not know that this was a sequel to another animated movie from 2017 called Son of Bigfoot, and that might actually have helped the viewing of this film since much of the backstory with Bigfoot and his family felt crammed in to this. Understanding that it is more of a synopsis of a previous material helps.

Bigfoot (Alexis Victor) has decided to use his 15 minutes of fame to help protest against an oil company’s planned drilling of Alaskan land when he goes missing. His son Adam (Kylian Trouillard), his wife Shelly (Marie Chevalot), Wilbur the grizzly bear (Frederic Souterelle) and the raccoon Trapper (Sébastien Desjours) take off to help him.

This was a below average animated movie that might appeal to the children since there are some funny, cute talking animals involved. Wilbur had a couple of funny moments and I seen worse.

However, as an adult, even an adult who loves animation, this was not for me. The story was simple and stereotypical. The messages were over-the-top and obvious. The animation was fine and the voice work was okay. Nothing really stood out on either of those areas.

The villain was the head of the drilling company, Connor Mandrake (Pierre Tessier) pretended to be a friend of the environment but. in truth, was a typically boring oil executive. And he was not a smart one either as there were several moments where I thought to myself, “Why is he doing this?” or “Why didn’t he just ____?”

The film also overused the tiresome phrase of “fake news” which is a comment that has its own connotation to in this day and age. The use of it is meant as a joke, but it was anything but.

If you need a movie to put on for the kiddies, then you could do worse than Bigfoot Family. However, have something for you to do while its on.

2.6 stars