White Noise

One more in 2022.

I had watched YouTube critic Dan Murrell’s Top 10 movies of the year and he had listed White Noise as one of them. I had never heard of it, so I added it to the list for a potential June Swoon after five months. However, as I opened up Netflix this morning, I saw that White Noise was now available to watch, and I decided not to wait until June and to watch it today.

White Noise was adapted and directed by Noah Baumbach. It was adapted from a novel of the same name by author Don DeLillo. It was one of the stranger films that I have seen this year.

The plot synopsis is a bit challenging, because it felt a little all over the place. According to IMDB, White Noise “Dramatizes a contemporary American family’s attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death, and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world.”

That synopsis boiled the film down to its basic concept. How it gets there is quite the trip. It included a weird family, a mysterious drug, and an airborne toxic event that led to a city-wide evacuation. Jack (Adam Driver) is a professor of Hitler studies. His fourth wife, Babette (Greta Gerwig) is secretly taking an unknown medication. There is also another professor, Prof. Murray Siskind (Don Cheadle) who wants to develop an “Elvis” studies. Cheadle is not essential to the film, but he adds a lot of strange humor.

The dialogue of this movie was the best part and it was delivered so entertainingly by Driver, Gerwig and the entire group of kids from their family. They were all very intriguing characters with their own quirks and odd behaviors. The characters were certainly written as intelligent people, but they may not have a ton of social skills for the outside world.

Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig were great as the lead couple. Their grounding of their relationship and the relationship with their kids is what kept the movie from losing its way, which was absolutely a danger with all of the strangeness that was going on in the story. Without Driver and Gerwig’s work, the seemingly randomness of the plot points would never have worked.

Don Cheadle was hilarious with his apparent obsession with Elvis and his attempts to get the Hitler professor to help him out. The kids all were very solid acting wise as well.

There were some who believed that the White Noise novel was unadaptable for the screen, and, while I have not read the novel, the film held my attention and entertained me throughout. I was never quite sure where it was heading and I liked that.

3.75 stars


Damien Chazelle, director of such great films as Whiplash and La La Land, has a new film out wide in theaters right now entitled Babylon, and there have been plenty of pundits who believe that Babylon will receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

I, on the other hand, absolutely hated it.

I have not come out of a theater angry after watching a movie in a long time, but I was angry after spending time with this mess of a film. After fifteen minutes, I was ready to be done with Babylon, and I knew that I had another 2 hours and 45 minutes to go. I considered just leaving, but I have a rule about writing a review about a movie that I have left.

I hated this movie so much. Within five minutes of the movie, one of the actors is show getting literally shit on by an elephant. No joke… and I don’t care if that is a spoiler. He was shit on. By an elephant.

Set at the beginning in the later 1920s, the story of Babylon was all over the place following several different characters. The main ones were Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) a huge star in the movies and the eventual loss of his status in Hollywood as he got older and silent pictures left. Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) was an aspiring actress who claimed to be a star despite not yet being in any film. Margot Robbie’s story turned out to be a story taken from Singing in the Rain as they quite literally showed scenes in the third act from Singing in the Rain for anyone who did not catch the similarities. Then there was Manny (Diego Calva) who just seemed to be in the right place at the right time for his career, starting off as an assistant to Jack Conrad and winding up as a studio exec.

There were others that were tossed in for reasons, but not sure why.

I will say that I did like Brad Pitt’s arc and the character of Jack Conrad was the least ridiculous of the bunch. I thought his storyline worked fairly well for most of his time on screen. Margot Robbie’s Nellie was all over the place. She was the most inconsistent of the three ‘main’ characters. She had a gambling problem which was mentioned early in the movie, but was never important until the third act when they needed it to be important.

The film was chaotic, messy and filled with decadence and debauchery… and not in the good way.

If this movie receives an Oscar nomination, I will be very unhappy because this would be an example of something that I have noticed over the years. There are critics and pundits who have favorite directors that they like whatever they do no matter how bad it is. Directors such as Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, among others seem to get a pass. Damien Chazelle has been placed in that group. There is no way that Babylon was done by another no name director that anyone would be pushing it for an Oscar.

If I haven’t said it yet, I hated this movie. Brad Pitt was good.

1 star

The Whale

I am very torn about this one.

The new film from director Darren Aronofsky is entitled The Whale and it was at times, a triumph, and at other times, an insult.

Charlie (Brendan Fraser) was a morbidly obese English teacher who was carrying on his classes through Zoom. Charlie had suffered through some terrible personal tragedies that led to his weigh gain and his numerous health issues. His friend and nurse Liz (Hong Chau) was not only a protector and a helper, but also an enabler for Charlie’s deadly eating habit. Despite Liz’s insistence, Charlie refused to go to the hospital and be treated for his health issues that seemed prepared to kill him.

During this week, Charlie attempted to reconnect with his estranged daughter, the daughter he left when she was eight year old, Ellie (Sadie Sink). Ellie was a borderline sociopath and only kept coming to Charlie for the money he was going to give her. Or was there more that she was trying to do?

A local, young missionary Thomas (Ty Simpkins) was going door-to-door to preach for the local religious group and he came across Charlie in a state of pain. Thomas was convinced that God had brought him to Charlie to help him, though there was more to the young man than what he let on.

There is no doubt that the standout section of this movie is the remarkable performances, lead by Brendan Fraser himself. Fraser exceeded just the prosthetics and delivered one of the best individual performances of the year. He brought such an emotion and a power to Charlie that he was able to elevate the character above some of the cruelty that the film heaped upon him.

Brendan Fraser is supported with several really great performances in a film that is basically set in Charlie’s living room. Hong Chau is amazing as Liz, the nurse who tried to get Charlie to get help before it is too late. She was exceptional in every scene she was in. Plus, there was an unbelievable performance from Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink as Charlie’s daughter.

Of course, while I believe that all of the supporting performances were outstanding, there is not a single character among them that is not a rotten, horrible person that projects their own issues onto Charlie. Charlie, on the other hand, feels like a character that is positive and intelligent, but who is crushed beneath the hatred of the film toward him. There are so many attempts in the film to make him out to be disgusting that it avoided who he was as a character.

This was the reason I felt so uncertain about what I was watching. As a person who is fat and who has been extremely fat, there felt to me like there was a concerted effort to fat shame Charlie and to go out of the way to be cruel to him. Instead of dealing with his overeating as a symptom of his depression over the loss of his boyfriend to suicide, the film feels as if his eating is something to blame Charlie for and to make him gross. I could relate to Charlie in a lot of ways, but the film did not want people to relate to him so they went out of the way to show Charlie as a monster.

There was also a definite homophobic nature to several scenes in the movie and, while it is never specifically called out, it absolutely exists. There was a particularly gross scene between Charlie and Thomas that brings this to the light and is never dealt with properly.

There was a scene with a pizza delivery guy (Sathya Sridharan) that made me angry when it happened. It was a chance for the film to show some empathy toward Charlie, but it failed drastically to do so. There is a serious lack of empathy for Charlie. I am struggling to come up with an example of it, even among the characters that were supposed to be his friends.

So I am torn. While I found much of this movie to be cruel and gross, the actors take that grossness and cruelty and act the heck out of it. I had a general icky feeling coming out of The whale for the subject matter and the manner in which they address Charlie simply because of his disability, but I was impressed with the skill the actors displayed in having their characters be so horrible. It has several five star performances, but the overall rating or The whale is…

2.75 stars

Woooooo! Becoming Ric Flair


As a professional wrestling fan, that was a sound that we all know. It was the call of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. But even as a lifelong wrestling fan, I had no idea about some of the twists and turns that happened in the life of the man known as the “limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing, son of a gun.”

The new documentary of the life of Ric Flair dropped today on Peacock and it was as sensational as it was shocking. Set around interviews from Tom Rinaldi, Ric Flair talked about the ups and downs he had over the years as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots.

We weren’t in the doc more than a few minutes and my jaw dropped. When Rinaldi asked Flair was his birth name was, I was expecting him to say “Richard Fliehr” but instead he said “Fred Phillips.” My jaw dropped open. He said he did not know that until three years ago. Turned out that Ric Flair started life in an orphanage and that he may have been stolen from the hospital as a baby as a black market baby. Unbelievable.

Then the doc went through every major event in the life of Ric Flair, from the plane crash he survived that led to him sustaining a broken back, to being struck by lightning, to the death of his son Reid, to his near death experience from drinking.

And of course, they focused on his career in the world of professional wrestling, from his time under Verne Gagne in the AWA to his days as NWA and WCW Champion and his time in the WWE.

One of the main themes of the documentary was how the real life Richard Fliehr had disappeared inside the character of Ric Flair and how even Ric himself was unsure of who Richard Fliehr was.

It detailed a lot about the lack of confidence issues he dealt with later in his life around the profession that he had been thriving in for decades. It is fascinating to see Ric Flair speaking as if he had no confidence in himself while everyone interviewed spoke of him as the greatest of all time.

They interviewed multiple individuals about Flair, not just contemporaries of his, but other big time names. We heard from Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Charlotte Flair, Booker T, Eric Bischoff, JJ Dillion, Hulk Hogan, Lex Lugar, Sting, Dave Bautista, as well as Mike Tyson, Stephen A. Smith and Post Malone.

Some of the most emotional moments of the doc came when discussing the overdose death of Reid Fliehr, Ric’s youngest son. They spoke to the entire Fliehr family and the heartbreak was clear. When Ashley “Charlotte” Fliehr spoke about her brother, whom she had broken into the wrestling business with and she said she felt guilty at times because she was living Reid’s dream, it was heartbreaking.

The loss of Reid was a triggering factor in Ric Flair’s near death from drinking. Somehow Flair survived the bout, despite being given a 15% chance of survival, but he continues to drink. I’m not sure what kind of a picture that paints of Ric Flair, but it was a moment that I found disturbing.

There did feel like the early days as NWA/WCW champion was brushed through quicker than I would have liked, though I understand that you are looking at a long career for a great performer and something had to be brushed through. They mention it, but it just did not feel as if they focused enough about it.

Ric Flair is mor than just a character. He is more than just a persona. He is a legend and, no matter what you may think of him, Woooooo! Becoming Ric Flair is a powerful and intriguing look at a man and his identity.

4.4 stars

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Whitney Houston had one of the greatest voices music has ever heard. Her tragic death was a tremendous loss for everybody. We now have a new biopic telling her story. Well, sort of.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody tells the story of Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie) and her rise to superstardom, accomplishing feats on the Billboard music charts that were not accomplished by The Beatles or Elvis Presley.

The music in this biopic is stunning. Whitney Houston’s voice was unbelievable and she consistently drove the narrative of her talent with performances that was completely awe-inspiring. Hearing the songs was worth the entire film.

However, the biopic part of the movie was a tad lacking. It was a basic timeline of her life, touching upon both the good and the bad without diving into anything too deeply. Houston’s whole tumultuous marriage and relationship with Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders) did not feel as if it was given the weight it should have been. Because of the lack of depth in any of the problems the singer faced downgraded the end result and made it more difficult to understand what happened to the singer.

As I watched the film, I enjoyed it enough. It is hard not to enjoy a film with such a powerhouse singer involved, but I do not feel as if I know Whitney Houston any better than I did before I watched it and I would not consider myself a large fan of her.

Naomi Ackie is amazing in the role of Whitney. She becomes the singer and it was hard, at times, to tell when they were using actual sounds of Whitney Houston. Reportedly, the film used Whitney’s voice about 95% of the time (according to IMDB) but Ackie is flawless with her performances.

When they allowed her to get into the role, she absolutely nailed it. A scene late in the film with Bobby Brown and Whitney’s best friend Robyn (Nafessa Williams) showed what Ackie was capable of doing. There was just not enough of that kind of moment.

Stanley Tucci was great in a supporting role as Whitney’s long time friend/producer/agent Clive Davis. Their relationship was fascinating and received more time than many of the other ones. Tamara Tunie was also really great as Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston. Her screen time was limited, but Tunie did a lot with what she was given.

In this movie, I was shown what a powerhouse of a singer Whitney Houston was, but I wanted to see what a powerhouse of a person she was and there was just not enough scenes like that in I Wanna Dance with Somebody. If you are a fan of Whitney Houston, this biopic is for you. If you are a fan of amazing music and singing, you can’t go wrong. If you don’t mind a basic, paint-by-numbers biopic, then this is also one for you. I would have liked some more.

3 stars


I’m not sure there has ever been a more independent of an independent film than Aftersun. It is everything that you might expect from an independent film, including the lack of a general plot.

Calum (Paul Mescal) and his 11-year old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) were together on summer vacation in Turkey. Calum and Sophie’s mom were separated. Calum was having plenty personal issues, but he clearly loved his daughter. They spent time together.

Honestly, I am not exactly sure what I watched. There was not a lot of throughline to the story and there was not a ton of character development either. We got some examples of Calum struggling, but we did not find out why. There was also scenes interspersed in the story of an adult Sophie and a weird dance club with a strobe light making it tough to tell what was happening. It looked as if Calum was there and was very out of it and the relationship with Sophie seemed to be on the rocks, but, as I said, the scenes were tough to wath.

I believe the film was meant to be shown as memories, as we see Sophie later reflecting back upon the Turkey trip. Perhaps the disjointed feeling was intended as a way to illustrate memory. Either way it was diffiuclt to follow.

When the scenes were more straight forward, I thought Frankie Corio did a great job as the young Sophie. She and Paul Mescal were magic together as their performances kept me engaged in a movie that I did not feel was telling me much of a story or that I was fully understanding what was going on.

I have to say that final section of strobe-lit dance club made me feel very uncomfortable as my imagination played with what I was trying to see. It just made me feel odd.

I am sure that critics love this movie, but I had a tough time with it. There just seemed to be too much independent movie about it for my tastes.

2.75 stars

The Inspection

It takes a special kind of person to be a Marine. I know that there was never a point in my life that I could have done it so when I see movies like The Inspection that highlights what these people go through, it only elevates the respect that I have for them.

The Inspection was written and directed by Elegance Bratton, who based a lot of the story on his own real-life experiences.

Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) was a young, gay black man who was having plenty of challenges in his life, including an estrangement with his mother Inez (Gabrielle Union). French decided to get his life on track by joining the Marines. However, his sexual orientation was revealed and this led to a series of homophobic responses from his platoon mates and the drill sergeants. In particular, drill sergeant Leland Laws (Bokeem Woodbine) would make the situation even worse for French. Laws’ goal was to make a Marine and he did it in some of the worst ways imaginable.

Watching this, you could not help but to feel for these people for what they were being put through to be a Marine. I understand that the Marines are looking for the best and can’t just let anyone join, but the process of systematically breaking down individuals until they can not handle it any longer is a difficult process to watch.

However, French faced plenty of problems, but it seemed as the film went along, he was not being broken down, but instead he was becoming stronger. He had several really good scenes with others in the platoon and with the men in charge. Jeremy Pope was outstanding through the whole movie. You absolutely see the way that French grew as an individual with each passing cruelty.

There was another intriguing character here named Ismail (Eman Esfandi), who had to face his own issues with prejudice toward his religion and the stereotypes of the Middle Eastern people. The scenes between French and Ismail were very strong and worked to show the connection the Marines build with one another.

Then there is Gabrielle Union, who played Inez and her own reactions to her son were just tragic. Union made the audience hope that there might be a chance that French and she could reunite and yet the pain was too deeply set. The third act scene between these two was a powerful and painful moment.

The Inspection was a really strong film with some very difficult moments to watch. There were wonderful performances and a concise story that dove into characters and their wills to overcome.

3.85 stars

The Invitation

I avoided this movie for a long time. When it was in theaters at the end of August, I did not find myself interested in seeing it. It then came to Vudu, and I could not bring myself to rent it. Finally, it came to Netflix and it was free, so I finally decided to give it a view. I was right in the first place.

According to IMDB, “After the death of her mother and having no other known relatives, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) takes a DNA test…and discovers a long-lost cousin she never knew she had. Invited by her newfound family to a lavish wedding in the English countryside, she’s at first seduced by the sexy aristocrat host but is soon thrust into a nightmare of survival as she uncovers twisted secrets in her family’s history and the unsettling intentions behind their sinful generosity.

The first half of the film was nothing but jump scares strung together, none of which were anything of substance outside of just tying to elicit a response from the audience. There are movies that use the jump scare effectively, but this one was nothing but the cheap scare technique.

The acting was fine, but there was nothing that was going to elevate this movie above the script and some of the dialogue was truly awful. My favorite of the film was Sean Pertwee, who played the butler Renfield. Pertwee also played Alfred Pennyworth of the Gotham TV show. I guess his specialty is service acting. Of course, he was nothing here but a lackey, but it was nice seeing him once again. I always liked his Alfred.

The film really pulled the rug out from the story that it seemed to be telling in the first two-thirds of the movie. You knew something weird was going on, but it was a real flip when the truth came out. Understand, it is not that it was a surprising shock. It was obvious as could be as to the truth that was going on, but it did not take any time to build up the twist. It just through it into the story and let things fall where they may. It was preposterous.

The setting did a decent job of setting a mood for the film, but it felt as if all it would take was a single line and this could have been a solid satire.

I did like Nathalie Emmanuel as our main protagonist, though she was stupid through much of the film. She looked great on screen and I expect that she could do more with a better story. The former Game of Thrones actress could have a really good career (she’d be great as a young Storm in MCU), but when she moves ahead into better projects, hopefully she will be able to put this one behind her.

The Invitation became my 178 movie reviewed this year, setting a new record for a single year. It’s a shame that the record breaker couldn’t have been a better movie.

1.5 stars

Catch the Fair One

As I was watching John Rocha and Jeff Sneider on their podcast The Hot Mike, they were talking about some of their favorite movies from 2022, and Sneider mentioned one that he thought was fantastic. It was entitled Catch the Fair One and he said it was available on VOD. Intrigued by the recommendation, I went to Vudu and, sure enough, the film was there and I thought this would be a great film to watch when travel is discouraged on a snowy Friday morning in Eastern Iowa.

Jeff Sneider was right. It was quite the movie, full of tension and intensity.

Kaylee (Kali Reis) was once a championship level boxer whose life had taken a downward turn since her sister was missing. The loss and grief set her on an obsessive path to try and find her sister. The path led her to a sex trafficking ring and a violent journey of vengeance.

Kali Reis gets to take her character on quite the character arc, though she probably does not learn much during the film. She went from a hugely successful boxer to someone who sees what the life of revenge can do to you. There are several scenes that, while you understand why Kaylee is doing what she is doing, it is very difficult to root for her while she is doing it.

Catch the Fair One does an admirable job of creating a sense of anxiety among the viewers while Kaylee continued to make poor choices on her road of vengeance. You could feel that the road she was on was leading to something terrible and yet you could see that Kaylee did not seem to care about what was going to happen.

Yet, you could tell that she still had some of her humanity with the way she conducted herself at times, and you know that she had good motivations, even if her intentions were not positive.

This film provided a real-life feel to a movie subgenre that, many times over, becomes unrealistic or even cartoonish. There is nothing cartoonish about Catch the Fair One. It is brutally real and tough to watch at times.

3.6 stars

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

I loved the character of Puss in Boots from his appearances in the Shrek film franchise. However, I did not love the solo film he had a few years back. I mean, it was fine, but for a character that I thought was such a standout on the Shrek films, I found the solo adventure to be somewhat lacking. Because of that, I doubted the need for another Puss in Boots film, but I had heard positives about it so I went in with a hopeful attitude. And Puss in Boots: The Last Wish delivered big time.

The film caught up with our awesome hero Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) doing his signature heroic actions and singing about his conquests. However, after saving several villagers from a rampaging giant, Puss in Boots is killed by a falling bell.

No worries though because Puss in Boots has nine lives, as he arrogantly told the doctor. After a recount of deaths, Puss realized that he was on his final life. One more careless adventure and there would be no coming back for the cat.

Even worse, Puss is being stalked by a monstrous wolf (Wagner Moura) who struck fear into the feline’s heart for the first (or second) time. Puss ran from the wolf, finding shelter in a cat sanctuary. This did not last for long as Goldi (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, and Olivia Colman, respectively) were searching for Puss in order to have him steal a map to the Last Wish from Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney). When Puss discovered about the wish, he decided that this was his chance to regain his lost lives.

Puss in Boots is joined by both Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and a dog (Harvey Guillén) who had been impersonating a cat at the sanctuary. This set up a race to find the mythical Last Wish from all of the factions.

I was thoroughly entertained by Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. It was funny, engaging action film with characters that were cleverly adapted and beautifully rendered. The animation style reminded me at times of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as it varied the style multiple times through the film, in particular when there were fight scenes. There were a bunch of times where I stopped and watched the animation in awe of the creativity and design of it.

There was also a great job from Antonio Banderas, as well as the other voice actors, in bringing their characters to life. Banderas was the captain of this film and his work is absolutely stellar. He had great chemistry with Selma Hayek, as they have been together in multiple films.

I loved all the villains involved here too as they all took the general stories of the fairy tales/nursery rhymes they were based upon and made them into fully functioning characters with understandable motives and real depth. None of them were just the typical fairy tale villain that was just out for evil. However, I do think the joke about Goldilocks and the “Just right” bit was used way too much and I found it annoying at the end instead of moving as it was intended. It would have helped the film to have toned back the number of times that comment was used.

Still, the film moved at a brisk pace and was rarely boring. It went to great effort to give us characters with understandable motives and reasons for their actions and Puss in Boots is truly an epic hero. The confrontations between Puss and the Wolf were very frightening as the design of that character certainly is meant to be fearful.

Puss in Boots capped off an excellent year for animation and is a film that everyone in the family should enjoy.

4.4 stars

Spoiler Alert

I was surprised to see Spoiler Alert available on Vudu today. I had not been able to see it in the theaters, but I had wanted to see this. I have always enjoyed Jim Parsons and Sally Field and the trailers looked decent.

It was strange as I was watching the film because I thought the name of Jim Parson’s character sounded familiar. He played Michael Ausiello who was a journalist from TV Guide at the beginning of the film. As I was watching, I started thinking that maybe this was a true story.

Sure enough, Michael Ausiello was a name that I remembered back when I would read through TV Guide and that this film was based on a memoir by Ausiello called Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies.

The memoir is about Ausiello’s marriage to photographer Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge) and Cowan’s eventual death from cancer.

The story was sweet and well told. It focused on the relationship between Michael and Kit earlier, before the cancer reared its evil head. Though much of the relationship, which lasted 13 years, is skimmed over with photos of Christmas trees, but they do spend time at the beginning few months as well as the final few months.

Jim Parsons does a great job as Michael. The fact that I watched this movie and I did not look at him as Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory showed how effective he had done in Spoiler Alert. Parsons and Ben Aldridge had good chemistry and worked very well together. Earlier this year, there was a film called Bros that had some scenes that made me uncomfortable. I never felt anything uncomfortable here. I just enjoyed the pairing.

Sally Field was exceptional here too. She played Kit’s mother, with a ton of perspective and a strength that was put to the challenge. I really liked how she and Bill Irwin, who played Bob, Kit’s father, interacted and fit together as a pair of parents that felt familiar. I also loved how they did not make a big issue over their son’s homosexuality and, instead, made the issue that he had not told them. This was a nice switch for this type of film.

The later part of the film where Kit begins dealing with the cancer was emotional and really tested the relationship between Kit and Michael, a relationship that had been failing prior to that. Of course, the film’s title tells you right away that the movie was going to be about the loss of this man.

There were some interesting parts of the film where Michael imagined himself as a child in a sitcom, dealing with the terrible losses of his life, including the death of his mother to cancer.

The film blends the drama and the comedy together nicely and feels like one of the best comedy/drama films about cancer since 50/50.

Michael Showalter directed this film. He was coming off the excellent comedy/drama The Big Sick.

Spoiler Alert tells an interesting story of a gay couple and their thirteen years together, through trials and tribulations, until death did they part. Solid performances helped the film, which did feel a touch long.

3.75 stars

If These Walls Could Sing

The iconic recording studio, Abbey Road, in London was the home to some of the biggest musical acts of all time and the new documentary on Disney +, If These Walls Could Sing, detailed some of those moments in time.

Directed by Mary McCartney in her directorial debut, If These Walls Could Sing included interviews with Elton John, John Williams, Jimmy Page, Kate Bush, Shirley Bassey, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Celeste, Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher, Giles Martin, Ringo Starr, and, of course, her father, Paul McCartney.

With this array of musical talent, McCartney wanted to provide the musicians the chance to explain how much Abbey Road Studios meant to them and to share the feeling of history and of magic that enveloped the studios at Abbey Road.

Each of the performers spoke about the way that the studio helped their recordings and discussed some of their greatest records that were recorded in the studio. One of my favorite moments was with Paul McCartney, who was telling a story about a recording session and how they had a specific piano available. He turned around and looked behind him and he saw that exact piano, got up and started to play it.

As a huge Beatles fan, I really enjoyed the reminiscing from Paul McCartney about the recording of Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and the White Album. Though it did not have the in-depth details as last year’s Get Back documentary, it was still very interesting and engaging.

It was also great watching John Williams and his work on Star Wars, with George Lucas sitting there watching and listening.

I thought this was a great debut from Mary McCartney and she explored some wonderful moments that happened in the studio of Abbey Road. There may not have been anything to tie the differing sections together, but it was fun to hear the stories of the stars about the studio.

4 stars


Pearl is a film that is a prequel of a film called X that was also released in 2022. Directed by Ti West, Pearl is the basic origin story of the character Pearl, the old lady in the film X.

Pearl (Mia Goth) was isolated on a farm, trying to help to take care of her infirm and paralyzed father (Matthew Sunderland) while under the thumb of her controlling and paranoid mother Ruth (Tandi Wright). Pearl’s husband Howard was serving overseas during World War I, and Pearl dreamed of escaping from the farm and making it big in the movie industry.

However, as things begin to unravel for Pearl, her dark tendencies begin to shine through the façade she had in place.

Mia Goth is completely brilliant here. She portrayed the slow descent into madness perfectly and she created a tension on the screen where you just were never sure what she was about to do. The final scene of the movie (no spoilers, of course) is one of the creepiest sections of a movie this year.

There was also one of the year’s greatest monologue when Pearl was speaking to her sister-in-law, Mitzi (Emma Jenkins-Purro). She was truly frightening during this scene as you see the mental chasm forming across her mind.

Some of the kills in this slasher film are really well executed and create a tense atmosphere of uncertainty. All of that is simply elevated even more by the performance of Mia Goth. She gave, seriously, one of the top performances of 2022.

I enjoyed X, but I will admit to having to refresh my memory about what happened in it. I do not think I will need a refresher on Pearl. This was one more excellent horror film from 2022.

4.1 stars

The Volcano: Rescue for Whakaari

Netflix debuted a new documentary this weekend called The Volcano: Rescue for Whakaari, which illustrated the 2019 tragic events when there was a volcanic explosion on the island of Whakaari, which led to the deaths of 22 people.

In 2019, a group of tourist went to Whakaari, off the coast of New Zealand, to go on an adventure to see the magma of the volcano. Several of the survivors were interviewed throughout the documentary, talking about their reasons for going to the island in the first in the first place, dealing with the horrors of the eruption and their
struggles to survive their injuries and after effects of the ash.

While there may not have been as much in depth evaluation of the topic, the documentary had no lack of emotions and feels for these people who went through such a terrible even over the two hours of eruption time.

Then, the after effects, seeing the scars and the pain that the survivors suffered was something to behold. It is amazing what they had to do and seeing how they handled life after the eruption was emotional.

The film does a solid job of telling this story and setting up these people as survivors. The doc was a good watch.

3.85 stars

Christmas Bloody Christmas

2022 has been a great year for the horror genre, but I really expected Christmas Bloody Christmas would be on the other side of that ledger. Surprisingly, I thought this was much better than it had any right to be.

This is the second “killer” Santa movie of the year, but Christmas Bloody Christmas could not have been more different than Violent Night. In Violent Night, Santa was our protagonist and in Christmas Bloody Christmas, Santa was the antagonist and not the real Santa Claus. Both were holly jolly butt kickers though.

In Christmas Bloody Christmas, according to IMDB, “It’s Christmas Eve and Tori (Riley Dandy) just wants to get drunk and party, but when a robotic Santa Claus (Abraham Benrubi) at a nearby toy store goes haywire and begins a rampant killing spree through her small town, she’s forced into a battle for survival.”

I found myself drawn to Tori and her friend Robbie (Sam Delich) and their adversarial and snarky relationship. Their banter was quick, funny, dirty as can be and real. I was rooting for them to both survive the night.

The Santa Claus robot was a clever idea and found plenty of ways to show off some vicious kills. I was also impressed with Tori’s continual attempts to survive the murder bot. However, one of my problems with this film is the same as I have with all of these films. When Tori had the Santa Claus down and out, instead of finishing it off, she would run off. I would keep shouting at the screen for her to “take the axe and cut off its head” but she just refused to do it. Sure, I buy the first couple of times, but as the Santa Claus kept coming back over and again, you’ve got to learn from the past and press that advantage when you get it.

The story is fairly thin, but what were you expecting? Director Joe Begos and the cast know exactly what type of movie this is and they go for broke with the slasher killer St. Nick. There is a lot of good natured cheesy fun and some cool kills. It does not come anywhere close to the quality of Violent Night, but it is a different sort of film. It was an easy watch on Shudder and I enjoyed suspending my disbelief, even if they wouldn’t listen to me about cutting off Santa’s head.

3.4 stars