Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse


Miles Morales is back for the follow-up to the Oscar winning animated movie Into the Spider-Verse from 2018 with the brand new, part one, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Miles (Shameik Moore) is trying to balance his life at college with his responsibilities of being Brooklyn’s only Spider-Man, but his continued lying to his parents (Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Valez).

Meanwhile, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) was having many other problems in her own world with her police captain father, Captain George Stacy (Shea Whigham), who is trying to arrest her Spider-Woman persona. When a different era Vulture arrived in her world, several other spider-people, led by Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaacs) came to try to capture him. Gwen was impressive in aiding Miguel and Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) so she was brought into the multiversal group designed to protect the Spider-Verse.

Miles and Gwen are a great pairing, with a ton of chemistry together. They work so well together because they have so much in common. Both of them are lonely, lacking someone they can rely on, to confide in. The Spider-Gwen costume, which was created in the comics, looks absolutely amazing in this animation. It is one of the best designs of the past decade in comics, which is a huge reason why Spider-Gwen became such a breakout character.

However, there are other awesome breakout characters in this movie. We meet Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) who steals nearly every scene he is in. There is also Spider-Man India, named Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni) who is a fabulous character design.

Of course, Miguel O’Hara makes a brilliant antagonist (of a sort) as the heroic Spider-Man 2099. Miguel was always trying to do what was best for the Spider-Verse, even if he had to do some things that he did not want to do. His character was not the quippy type as most Spider-men were. There is an anger inside of him spurred on by his own inane responsibility. I have a feeling that we will be diving into more of his story in part two, which comes out next March.

Of course, you cannot have a review of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse without commenting on the animation styles that are so varied and absolutely special. The animation on display in this movie is beyond anything I have ever seen. It is a work of art, with every frame a potential poster to be framed on the wall. Not only is the animation brilliantly conceived, each character has their own, distinct art style. It was said that the film brought artists from these characters’ comic runs in to consult on how the animation should work, and that level of dedication created something truly unique and utterly bombastic to watch. There were several times when I just stared at the screen in complete awe of the artistry on display. The animation of Into the Spider-Verse was Oscar worthy and this animation elevated that even more.

The score of the movie was perfectly placed, with the amazing music amplifying every scene. Composer Daniel Pemberton brought together the eclectic soundtrack for this picture.

There were a ton of cameos and Easter eggs in the movie. In fact, there were just too many to even be able to see. As John Locke, one of my favorite characters from the TV show LOST, said in season two, “We’re gonna need to watch that again.” This movie feels as if it demands a rewatch just to try and see everything that is there.

The story was complex, but it does a great job of laying out the idea of the multiverse and the Spider-Verse proper. You can see the ties to the greater MCU in this movie too, allowing the potential connection to the MCU. The story could have become convoluted, but it did not because it grounded it with Miles and Gwen. At the heart of this story was parents and their children.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is filled with surprises, amazing action, some of the most breath-takingly beautiful and visually unique animation ever on screen and a compelling story that shows just how important Miles Morales is. There is so much awesomeness in this movie, I have not even mentioned the return of Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) and his baby daughter May.

The end of this movie is a HUGE cliffhanger, yet it did not leave me feeling as if the movie shorted me on the story as films such as Fast X did. The end of this, almost 2 hour and 20 minute movie, only left me wanting more. Next March cannot get here soon enough. This is the best movie of the year so far.

5 stars

The Boogeyman

The latest Stephen King short story adapted into a feature film is the movie The Boogeyman, a horror film directed by Rob Savage.

According to IMSB, “Still reeling from the tragic death of their mother, a teenage girl and her younger sister find themselves plagued by a sadistic presence in their house and struggle to get their grieving father to pay attention before it’s too late.

Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) is a solid lead character, bring both a competence and a serious troubled backstory. The death of her mother in a car wreck shaped her as a character dramatically, but not as much as it did her father, Will (Chris Messina). Will, a therapist who worked out of his home, had major grief going on with the loss of his wife. So much so that it was affecting how he was parenting. I found myself yelling at Will during the scene where Sadie wanted to talk to him about her feelings of her mother’s death, but he avoided it like crazy. I found that to be just horribly selfish of him.

The film does a really good job of keeping the mystery of what the Boogeyman looked like for most of the movie, allowing the suspense to grow with every shadowy glance. Some horror movies jump right into full screen shots of the monsters and it becomes less frightening. Not so here. The Boogeyman was scary through the entire film and when we finally get a really extended look at it, it makes it more effective.

There were plenty of times where I found myself ready to yell (I was in the theater so I was yelling to myself) about things that the characters were doing or were not doing. I don’t know if it is my geeky background or my knowledge of comic books and roleplaying, but there are things that seem obvious to do instead of some of the things that they tried. However, one of the big things from the third act, I had picked out well before and was yelling (to myself) that they needed to do it. When they actually did what I wanted and it worked, I nearly jumped out of my seat.

Vivien Lyra Blair played Sadie’s little sister Sawyer, and she does a very solid job. She had several facials that showed plenty of the differing emotions that a young girl her age would be thinking during this entire movie. There was also a winning cameo from David Dastmalchian that kicks the film off wonderfully.

The film may not be the best horror film ever made, but it succeeded in keeping me invested and tense with these characters. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie so I found it to be a good time.

4 stars

About My Father

This was the second film I saw today that was based after a stand up comedy routine. The first one was Bert Kreischer in The Machine and this one was Sebastian Maniscalco, co-starring with Robert DeNiro in About My Father.

Sebastian was invited by his girlfriend Ellie (Leslie Bibb) to join her and her family over the Fourth of July weekend which was going to give Sebastian an opportunity that he had been looking for. The perfect place to propose. One problem, Sebastian felt guilt about leaving his father, Salvo (Robert DeNiro) alone on the holiday. Despite his better judgment, Ellie convinced Sebastian to invite Salvo to come along to her parent’s summer home. Hijinks ensue.

Honestly, though this was also not the worst movie I have ever seen, it was not very good. First off, it was not especially funny, which is always a drawback for a comedy. The biggest laugh moments had already been shown in the trailer so they lost any impact that they may have had.

Secondly, there was so much exposition in this movie, trying to set up Ellie’s family members that it really dragged down the film. None of these weird characters were near as creative as the film thought they were.

Next, this film felt very much like Meet the Family, even starring Robert DeNiro, though in a different manner. The story lacked any really creative twists or original thoughts.

In the trailers, they showed the whole peacock debacle, but it played as if it was Salvo’s error. However, the film played it much more nasty and cruel, making me change opinions on Salvo and his motivation.

Sebastian Maniscalco was also not a strong actor, which only stood out even more with the talented cast around him. The cast not only included Robert DeNiro, but also Kim Cattrall, David Rasche, and Anders Holm. Maniscalco did a lot of squinting and not much more.

The biggest problem is the film was just not very funny. I laughed maybe once at a scene and the rest of the time I just sat and watched.

About My Father lacked any really funny moments that we hadn’t already seen in the trailers and the story was just what you would expect. I’ve seen the same ideas in much better films. Not offensively bad, just bad.

2.2 stars

The Machine

It feels as if I am thoroughly back to normal from the days of not heading to the theater because I went to a couple of movies today that I would not have gone to over the last few years. Neither of the films were on my most anticipated list. However, here they are.

First up is The Machine. This movie is roughly based on the stand-up routine of Bert Kreischer. The routine is Bert telling the story of how he took a trip to Russia and wound up involved with the Russian Mafia. However, Bert’s party ability while he was drunk won over the Russians and Bert wound up helping them rob a train.

Years later, Bert was still having problems with his own family, including his 16-year old daughter, Sasha (Jess Gabor). When Bert’s father (Mark Hamill) came to Sasha’s birthday party, Bert continued to spiral out of control. Even worse, when Russian mafia daughter Irina (Iva Babic) showed up in search of something that Bert had stolen from that train, she and her muscle grabbed Bert and his father to return to Russia to find the object. Lots of stuff happens after that.

This was not the worst film I have ever seen, but it was truly a stupid story. So many stupid things happened that you had to ignore to enjoy the film.

The best part of the film was clearly Mark Hamill. I enjoyed his work throughout. Bert Kreischer was not much of an actor and what he did was basically just be loud and yell.

There were some decent character moments in the film as well, especially with the relationship between Bert and his father. The story was told with flashbacks to the original trip for Bert to Russia, and in these flashbacks, Jimmy Tatro played young Bert.

I did not hate this movie, but it was nothing special. The whole idea that Bert became this mythic type figure “The Machine” in Russia from his days drunk and on the train was ridiculous but I think film makes the most out of the premise. The Russian mobsters were cliched and uninteresting and the arc of Irina felt like it came out of nowhere. Overall, this movie would not be a movie that I would recommend to see in the theater, but if you had a chance to watch it at home, it might be worth a view.

2.5 stars

A Thousand and One

I watched a movie from 2023 this morning that was streaming for free on Peacock. It was one that I was in the theaters for a short time, but I had not been able to attend. I also saw it on Vudu, but I did not have the time to commit to watching it. This morning, everything worked out and I was able to see A Thousand and One, the new movie from director A.V. Rockwell.

Inez (Teyana Taylor) kidnapped her 6-year old son Terry (Aaron Kingsley Adetola), who was being kept in a foster home in the New York City foster care system. Inez and Terry live together and try to keep their bond through the New York world.

We see three different actors play Terry. First was the young Aaron Kingsley Adetola, who does a solid job as the boy who was desperately trying to escape the foster home he was in. Secondly, there was Aven Courtney, who played Terry as a 13-year old. Courtney was on screen the least amount in the movie. Finally, 17-year old Terry was played by actor Josiah Cross, who had to deal with some serious emotional baggage in the story.

Teyana Taylor is the standout performance in the film as she had to deal with all of the consequences of her choices and the relationship with Terry, as well as her boyfriend/husband Lucky (William Catlett). While all of this drama went on, the film placed these characters in the late 90s, early 200s New York background, including such issues as stop & frisk as well as the crackdown on the minor crimes going on during the Giuliani administration. These impacted the lives of Inez and Terry.

The movie provided a real feel to it. The drama is a slice of what many black families had to go through and gives those of us who is not experienced in this area some idea of what it was like. The constant challenges are compelling and true to life.

This is a engaging and enjoyable film. The ending twist was a surprise, but it made perfect sense. The emotions are real and full. This was a solid film.

3.8 stars

The Little Mermaid (2023)

Disney’s continued attempts to remake their classic animated films into live action films has been spotty at best. Some of the films were pretty good, such as Cinderella, The Jungle Book or (kind of) Aladdin. Others were considerably big step downs such as Beauty and the Beast, Mulan and Dumbo and those that were just best forgotten like The Lion King and Pinocchio. This weekend a new film joined this company, the classic The Little Mermaid.

In anticipation of this movie, I rewatched the original animated movie last Saturday. It had been literally decades since I had seen it and I wanted a refresher before the live-action version. It was fine, I liked the music but the relationship with Eric and Ariel in the animated movie felt rushed and I just did not buy it. I also did not like how they dealt with Ursula’s tricking Eric into a wedding ceremony. It made Eric look like nothing truly mattered to him. I know he was meant to be betwixt by Ursula’s magic, but it just rang false to me. I still liked it, but it, as an animated film, was way below the other renaissance Disney films from the late 80s and early 90s for me.

Seeing that the new live-action film was considerably longer than the animated movie (live action was 2 hours and 15 minutes and the animated was barely 90 min.), I hoped that they would address some of the issues I had, especially with the relationship between Ariel and Eric.

Ariel (Halle Bailey) was a mermaid who had her head in the surface world. She was fascinated by everything human being despite the objections of her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem). When she rescued Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from a shipwreck, Ariel fell for the handsome prince. After an upset Triton destroyed her collection of human artifacts, she was approached by her evil aunt Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), who made Ariel a deal that would see Ariel changed into a human, with legs and feet, and she could stay that way as long as Ariel is able to get a true love kiss from Prince Eric before the sunset of the third day. Otherwise, Ariel would belong to Ursula.

I am happy to say that I really loved this new version, considerably more than I liked the animated one. They added several scenes between Ariel and Eric that really fleshed out the characters and created a pairing that was engaging immediately. I found Eric and Ariel’s connection so much more enjoyable, believable than I ever did in the animated film. I was in on them right away. The chemistry was so much better here than I ever could have guessed.

Part of that is because Halle Bailey, a casting that caused a ton of controversy on the Internet because of the fact that Bailey is a black woman cast in this white mermaid role, was amazing as Ariel. Bailey has a fantastic presence about her, just beaming off the screen. Halle Bailey is a star in the making and this performance will only elevate her ever further. Add to that fact that she had an amazing voice and that her songs as Ariel were powerful and beautifully delivered. Anyone who is upset because this Ariel has the wrong skin color is just not giving this talented actor her due.

Jonah Hauer-King does a great job too. I had never seen him before either (at least he does not jump out of my memory) but he does such a solid job of bringing Prince Eric to life and giving him many more layers than the character got before. I even think the film does an admirable job of showing Eric’s conflict when Ursula shows up with her magic to betwixt him. Here, I believed that he was really in love with Ariel and that he showed the internal struggle against the magic spell cast upon him by the sea witch.

I did have a couple of issues, both on the special effects side. First, I did not feel as if the underwater scenes were very special. None of them felt to me that these characters were underwater. After Aquaman and, more recently, Wakanda Forever, we saw great CGI showing underwater characters where you could tell they were underwater. The fact that The Little Mermaid scenes did not feel as accurate was distracting to me.

Secondly, I was a little put off by the character design of Sebastian the crab. I did not think he was a character that was fully imagined in this live action version. The character design did grow on me as I became more used to it. However, I loved the voice acting of Sebastian, performed by Hamilton actor Daveed Diggs. I found that voice performance to be one of the strongest in the film. I really hope that the rumors of Daveed Diggs being cast as the Thing in the MCU’s Fantastic Four remake turns out to be true.

Other voice actors were decent. Awkwafina as the seagull Scuttle was a standout. I thought her work with Daveed Diggs was exceptional. Jacob Tremblay as Flounder was fine, but Flounder felt like the least important of the main cast.

Javier Bardem did a wonderful job as King Triton. I believed everything he did with that character. Melissa McCarthy was a revelation as the evil Ursula. She brought the right amount of humor mixed with menace. I know McCarthy was another controversial casting jobs for this movie, but she nailed this roll beautifully.

There was one notable scene that was cut from this movie (though referenced during it) and I think that was a wise decision. I did not feel as if this scene fit very well in the animated movie and its omission here worked for me. In fact, every time they made changes in this film, I think it was for the overall betterment of the movie.

The music was still really well done. There were some new songs and a few updated lyrics and I never thought that it was out of place. I wanted to specifically mention how amazing I thought Melissa McCarthy was with the song Poor Unfortunate Souls. I wondered if it was actually her singing and she is listed as the artist on the soundtrack. I had no idea she could sing like that and that number was a standout for me.

These live-action movies have to answer a question… what is the purpose of it existing? Some of these films add to the story and build upon what was there. Some of them are nothing more than a shot-by-shot remake. The Little Mermaid improves upon the original, adding several scenes that highlight characters and enhance the story. In particular when it comes to the relationship between Ariel and Prince Eric. Because of that, I found The Little Mermaid to be a rousing success and thoroughly enjoyable.

4.25 stars

The Pope’s Exorcist

I did not realize that this movie, The Pope’s Exorcist, a supernatural horror film that I rented on Vudu tonight, was based on a real person. The titular character was Father Gabriele Amorth, an Italian Catholic priest and an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome, and he worked as an exorcist from 1986 until his death in 2016. This was revealed in box text at the end of the film, surprising me as the ‘based on a true story’ was not what I expected with this movie.

Father Amorth (Russell Crowe) and his questionable techniques were being looked at by a Church tribunal when he was called to see the Pope (Franco Nero). Amorth is sent to Spain where a young boy, Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney), who along with his mother Julia (Alex Essoe) and his snarly sister Amy (Laurel Marsden) had come to a Spanish abbey left to them by Julia’s late husband, who had died in a car crash. Henry had been in the car with his father and witnessed his grisly death.

Henry had been possessed by a demon and priest Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) had sent for help to the Catholic Church.

While much of this movie was the standard fare for these possession movies, there were a few things that I found interesting. First off, the character of Father Gabriele Amorth was quirky and unlike other priests that we have seen in this genre. Russell Crowe had a distinct presence about him and did a nice job giving these strange character traits to Father Amorth. Admittedly, some of the Italian accent may not have been the strongest, but it was not a distraction for me.

I thought the young actor, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, gave a solid physical performance as the possessed boy. He did a very good job with the lip synch of the demon voice that was provided by Ralph Ineson. I have to say that there were times that the demon voice was unintentionally funny as the British accent snuck through.

There were some interesting ideas in the plot that the film does not spend too much time truly diving into. Most of them, including the conspiracy, are brushed over at surface level and feel thrown in. None of it felt necessary for the film to have it included.

I did not like the character of Amy, who was written as a growly teenager with quite the attitude, but none of that really was focused on outside of the first ten to fifteen minutes. It was a thing that could have easily been left out because it was simply unimportant to the story.

There were some moments of the film that felt too ridiculous, moments that caused me to laugh out loud where I should not have been laughing. I feel as if there were some really solid ideas in this movie that could have been expanded on by dropping some of the lesser important details that the film seemed to focus in on.

The Pope’s Exorcist is a mixed bag. There are some things I liked about the film, and there were some that I found tedious and, even at times, silly. I was not bored by the movie though and I did enjoy Russell Crowe’s work. This is right on the border between fresh and rotten for me.

2.9 stars

Fast X

I am not a huge fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise. I don’t hate them totally, but they have always been so stupid. Still, I go with the hope that this would be the one that would break that streak. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

The Toretto family is being targeted by the villainous and flamboyant Dante (Jason Momoa) for revenge because his father had been killed when Dom (Vin Diesel) dragged the safe across Rio in Fast and Furious 5.

I do like the idea that they dipped back into the continuity of the franchise to create a new villain. It makes sense for the son of this drug dealer who died in the fifth installment to be looking for some justice from the Family. Jason Momoa was absolutely playing this role in a weird, Joker-esce manner. I’m not sure I liked the character choices, but, at least, it was an original take.

The first problem I had with Fast X was that the dialogue of these characters. Real people do not talk like this. The dialogue was so clunky in every scene that did not involve cars flipping and exploding (and yes, there were a few of those).

One of the original action scenes in the film, which take place in Rome, is just so ridiculous that I found myself laughing at it way more than being anxious about it. It was so mind-numbingly dumb that it took away any positives I had for that action beat. It felt more like a parody of itself than anything else.

That was a recurring idea in the movie for me. All of the action scenes were so illogical and implausible that I found myself incapable of suspending disbelief. I know the Fast franchise historically has action that is more cartoony than realistic, but some of this just pulls me out of the movie. At least they are not going into space in their cars as they did in Furious 9.

My absolute favorite part of this movie was John Cena, who returned as Dom’s brother Jakob. While Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) was okay (at best) as Dom’s son, I thought the kid’s chemistry with John Cena was really good and easy my most enjoyable part of the film. Without spoilers though, I thought how this was resolved was one of my least favorite parts of the movie and was way too laughable.

There is a remarkable cast here including Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Brie Larson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood, Pete Davidson along with the other members of the Torreto family (Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang). Most of these actors did not have much to do. Rita Moreno was in the film for two minutes and I think every moment was in trailers.

And this film ended with a massive cliffhanger that came from out of nowhere. That ending made this movie feel very inconsequential overall. The post credit scene though was fun and shocking. No spoilers here, but I did like that.

This was just a stupid action film that had ridiculously poor dialogue, action that at times felt more laughable than exciting, and a story, well…not much of one. Jason Momoa made it around the world to different locations somehow easily, in what felt like mere seconds. He also seemed to know everything that was going to happen and, apparently, had a evil plan that was more convoluted than any comic book movie plan, yet somehow happened perfectly. And that ending… if you want to call it that.

2 stars

The Mother

I watched the new Netflix movie The Mother on Mother’s Day this past Sunday. I just realized this morning that I had not written a review of it for the site. I believe that after I had finished watching The Mother and started off watching Schmigadoon and The Silo and never came back to The Mother. It was not up to their of those Apple TV + projects, but The Mother was not terrible.

Jennifer Lopez starred as a former assassin who had been in hiding after having to give up her baby daughter to protect her. When the identity is revealed, Lopez returned to do what she could to save her from the evil forces.

So this really reminded me of that other Netflix movie, Lou, starring Allison Janney. It had a similar arc to it and maybe even some similar tones.

Jennifer Lopez is decent as the action hero of this film even though there are so many moments that are fairly dumb. She does what she can with what she is given to do.

There was some decent action scenes, but there was nothing really memorable that stood out in the film.

Having said what I have, nothing much else stands out about this movie. Obviously if I do not remember much about a movie from a week before, there can’t be much to the movie. I remember not hating the film, but it does not stick out to me.

2.5 stars

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

The first really great documentary that I have seen this year is now on Apple TV + and features the story of Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is a 90-minute documentary from Davis Guggenheim that looks at the lifespan of actor Michael J. Fox, from a rambunctious child to today, a man struggling against his body and the tremors that come from his diagnosis. All in his own words.

Michael J. Fox shot to fame as the precocious teen Alex P. Keaton on the TV show Family Ties and became a massive movie star with his role in Back to the Future. His recount about the days of filming both of these projects was harrowing at the least. It was a fascinating tale of his early days in Hollywood and the constant struggles of trying to make a living as a young teen/adult.

These early stories were interspersed with imagery from the current day Fox, working with a physical therapist on his movement and walking, telling about times when he would fall or hurt himself.

The doc had an amazing style to it as well. With these details that were told by Fox, the film used images and scenes from past movies and show to illustrate the point being made by Fox and it was a perfect feat of editing. There were so many stories beautifully illustrated by Michael J. Fox’s previous film roles.

Still was both emotional for the viewer and inspirational at the same time. Listening to Michael explain his own feelings during the time when he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, yet battled to prevent his symptoms to be shown. His time hiding the disease from the public had taken a toll on the actor and caused problems with his family.

Yet, with the current face-to-face interviews conducted for the documentary, Fox showed his determination and his stubborn streak, as well as a sharp sense of humor.

This is a difficult film to rate because of the personal nature, but it was a truly well designed, well-structured documentary that reminded us all how much we loved Michael J. Fox and how important we find his story.

4 stars

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

I saw a post on Twitter from critic William Bibbiani that had his favorite five movies so far in 2023 and one of them listed was How to Blow Up a Pipeline, a film that I had not heard of before. So when I spotted it on Vudu this weekend, I thought I would check it out.

The independent film from Neon featured a group of environmental activists planned and attempted to blow up a pipeline in protest of the way the pipeline has been affecting the environment.

The film is not just about the act of eco-terrorism, but it also some focus on the characters who were among the crew. It spent a significant amount of time focusing on the individual members investigating the reasons behind their choices.

The ensemble cast do a fine job in bringing these young characters to life in a film that could villainize them. The cast included Ariela Barer, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage, Forrest Goodluck, Jayme Lawson, Sasha Lane, Jake Weary and Marcus Scribner as the main group of conspirers.

What I liked was how the film had the group debating how the world would be looking at them in a different manner, even going as far as labeling themselves terrorists. Still, the motives of the group were varied and many of them understandable.

This film would certainly be controversial as it has had some critics claim that it glorifies the destruction of the pipeline and could inspire others in the real world to take up the same efforts. I would say that this film clearly outlines the situations of the characters and does not try to cover up the acts. It is as much about the characters as it is anything else.

The flashbacks that are sprinkled throughout do a great job of getting us invested in theses characters’ motivations.

I thought this was well done and showed the complexities of actions carried out by even the well meaning indiviuals.

3.75 stars


I have always been a fan of characters with mental powers, even though they really should all be villains. The fact is there are no powers more designed for corruption than mental powers, especially mind control.

There is a bunch of mind control going on in the new Ben Affleck action/adventure film Hypnotic and, unfortunately, it does not deliver the excitement a decent premise promised, and, instead, turned out to be an overly gimmicked mess.

Ben Affleck played detective Danny Rourke, who was dealing with the guilt over his failure to prevent his young daughter’s kidnapping at a park a few years prior. When he returned to duty, Rourke wound up in a mysterious bank robbery where the main culprit Dellrayne (William Fichtner) is using hypnosis powers to have innocent people carry out his plans. When Rourke discovered that Dellrayne has some connection to his daughter’s disappearance, he is lead to the door of a tarot card reading psychic Diana (Alice Braga), who is more than what she seemed.

Soon, the plot gets convoluted and flipped on its head.

None of this felt real and I was not engaged much with the story. Affleck did not seem to buy into the story either, as I wondered why he was showing such little emotion as a guilt-ridden father. That was actually explained later in a bizarre twist that would have even found M. Night Shyamalan thinking it was too much.

What is real and what is a mind-f*** does not provide the intrigue for this story. There was just too much exposition in a movie that all of that exposition turned out to be wasted.

I did like parts of Alice Braga’s work. She was solid at times, but her character becomes way too confused and tangled. William Fichtner made a fun villain at the beginning when he seemed to be the Terminator-type character that kept coming, but his second half of the movie character could not live up to the beginning.

It was great to see LOST’s Jeff Fahey (aka Frank Lapidus) make a short appearance.

I just did not find this one to be engaging enough and too filled with twists that made me care less for the characters.

2.4 stars

Book Club: The Next Chapter

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful moms out there. This film is advertised as a good film for Mother’s day, even though none of the lead actors of the film are shown as mothers here.

This was a sequel to a surprise 2018 hit movie Book Club starring Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, and Diane Keaton, not to be confused with 80 for Brady which was four older actors including Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno. Honestly, Jane Fonda felt like the same character in both.

Plot synopsis: four older ladies go to Italy. Stuff happens.

That is literally the story here. There were several times when I thought to myself, ‘Is there going to be a narrative?’ and the answer was… no.

Certainly, this movie survives on the back of the four lead actors. Fonda, Bergen, Steenburgen and Keaton are charismatic and likable. Unfortunately, they were given some of the worst dialogue in a movie for while. The film wanted the interactions between the four of them to be the best part of the movie, and it should have been, but it was anything but.

None of this was special, though there were some beautiful shots of the Italian countryside and cities. Everything that you would think would happen in this type of a movie, did happen and it was dull.

To be completely transparent, I did not feel very well in the theater today so I did leave early. I usually do not review films that I do not see all the way through, because it conceivably could get better in the final act, but I feel fairly confident that this was not going to improve.

Secondly, I was in the theater in a row with an older woman who did not seem to be able to stay off of her phone and another group who felt as if they needed to discuss everything that would be going on. Both of these can color my perception of the movie to be fair.

I was not offended by this film and I do like the actors, especially Candice Bergen, but this was not up the the level of these actors. Maybe the ending rescued the lackadaisical film, but I am fairly sure that it did not.

2.5 stars


I really like Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. They are both extremely likable and engaging actors. Unfortunately, their new movie on Apple + does not measure up to their charisma.

Ghosted is a romantic action/adventure spy movie that finds farmer Cole (Chris Evans) thrown into the world of CIA operative Sadie (Ana de Armas) in search of a passcode to open a case that contained a dangerous weapon that arms dealer Leveque (Adrien Brody) is trying to sell.

This film gets by strictly on the two leads and their screen presence. Fact is that the story itself is so dumb that Evans and de Armas cannot elevate this material past the inane plot and silly dialogue.

There is a ton of stars making cameo appearances in this film. Sebastian Stan, John Cho, Anthony Mackie, Tate Donovan, Amy Sedaris, Ryan Reynolds, Tim Blake Nelson, and Anna Deavere Smith all make appearances in minor, or even wasted, roles.

This feels like one of those dumb Netflix movies that drop on the streamer to fill space. The only difference is that this film is on Apple TV +. Chris Evans and Ana de Armas are extremely attractive and enjoyable usually, but their work cannot save this one.

2 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

When talking about the best trilogies inside the MCU franchise, the argument had always centered around the Captain America movies and the Spider-Man movies. After this weekend, there is another three movie trilogy that needs to be in the conversation and just may be the trilogy to take the mantel.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the wrap up of the James Gunn directed trilogy, arrived in theaters and brought so much emotions, so much great action, so much laugh out loud comedic beats that an argument can be made that this is the best film in the Guardians trilogy, which is saying a lot because I really loved Guardians 1 (and 2 I always thought got a bad rap from some).

Gunn brings to an end this variation of the Guardians of the Galaxy by providing each character in the ensemble their moment in the sun, bringing some outstanding character moments for practically everyone, while penning a film with the emotional core being Rocket (Bradley Cooper)

When something happens, the Guardians are forced to look into the background of Rocket which brings them into conflict with Rocket’s original creator, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).

I’m keeping most of the plot synopsis short and broad to avoid spoilers, because there are so many awesome beats for every character that I do not want to tip off anything for any viewer. Go into this with the expectation that this is going to be a rocking good time, that it is going to be dark, that Rocket’s past is heartbreaking and that the cast brings it.

Even though all the cast gets excellent moments, Rocket is the center of this film. Bradley Cooper once again brings this CGI creature to life and provides the raccoon with so much heart and soul. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Karen Gillan’s Nebula, Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer, and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora all receive some of the best performances of the trilogy in this film and they all get amazing story arcs that pay off huge, without falling into predictability or cliché.

Then, Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary is one of the best “worst” villains in any Marvel film. He is so easy to hate. Unlike a lot of Marvel villains who become popular characters and whose plan are even potentially understandable (Loki, Thanos, Killmonger to name a few), The High Evolutionary is just someone that is an evil villain and his cruelty is showed in spades. Iwuji brings this monster to life in a remarkable way, and was consistently chilling.

I heard some critics complaining about the animal cruelty in the film, and there is no doubt that there are some horrendous examples shown, but it all pays into the character of the High Evolutionary and I think those people are just looking for something to complain about.

There are so many laugh out loud moments in the movie and it blends beautifully in with the melancholy aspects of the script. It seamlessly bounces between sad scene and humor effortlessly.

The music, of course, is always a highlight of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie as we receive a bunch of wonderful songs from the playlist of James Gunn. There are a couple of call backs too that make this feel like a perfect close to the trilogy.

That is the clear truth. This film closes the door on this iteration of the Guardians perfectly like few movies can, and it does it in ways that could not be expected.

There are so many emotionally powerful and satisfying scenes that I had tears in my eyes throughout. There were tears of sadness and tear of joy. I legitimately found myself feeling as emotional within the third act of this movie as I did with the third act of Endgame.

I have also seen a lot of complaints about the use of Will Poulter as Adam Warlock. I disagree with this analysis as well. I found Adam Warlock to be used exceptionally well in this film and he received a arc of his own. I can understand how someone who was a big fan of Adam Warlock from the comics might feel disappointed, but, to me, this is just the beginning for this character. The film version is different than the comic version and that is okay. If you bring your own expectations into a character, you can’t complain if they do things in a way that you did not anticipate. The character of Adam Warlock, as written here, works very well and allows the character a ton of potential for growth.

The design and the special effects are amazing. The film is full of color and spectacle.

I haven’t even mentioned Pom Klementieff as Mantis. This is easily the best she has been in any appearance so far. Nathan Fillion’s cameo that was so cheesy and fun. Sylvester Stallone making a return cameo. Groot (Vin Diesel) and his continued growth to tree adulthood. Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is trying to work through his own issues while having a funny running joke with Cosmo (Maria Bakalova). Linda Cardellini provided the voice for Lylla during Rocket’s flashbacks and that character becomes a favorite with really limited number of scenes.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a masterful end to one of the best (if not the best) trilogies in the MCU. I need to see this again, but I think the Guardians of the Galaxy may just be my favorite trilogy of the MCU and that this movie may be my favorite movie of this franchise, placing very high in the overall MCU list of films. It surpassed my very hefty expectations. Congratulations to James Gunn and all the actors of this franchise. I certainly wish Gunn all the success over at DC.

5 stars