Avatar: The Way of Water

The long awaited sequel to the highest grossing film off all time finally hit theaters this weekend. Avatar: The Way of Water marked the return of director James Cameron to his beloved franchise. I was never a huge fan of Avatar, but I rewatched it last week and found it much better than I had remembered which helped my anticipation for the Way of Water.

In a return to Pandora, we meet up with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and their children. When problems of the past rear their ugly head, the Sullys have to face dangers and tribulations.

I don’t want to go into too much in plot synapsis because there are some spoilers that I do not want to reveal that I did not know heading into the movie and I want everyone to have the same experience as I did.

The highlight of the film is clearly the special effects and the images on display. This is brilliant. The visual storytelling of this movie is amazing.  Honestly, I would say that around two-thirds of the first two acts of the film
are imagery. The look of The Way of Water is breath-taking. This will certainly be the leading candidate for special effects Oscar Award.

The underwater scenes in this movie are absolutely unbelievable. The underwater creatures that would swim by are amazing and would even draw my attention away from the main purpose of the scenes.

When you add the 3D, it enhanced the imagery even more. Most 3D tends to be darker or more difficult to see, but not The Way of Water (well, maybe a couple of times). It creates such dimension and realness that it added to the remarkable design and artistry. It had been a long time since I saw a 3D movie, and it has never been one of my most favorite aspects, but this was well worth

The music was sensational as well, helping to add to the visual storytelling and creating the proper tone and mood the film was going for.

However, Avatar: The Way of Water is not perfect by any stretch. It suffered from some of the same drawbacks of the original. First of all, it does strike me as familiar in a lot of ways. It hit a lot of the same beats as the first film did. Secondly, the dialogue was not as sharp as it could have been. Some of the language that was being used should have been mo0re foreign to the characters
than it was. Speaking of the characters, several of them were simple and not developed to the level that they could have been. Several of the Sully children were not given much more than surface level characteristics. Another problem with the narrative is that several plot points were brought up and seemingly dropped through the film. I’m not sure if it is was cut for time (as the film
was already well over 3 hours long) or if it is intended as material for further sequels that we know James Cameron intends to create, but theses are noticeable.

The third act of the film was an amazing action film with some serious stakes and dramatic tension. Again, this was very much like the previous film.

There is no doubt that the effects and imagery of this movie will revolutionize the movie industry as much as the first Avatar did. I cannot stress that this is a film that is screaming to be watched on a big screen. The bigger the better. Your mouth will be agape from the spectacle, and, because of that, you may be able to overlook the weaknesses in the narrative.

3.75 stars


Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Mystery

Netflix had a series recently called Murderville, where celebrities joined Will Arnett’s character Detective Terry Seattle as homicide detective trainees, trying to solve a murder. The twist was that the celebrities did not receive a script and everything was straight improvisation.

The series had some moments to it, and it was always better when the celebrity had some improv skill. However, some of the moments were pretty painful.

A special Murderville arrived on Netflix this weekend, with a Christmas theme and a cast including Jason Bateman, Maya Rudolph, Pete Davison and Sean Hayes.

At a gathering at City Hall, Santa (Sean Hayes) is stabbed through the heart with a sharpened candy cane and Terry Seattle and his trainees looked to figure out the culprit.

I love improv, but the problem with Murderville is that the people they recruit are not improv experts and so it can become very messy. Both Maya Rudolph and Jason Bateman are funny, but they were constantly stepping on each other and none of it helped while Will Arnett was screaming and being too loud. Improv requires listening and working together, but there are just too many moments when everyone was trying to get their line in.

They would also toss some improv games into the mix. The Good Cop, Bad Cop bit was my favorite of these. One of the staples of this show was sending the celebrities undercover with Terry Seattle providing lines to them via headset. That always felt too forced, as it did here too.

The reveal of who the killer was was an entertaining stretch, but still felt too out of control.

These actors were also just cracking themselves up. Some laughing is understandable, but when the dead body is laughing hysterically, there may be a problem.

Overall, this is a harmless special, but it was really messy and could have been funnier. I would love to see a Colin Mochrie or a Ryan Styles on the case to show how season veteran improv performers handle the case.

2.75 stars


The Apple TV + original film filled with controversy starring the reigning Best Actor Oscar winner arrived last week to the streaming service.

Controversy because this is the first film starring Will Smith since his slap of Chris Rock at the Oscar ceremony earlier this year. Add that to the fact that this is a runaway slave story based on a true story and there is a lot here to question.

There had been a push by several black actors to not be involved in more slavery films. While it is a vital story to tell, constantly placing black actors in this situation was painting them into a corner. So when, of all people, Will Smith set up another slave film, there were some people talking.

But the most important part is whether or not the film is any good. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation was a beautifully shot film, in a wonderful black and white, with a strong performance from Will Smith. Unfortunately, the film drags a lot and the characterization was lacking.

Our main character, Peter, has little to him. He was very religious and was clearly full of grit and determination. Outside of those traits, we learn very little about him. Everyone pursuing him was the stereotypical slave owners that you see in these types of films. The lead one was played by Ben Foster in a waste of such a talented actor. His character Jim Fassel had one scene where it seemed as if they were trying to give him more layers, but it was not successful.

There was an alligator fight. Where did that come from? Peter showed himself to be one of the most determined and uncommon men, battling to get back to his family. He had all kinds of damage to himself and, as a classic action hero, he fought his way through the pain and wounds that would kill any normal man. That makes this fairly difficult to relate with.

Emancipation was a mixed bag of a film. It had moments that were okay, but for a 2+ hour film, you would think that they could have developed characters more than they did. The three acts each seemed to have their own arc and they did not really fit together well.

2.6 stars

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

Who would have guessed that a musical about a singing crocodile would be any good?

Not I. I had no interest in seeing Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile when it was in the theaters earlier this year. Honestly, I was not aware of the musical part initially, but all I thought it would be was some dumb, family-friendly snooze-fest. Well, it was certainly dumb and family-friendly, but it was anything but a snooze-fest. In fact, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was a lot of fun and had a charm that I did not expect.

We meet Lyle (voiced by Shawn Mendes) as a small, caged crocodile who could sing. Down on his luck singer Hector P. Valenti (Javier Bardem) discovered the singing reptile and tried to get him to join his act. Unfortunately, Lyle had a horrible case of stage fright and could not perform in front of a crowd. Hector left Lyle behind in the brownstone. Lyle stayed in the attic until he was found by Josh (Winslow Fegley), whose family moved into one of the apartments of the brownstone.

Josh was shy and timid, but when he found Lyle, they eventually bonded and became close. He tried to hid Lyle’s existence from his mom (Constance Wu) and dad (Scoot McNairy). Things took another turn when Hector returned from the road to come back to Lyle.

The relationship between Josh and Lyle was a nice selling point. A boy and his crocodile? Not what one would expect.

Javier Bardem is fantastic in the role of Hector. He looks like he is having a blast with the singing and the dancing. Javier Bardem is a top line actor, and he brings a certain level of credibility to the movie that it might not have without him.

Stranger Things actor Brett Gelman played the downstairs villain Mr. Grumps, who was certain that Josh and his family were the worst thing ever. He had some connection to Hector that they play with later in the film for the conflict. This part did not feel as earned as some of the rest of the film.

Yes, there were some low brow humor, aimed at a younger audience that felt dumb to me (a few fart jokes for example), but that was kept at a minimum and did not distract me from the overall positives that I was seeing.

The special effects were fine, if not unremarkable. Nothing that I saw on the screen made me grimace in frustration. The music was good, though I am not familiar with Shawn Mendes much. There have been some enjoyable musicals in 2022 and this is the most unexpected.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile was based on a mid-sixties children’s book of the same name by Bernard Waber. It is a reasonably entertaining movie that is great for all children. Younger kids are going to love this, and parents won’t hate seeing it.

3.5 stars

Matilda the Musical

I have always enjoyed me some Roald Dahl. It had been many years since I saw the film adaptation of Dahl’s novel Matilda starring Danny DeVito. It had been so long now that I hardly remembered much about it. However, I was intrigued to see a new version of the film, in fact a musical, coming to the cinema before arriving on Netflix.

In truth, the new film, Matilda the Musical, is an adaptation of a multiple Tony and Olivier award-winning stage musical, which adapted Dahl’s novel and the last film. I was unaware of the stage version of this story, but it made sense with the level of music this movie displayed.

The basic story is the same. Matilda (Alisha Weir) in an exceptionally intelligent and talented child who was born into a family that did not ever want her. Her parents (Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough) were selfish and self-absorbed and were desperately neglectful toward Matilda, including forgetting to send her to school. Matilda had taken it upon herself to learn on her own through reading and a positive relationship with librarian Mrs. Phelps (Sindhu Vee).

When Matilda was finally able to go to school, she was enrolled at a school where the headmistress was a vile, cruel and vicious woman named Agatha Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), who hated children and called them maggots, searching for every opportunity she had to punish them. Meanwhile, Matilda’s new classroom teacher, Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) realized what a special girl Matilda was and looked to provide enrichment to the young genius.

I loved this musical. The music itself was just fantastic. The lyrics of these songs were brilliantly constructed and about as clever as they were going to be. I actually had some thoughts comparing these lyrics to the lyrics in Hamilton as I was listening to the wonderful word play. The music was catchy and engaging and never felt like it overshadowed the story. The choreography of the dance numbers to these songs were off the chart as well. The amazing cast of children performed these dance routines flawlessly and totally entertainingly.

Alisha Weir was astounding as the titular character. Not only did she nail her musical moments, Weir was engaging and filled with a remarkable energy every moment on the screen. As she was telling her story to Mrs. Phelps, she delivered it with so much emotion and energy that she absolutely sold the performance. She was able to hold her own with several talented actors who were her senior and had years more experience. Taking this film on her shoulders, Weir absolutely dominated the role.

Another performance of the utmost brilliance was Emma Thompson as Agatha Trunchbull. To be honest, I had no idea this was Thompson until the credits after the film ended. I had seen Emma Thompson’s name at the beginning, but it slipped my mind until the close. She delivered one of the best villainous roles of the year and the make up was unbelievable. She had been transformed into this hammer throwing, pigtail hating administrator. You could tell how much fun she was having with this role.

The other children were sensational too, whether they had a named role or were just background dancers for the music sections. Some of the excellent performers included Charlie Hodson-Prior, Rei Yamauchi Fulker, Meesha Garbett, Winter Jarrett-Glasspool and Ashton Robertson.

This was not a beat-by-beat remake of the Matilda movie from 1996 nor was it just the same film with musical numbers added to it. The story added some wonderful pieces to it to make Matilda the Musical its own thing. Some times it is difficult to adapt a stage play to the big screen, however, director Matthew Warchus hit every note beautifully. He had a history in musical theater and it showed with his translation here.

I had just the most exceptional time with Matilda the Musical and I cannot wait for this film to become available on Netflix so I can watch it again. I believe it is coming to Netflix this Christmas season so it give me one more thing to look forward to this holiday season.

5 stars

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

The year of 2022 found two new versions of the iconic story of Pinocchio. One a live action versions from Disney and another a stop motion animated version from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. One of the films will wind up on the best films of the year list and the other will end up on the worst films of the year list. The version debuting on Netflix today is one of the best films of the year.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a beautiful masterpiece.

The story was familiar yet different in ways. This film took a little more time developing the relationship between Geppetto (David Bradley) and his child, Carlo (Alfie Tempest). I was unaware of the existence of Geppetto’s human son until I saw the Tom Hanks version of Pinocchio this year. However, this film spent more time on the relationship and so I had more of an emotional connection when Carlo met his fate.

The film was considerably darker than any other version of Pinocchio I have seen and that is saying something because the original Disney Pinocchio had some frightening moments in it. I found Geppetto’s reaction to Carlo’s death and the eventual arrival of Pinocchio very realistic. You can definitely see some of the fingerprints of director Guillermo del Toro all over this film.

The stop motion animation was unbelievably excellent. There was feel of puppetry in the film about a wooden boy puppet. I gasped when the Blue Fairy (She was actually called a Wood Sprite) showed up, she was so gorgeous that you could not take your minds off of her. The character designs were excellent. Whereas the other Pinocchio kept the iconic Disney look of Pinocchio, del Toro’s redesign of the puppet was stunning. The growth of the nose when Pinocchio would lie was a fabulous new look and made a lot of sense. I enjoyed the new appearance of Monstro too. It had a classic look with some new concepts within.

The film was dealing with some real themes that you might not have expected, including Fascism and immortality. Some of the scenes of the afterlife with Pinocchio were clever and creative.

The voice cast was exceptional. Ewan McGregor was a perfect choice for the narrator and the voice of Sebastian J. Cricket. Other voices in the film included Finn Wolfhard, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Tim Blake Nelson, Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman and John Turturro.

The film built wonderfully through the film, as Pinocchio interacted with the other characters that were in his orbit. One of my favorite storylines in the film was the relationship between Pinocchio and Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard).

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio might be a touch too long, but that is a minor gripe and this animated film is just wonderful. It is more serious than your typical family movie, but it can introduce some vital topics all families need to know. This Pinocchio film is funny, dramatic and magical. It is one of the best films of the year.

5 stars

Bones and All

Anybody hungry?

I found myself anything but after watching the new film, Bones and All, directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell.

Maren (Taylor Russell) was a young woman whose father kept her away from others. Soon it was revealed the reason for the isolation was an “Eater,” someone who felt the need to eat other humans. When her father left her, she took off on a mission to try and find her mother. Along the way, she met another “Eater” named Lee (Timothée Chalamet) and they travel the roads of the Midwest together facing the dangers of the world.

I did not find this movie very enjoyable at all. To be fair, both Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet do a solid job acting in this, though I was not 100% accepting of their apparent relationship. Mark Rylance was amazing as another “Eater” that Maren meets on her trek named Sully, who is a little more sinister than Lee. Rylance brought everything to the role and he was the best part of the movie.

I never accepted their relationship, nor did I buy their excuses. They kept making references to “having” to eat people, as if they needed to do so to survive, but the film keeps the details very sparse, allowing them to just do whatever the plot needed them to do. There were moments that the film implied that this was passed along genetically, but it also introduced someone who was eating people by choice.

The background of these characters were not sketched out well. At first, I thought that Maren, who had been given a tape recording by her father, would be more in depth, but that turned out to be lacking much of anything. Lee was given a backstory late in the film and it really felt tacked on. It had little to do with him either and was dismissed quickly.

The plot was played straight, but I had jokes in my head at every turn.

The film looked great and was shot well. There was plenty of gore involved in the movie, but it didn’t feel that it was that important to the overall story. At times the film focused on the cannibalism and other times it felt like it was not important to the story being told.

While it was well acted, Bones and All was just not a filling course. I guess it needed some salt.

2.2 stars

Scrooge: A Christmas Carol

One of the most redone and rebooted stories of all time is the Christmas classic by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. There are dozens of versions of the novel on the screen and stage over the years. Netflix has jumped back into this well once again with a new animated film that returned us to the well worn story of Ebenezer Scrooge.

As we know from the classic tale, Scrooge (Luke Evans) was a miserly businessman who thought Christmas was a ‘humbug.’ When he was approached on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his old partner Jacob Marley (Jonathan Pryce) who warned Scrooge that he would be haunted by three ghosts in an attempt to save Scrooge from a fate worse than death. Scrooge then departs on trips to the past, present and the future to see Christmastime in a new light.

While the original story is flawless, this new version of A Christmas Carol has some strange choices and, in the end, feels like it is lacking the magic of several of the other adaptations.

Luke Evans is fine as Scrooge. Some of the other voices involved in the film do fine work too. Jonathan Pryce, Olivia Colman, James Cosmo, Jessie Buckley, Trevor Dion Nicholas, Jemima Lucy Newman, Rupert Turnbull, Johnny Flynn, and Fra Free provide their voices adequately.

Some of the odd choices really pulled me out of the film. For some reason, they gave Scrooge a dog named Prudence. It appeared as if Prudence was left to Scrooge after the death of Jacob Marley. I have no idea as to why the producers of the film felt the need to insert a dog into the story. Prudence brought nothing of significance to A Christmas carol and just gave one more character in the background.

They also seemed to \change names of some of the characters from the story. Scrooge’s sister Fan became Jenn. Scrooge’s nephew became Harry instead of Fred. The flipped around some of the Cratchit family names as well. This may seem to be a minor point, but I do not understand the reasoning behind any of this and, because of that, I was distracted by the new and, not better, names.

I disliked the character designs, especially that of The Ghost of Christmas Past and The Ghost of Christmas Present. Both of these characters were very interesting as they have both been considerably more interesting than we get here. Past became way too energetic and I did not like the manner in which she was presented. I assume they did this to give Olivia Colman more of a character to play, but the trade off was not worth it.

Ghost of Christmas Present was accompanied by little creatures called Cheerlings, which were little spirit like things that felt more like the Minions than anything else and were there for no reason outside of a few sight gags. They are there to engage the children watching the film so they do not have to worry about things like plot.

The songs were mostly forgettable. As I sit here now, I cannot remember anything about any of them. They were fine in the moment, but I have no desire to hear them again.

Most of the changes that they made to the story just did not work and took away from the overall narrative.

The sad fact is, Netflix clearly wanted an animated version of the classic story for families to watch together. If you want a family version of Charles Dickens’ classic, I would suggest you watch Disney’s A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey or the brilliant Muppets Christmas Carol, my own personal favorite version of the story in any format. Scrooge: A Christmas Carol takes the familiar story and does nothing of interest with it.

2.5 stars

Violent Night

This movie had no right to be as good as it was.

Violent Night was falling into that category of films that take one of the beloved characters and make them a vicious killer. We had one with Winnie the Pooh this year and there is a Grinch one coming up. Neither look to be much more than what you expect. Violent Night, however, takes the premise and expands upon it with a lot of heart and more character depth than I ever thought there would be.

Santa Claus (David Harbour) is dejected and depressed, taking a break from Christmas Eve at a local bar, knocking back some beers. He had become disgruntled with the world and the attitudes of the children at Christmas time. He is seriously considering hanging up the sleigh bells.

Meanwhile, the wealthy and rotten family of the Lightstone clan were meeting for their annual Christmas Eve get together. Young Trudy (Leah Brady) is the light of the group and just wished that her father Jason (Alex Hassell) and mother Linda (Alexis Louder) would just be back together. Meanwhile Jason’s sister (Edi Patterson) was hoping to suck up to their mother and head of the Lightstone family business Gertrude (Beverly D’Angelo).

Unfortunately for the Lightstone family, a crew of thieves, led by Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo), arrive at the Lightstone mansion ready to steal a load of money in the safe inside the house. The take the Lightstones hostage and Santa, who happened to be at the house at the same time, gets caught in the crossfire.

David Harbour is perfectly cast as the downtrodden St. Nick. He delivered the requisite puns with a serious tone, making them all the more outlandish. Harbour and Leah Brady, who is fantastic as Trudy, have an easy connection that is as believable as anything in this over-the-top movie. That connection between Santa and the child is at the heart of the film.

Speaking of heart, Violent Night had way more heart than I ever expected it to have. Is there violence? Absolutely. A ton of it. And really creative and awesome fights, but what made this movie more than just another action movie was the Christmas magic that the film rightly used. The script was really smart and I believed everything that these characters were going through. These characters made sense and their motives were clear and easy to follow.

I have to say that I even fought off a few tears in the third act. I sat in the theater telling myself that I was not going to cry in Violent Night.

This film is a combination of Die Hard with Bad Santa. What if John McClane was a Santa Claus instead of a cop?

No spoilers, but… Skullcrusher… yeah, baby!

Violent Night had all the best parts of a revenge thriller and a family Christmas redemption tale. Ho ho ho.

4.5 stars

The Lost Patient

I was looking at Netflix for a film to fill the afternoon hours when I came across a movie called The Lost Patient. It was in French, but the premise sounded intriguing so I thought I would give it a try.

The premise listed on Netflix said, “After waking up from a coma with no memory of the night when his entire family was murdered, a young man and his psychiatrist try to untangle the truth.” It was listed as a mystery with a tone of ominous and dark. It sounded good.

It was not.

The film, which starred Txomin Vergez as Thomas, the boy who spent three years in a coma, was really slow, intentionally misleading and fairly predictable. It seemed to want to base the plot on the twist that came near the end of the film, but you could probably see it coming if you paid attention.

After seeing the reveal, there were scenes from earlier in the movie that did not make much sense. With classic twist ending such as The Sixth Sense, when you find out the truth, everything falls into place and when you rewatch it, you see things that you hadn’t seen upon a first watch. The Lost Patient, however, only muddied the rest of the film with what it revealed at the end. It also brought some absolute question on some of the behaviors and choices of the other characters of the film.

I was fooled into the movie, though the runtime was just an hour and a half. Despite the shorter run time, it felt fairly long.

2.2 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The second special presentation from Marvel Studios dropped on Disney + this morning, following in the paw prints of Werewolf By Night. This is a Christmas special featuring the cast of teh Guardians of the Galaxy, written and directed by James Gunn.

With Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) feeling down, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) came up with a plan to boost their friend’s spirit. She and Drax (Dave Bautista) went to earth in search of the legendary hero, Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon) to bring him as a Christmas gift for Peter.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is in the vein of the Hallmark Christmas specials, much like Werewolf by Night was an homage to the 1930/40s Universal monster movies. A lot of the cheesy humor from those types of specials were in play on Disney + and it was great.

There were two songs included in the special, one co-written by James Gunn himself and they were wonderful. The first song from the beginning of the special was really funny and Peter’s reactions were perfect.

Drax and Mantis in Hollywood brought some funny moments, showing such a great chemistry between the pair of Guardians. When they arrived at Kevin Bacon’s home, things picked up even more.

There were actually a couple important pieces of information that was revealed in the special that will most likely play into the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in May, which proved that this was not just a throwaway piece of content. This is important moving forward and, to be honest, it makes me worry even more about Vol. 3 and its potential for emotional pain.

The special was a sweet and charming episode that started and ended with a bit of animation in a flashback. All the Guardians get a moment though clearly Mantis and Drax (along with Kevin Bacon) are the standouts and carry the story. It even ends with a heart warming moment.

Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is much better than the Star Wars Holiday Special. This is a fun and enjoyable interlude with our favorite Guardians (and a furry new one) that worked beautifully during this time of the year.

4.6 stars


The new biographical film Devotion gives the MCU fans something to really look forward to.

Devotion revealed the story of the first black navy pilot, Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and his wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), who flew missions at the beginning of the Korean War.

Why should the MCU fans be excited about this? Because Jonathan Majors is utterly awesome in this film and he is about to become the next big-bad in the MCU, Kang the Conqueror. We saw him in the final episode of season one of the Loki series and he will next appear in Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania. With his amazing acting skills, there could be some wonderful moments ahead.

As for Devotion, Majors is winning throughout, but the film itself is a tad slow and dragged in places. Jonathan Majors commanded everyone’s attention when he was on screen, but the rest of the film was okay, at best.

It is a true story, based on the 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos. I was unaware of this story so the eventual ending for the movie was surprising. Directed by J.D. Dillard, Devotion probably suffered from being in the same year as Top Gun: Maverick. The flying scenes were fine, but unremarkable and when you have such an example of high quality flight, it is difficult not to compare them.

There was interesting aspects of the race, looking at how black people were treated, even a navy pilot, in the 1950s. While this was definitely part of the story, it did not dominate the script or overwhelm the film.

Jonathan Majors is a star on the rise (not only in the MCU, but also upcoming in the next Creed film) and he helped to elevate this film above what was on the page.

3.2 stars

Crimes of the Future

David Cronenberg returned to the director’s chair to helm this science fiction, body horror movie that is currently being shown on Hulu.

Body horror has never been one of my favorite subgenres of horror, but I was interested in this film because of the sci-fi aspect and the fact that Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart were in the cast.

Unfortunately, this one did not grip me.

I will say that the film started off with a compelling scene between a boy (Sotiris Sozos) and his mother (Lihi Kornowski), but the film took too long after this scene to build upon it, and it went into a different direction that i was simply not into.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, “As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances. Timlin (Kristen Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements, which is when a mysterious group is revealed… Their mission — to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.”

There were just too may gross moments and none of the prescribed themes seemed to mean much of anything to me. Mortensen is always good, but he seemed to be sleepwalking through this.

Since it was a futuristic world, perhaps my trouble was that I did not fully buy into the setting, which made everything else lacking. Then, everything was so dreary and uninteresting to watch that it felt like a bog.

I did not like Crimes of the Future despite a high Rotten Tomatoes score. If body horror is your thing, perhaps you would like to check this one out. It was not for me.

2 stars

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg is back in the director’s chair with a movie that is very much a fictionalized version of his own younger life in The Fabelmans, revealing an adolescence filled with strife and troubles from his parents.

Growing up in Arizona in the 1950s, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) discovered a love for creating movies. As he continued to do more filming and editing, Sammy discovered a secret that he was not expecting that threatened to create chaos within his family.

Sammy’s parents, Burt and Mitzi, were played by Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, respectfully. Both actors were outstanding in their roles. Paul Dano created a sweet, kind-hearted Burt Fabelman who, while incredibly intelligent, was missing a lot of what was going on around him. Mitzi Fabelman was anything but likable. She was selfish though she had a deep love for her children and had a special relationship with Sammy.

The Fabelmans showed how important movies were to the world, especially the family unit. We see Sammy grow and mature while dealing with the knowledge of the secret that he discovered in his filming. The Fabelmans is a sort of coming-of-age story.

Mitzi Fabelman seemed to be quite the mess. Though it is never specifically mentioned, the film implied that there was some form of mental illness going on with her. Michelle Williams does a great job of still creating a character that can be rooted for despite choices that were really poor. Mitzi was not very likable, but Burt was always kind and supportive, even though he was spending more time at work in an attempt to avoid some issues. There is a question about how much of the secret that Burt actually knows and when he knew it.

There were some tough scenes to watch during this movie, and all of the actors involved did an exceptional job. Seth Rogan is great as family friend Bennie. In the most standout of performances, Judd Hirsch was remarkable as Mitzi’s estranged uncle Boris. Hirsch only had a few scenes in the film and a minimal amount of screen time, but his impact was massive.

The film may have been a touch long at two hours and thirty-one minutes. There are a few scenes of filmmaking that could have been reduced a touch, but there is not a lot that I would want to remove from the screenplay.

Though this movie may not be as magical as some of Spielberg’s other movies, The Fabelmans gave a usually entertaining, at times funny and always poignant look at the years that inspired him to become the director that he is. The complications felt real and left a challenge for the young teen who struggled to find his way. The scenes with the bullies seemed too typical, but I did like how that resolved itself.

Great performances, solid writing and a love of cinema helped to make The Fabelmans another success in the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg.

4 stars

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Benoit Blanc, the most famous detective of the world, returned to the screen in his second adventure, this time in a Netflix movie that debuted for the next week in theaters. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will arrive on Netflix around Christmas, but started the film on the big screen. The sequel to the excellent Knives Out continued the entertaining story telling with an (almost) all-new cast.

Daniel Craig returned, of course, as Benoit Blanc, the southern drawl spouting brilliant detective, along with a great ensemble that included Ed Norton, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, and Noah Segan.

Benoit Blanc found himself invited to a private island by wealthy businessman Miles Bron (Ed Norton) for a weekend murder mystery he was hosting for several of his personal friends. However, when the murder becomes no longer fictional, Benoit Blanc joined in on the case, trying to determine which members of the guest list were a murderer.

As it was the last time, the writing of the film is excellent, with Benoit being provided some of the best lines. The film does a solid job of introducing the large cast right off the bat, providing the details on these characters. You know who these people are immediately and the film does the heavy lifting to make that so.

This film was funnier than I remember the original one being. This was more outright funny, while the original had humor, but I do not think back on it as an overtly funny film. There is more humor here, and most of it worked well.

The movie, once again, played with the POV of the story, giving a couple of different perspectives on the same events, showing the audience what had actually happened. One thing that I wished the movie would do more is allow the audience a chance to “play along” with the mystery. They do not let you be the detective. There is no way to solve the case before the movie wants you to.

Daniel Craig is great as the remarkably intelligent and observant Benoit Blanc. When he played off the other enigmatic characters from the ensemble, Craig really shined.

The film took place right smack dab in the middle of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and they make references to the masks and to social distancing.

I was enjoying the mystery, seeing how things fit together after initially being unsure what was going on. I will have to say that the third act, especially right at the end of the third act was considerably weaker than the rest of the film. While it did not spoil the film for me, it did feel too silly, reducing the stakes of the movie downward.

And the movie ended with the credits being run while playing The Beatles’ Glass Onion, which I haven’t heard in quite a long time. That was a special treat.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery may not have been as outstanding as the original and it did have an ending that did not seem to match up with the quality prior to it, but I had a lot of fun with the film and I would be excited to see continuing adventures of Benoit Blanc.

4.25 stars