News of the World

The second of the films I saw today at Cinemark is the new Western starring Tom Hanks. This film is called News of the World and it places Tom Hanks in a story that we have never seen him in before, unless you count Woody from Toy Story!

Hanks played Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who travels around the West reading people the news for money. He would emphasize the stories, providing the crowds an entertaining presentation. However, on his way, Captain Kidd came across an overturned wagon and a lynched black man in the tree. He found that the man had been taking a young girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel), who had been kidnapped and raised by the Kiowa people. Johanna did not speak English and seemed like a wild child.

Captain Kidd committed to take Johanna back to her remaining family, an aunt and uncle in Texas. Along the way, the two unlikely compatriots bond over the dangers of the world.

Honestly, the first part of News of the World I found slow and a bit dull. I was starting to worry about the film, but then the story picked up energy and the last hour and twenty minutes or so were extremely compelling and thrilling.

Tom Hanks is always great, but there has to be a big shout out to Helena Zengel, who had a lot of challenges to her performance, in particular the language issues. She was excellent and held her own with her famous co-star. She provided as much emotions with her face and her eyes as she did with her words. It was a seasoned performance from the young lady.

The cinematography of the film is gorgeous, as the land of the west is as much of a character as our two main characters. Director Paul Greengrass gave us amazing visuals to watch as the story progressed.

I did like how straight forward Captain Kidd was with everyone he came in contact with. His honor shined through his actions. This made him an uncommon character in Western movies.

After a slow start, News of the World really picked up and is carried by the performances of Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel. It was one of the best Westerns of the year (I only saw one other… )

3.8 stars

Promising Young Woman

With 2020 coming down to a close (thankfully) there are just a few remaining films I will be able to see. So I went out to Cinemark today to see a couple of them. The first film I saw was a film that I have seen on a lot of lists of possible Oscar nominees, Promising Young Woman.

Promising Young Woman starred Carey Mulligan and was directed by Emerald Fennell.

Something happened to Cassie (Carey Mulligan) during her college years that led her to drop out of her collegiate medical program. It had something to do with her friend Nina. From this event, Cassie had struggled to get past her memories. On the weekends, she goes to bars and pretends to be drunk. She waited to be picked up by men trying to have sex with her and she lured them into a trap, confronted them and kept a record of it.

Working at a coffee shop, Cassie was approached by a former classmate of hers, Ryan (Bo Burnham) who wanted to ask her out on a date, but Cassie was to distrustful of men to accept.

Carey Mulligan is exceptional in this role. I love the way the film hints at what happened without coming right out and explaining it to us. We can figure out what happened without it being laid out before us. With the pain in her face, Mulligan brings us along on her way through her life. The film hints at Cassie doing worse things to her victims, though it seemed as if she did not.

You understand the anger and pain that Cassie is facing, but you want her to overcome the anguish. Then, she does something that makes you shocked at her behavior.

Then the third act becomes one of the craziest third acts you are ever going to see. It is surprising and it is uncomfortable. I never saw it coming and I really loved that.

Thrilling. Heart-breaking. Uncomfortable. Promising Young Woman is one of the greta films of the year and certainly may deserve that Oscar nomination it hopes for.

4.2 stars

We Can Be Heroes

Well, lookie here.

I was on Netflix last night and suddenly, there was a new super hero movie with Pedro Pascal. It was called We Can Be Heroes and I had no idea it was coming out and it was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the mind behind Spy Kids and Sin City. It also appeared to be a sequel to The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D. That should give you a good idea of the tone of this filn.

I have never seen The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D, but I have heard about it, and, maybe it should go on the list.

This focused on the children of the group of heroes known as The Heroics, which included the aforementioned Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) and Sharkboy (Jeffrey Dashnaw). It also included the retired leader of the Heroics, Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal).

The film starts off with Miracle Guy (Boyd Holbrook) and Tech-No (Christian Slater) half-heartedly trying to deal with an unidentified object in space, only to discover that there was an entire armada on its way to earth. The aliens made short work of the Heroics, capturing them all and imprisoning them on their ship.

Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin), daughter of Marcus, was taken by the government agency to a location to protect her from the aliens. They take Missy to the rest of the children of the Heroics. However, the other children all have super powers, but Missy does not.

When one of the children, Ojo (Hala Finley) turned out to be prophetic with her drawings, the kids discover that the aliens are preparing to attack the agency. Together, the group escape the facility and try to come up with an idea to rescue their parents.

Teen/child super heroes are always fun. There was a definitely fun tone going on here. It reminded one of Spy Kids because there were some stakes, but the kids were not in any real jeopardy. It had the feel of a Disney Channel show where the kids are generalized characters without a ton of depth to them. The children are charismatic enough and have enough fun powers that you do not need deeply developed characters. They all have their one or so obstacle that they have to overcome to become the best they could be.

Some of the other neat ideas are Noodle (Lyon Daniels) who can stretch, providing some cool visuals, Wild Card (Nathan Blair) who has all the powers but cannot control them, Guppy (Vivien Blair), daughter of Lavagirl and Sharkboy, who can control water and had super shark strength, Wheels (Andy Walken) who is in a wheelchair because his strength in his legs were too strong, Slo-Mo (Dylan Henry Lau) who moved in super slow motion despite being the son of the speedster, A Capella (Lotus Blossom) who can move thigns with her singing voice, Fast-Forward (Akira Akbar) and Rewind (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) who were twin brother and sister who were not fond of each other, and Facemaker (Andrew Diaz) who has a malleable face.

The film is light, funny, breezy. It is not something to dive into deeply. It is a kids movie that you can use to introduce children to the world of superheroes. I had fun watching it. It is like eating cotton candy. Sweet at first, but not much remaining after.

3.4 stars

Hunter Hunter

I was not sure what t expect from Hunter Hunter, but I had heard some positive word of mouth about it online, so I figured it would be a good film to give a chance.


Joseph (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan) and daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) lived as a family in the wilderness, surviving off the land as trappers. The family was afraid that they were being stalked by a rogue wolf. The desperation of Joseph to capture the canine sent him out to track the predator, leaving his wife and daughter alone in their cabin.

As Joseph continued to be out of communication range, Anne and Renee were becoming more anxious and frightened of the wolf. However, a noise outside the cabin led to Anne discovering an injured man Leo (Nick Stahl) who she nursed back to health.

The film had a slow build as it patiently revealed its surprises and its frightening scenes. You are never quite sure what is going on and a few of the things we discover along the way make you uncertain about what is happening and uneasy about what might happen. The film does an amazing job of creating a mood of anxiety among the audience.

Personally, my favorite character and performance came from Gabriel Daniels, who was the local forestry agent. He was making his way around to the different locales in the film, picking up roadkill such as dead skunks or responding to bear sightings by the yuppie locals. Daniels does not get a ton of screen time, but I enjoyed his performance while there.

When the film kicks it into high gear, it really goes all in. The final scene of this film is as grizzly of a scene as I have seen in any movie this year.

I came into Hunter Hunter with almost no idea of what the film was, outside the fact that I had heard it positively referred to as a horror movie. I was not ready for the film to be as compelling as it was and for it to switch gears as quickly as it did. It was a brutal development and an unexpected journey.

3.75 stars

Wonder Woman 1984

After being delayed twice, Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to Patty Jenkins’ original DC film, was released in both the theaters that are available and open and streaming on HBO Max today.

Jenkins returns to direct WW1984 with Gal Gadot reprising her role as Diana, the Amazon princess. Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor, who did die in Wonder Woman. Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal is the lead villain Max Lord and Kristen Wiig appears as Cheetah.

Diana has been living and working in the world since the ending of World War I. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) was new at the same museum Diana worked and the FBI came to have her try to identify an ancient rock. That rock turned out to be an artifact created by an ancient god and the artifact is able to grant one wish, while taking what the person loves or needs.

Turns out that Max Lord was in search of this artifact and wanting its power for himself. He cons Barbara into letting him get his hands on it and he starts to use it to accomplish what he wanted.

Looking at the previous Wonder Woman movie, I thought the first two acts of the original was just about as good as it was going to get and the third act derailed the film a bit. While the third act was not terrible, I found it to be easily the weakest of the film. Here, however, I found the third act to be very strong, in particular with the showdown between Wonder Woman and Maxwell Lord, but I found the first two acts of WW1984 to contain the weaker parts.

One of those weaker parts, for me, was the overall performance of Pedro Pascal as Max Lord. While I love him in the Mandalorian, I thought Pascal was way-too-over-the-top comic bookie villain in WW1984. There are moments that I liked, but more often than not, I found myself grimacing with Lord. I am not convinced with his motivation and his relationship with his son Alister (Lucian Perez) did not convince me.

However, the other major relationship in the film is between Diana and Steve Trevor and that worked like aces. They have great chemistry together and pick up right where they left off. The dynamic that brought Steve back from the dead worked for me (although there was one part of it that bothered me a bit–can’t go into it further without spoiling it). The film flipped the script with Steve now being the fish out of water and having Diana lead him through the world of the 1980s where Diana was the fish out of water in the late teens. The scenes with the two of them worked completely.

I also liked the scenes with Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva, but she feels as if her story got rushed and tossed into this movie to say “Hey, we have the Cheetah!” Cheetah is Wonder Woman’s most iconic villain and she did not feel as if she needed to be here. I would have rather saved Cheetah for a future installment of the series or to have had her be the lead villain in this one.

I should also mention that Gal Gadot is the perfect Wonder Woman. This casting, which I did not think much of prior to the first movie, works so well again. Gadot is exceptional as Diana and hits all of the major emotional moments well. She is exceptional in this role.

I found most of the CGI and effects here to be awkward and lacking any real feel to them. With the exception of the lassoing lightning scenes that were shown in the trailers (which looked fabulous), a lot of the rest did not look great. There was also a story beat in the second act that, while I will not reveal it, is very much a super hero trope that has played its course. It felt the same as if the characters would get amnesia. I’ve seen that too many times to be too invested in it.

The film was too long too as it should have trimmed about 20 minutes off the runtime of 2 hours and 31 minutes. WW1984 has some great moments in it and I believe it is worth seeing. I wish it was more focused of a film than it turned out. Gal Gadot is fabulous again and her relationship with Chris Pine is special.

3.2 stars


Pixar’s latest animated movie dropped on Disney + after getting pushed thanks to the virus. Soul was directed by Pete Docter and he provides the most metaphysical Pixar film since Inside Out.

Joe (Jamie Foxx) was a middle school band teacher who had been struggling to chase his dream of being a jazz musician. A former student was able to set Joe up with a gig playing piano for diva Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). Unfortunately, Joe found himself in another realm of existence. Along his desperate path to return to earth, Joe meets up with 22 (Tina Fey), a uninspired spirit, and he has to help 22 find its spark.

Soul is beautiful in all ways. The animation is the typically spectacular animation of Pixar. The music, particularly the score, is astounding. The score was created by Nine Inch Nails duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, with Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste providing jazz compositions and arrangements.

The voice cast was led by Jamie Foxx as Joe and Tina Fey as 22. However, the cast included such notaries as Questlove, Graham Norton, Phylicia Rashaad, Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett, and Rachel House. The voice work in Soul was spectacular.

The story of Soul contains some really deep ideas and some existential beats. It is a film that can keep the mind occupied of the adults as well as the children. It takes this metaphysical realm and creates a beautiful world around it. Soul is a world of imagination and creativity like few movies reach. This reminded me quite a bit of Inside Out, which was Pete Docter’s last Pixar film.

Soul is an amazingly gorgeous film that sounds better than most films around. The score, music, animation and voice work is superb. Soul is one of the better Pixar films to have been released in the last few years.

4.6 stars

Roald Dahl’s The Witches

I have been a fan of Roahl Dahl for some time now. I especially have enjoyed his poetry such as The Pig, a charming and darkly comedic take on why a pig is alive. However, I will admit that I have either not been a huge fan of most of the movie adaptation of Dahl’s work or I have not seen them. Obviously, I love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Fantastic Mr. Fox is extremely well done. Matilda is fun too. I have actually never seen James and the Giant Peach, did not love The BFG and actively disliked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When I came across the movie Roald Dahl’s The Witches on HBO Max, I must admit to being intrigued.

I had never heard of this story and I also was unaware that there was another version of this film from 1990 starring Anjelica Huston and featuring Jim Henson puppetry. I will have to check that out.

So I entered this film without any knowledge of The Witches at all outside of the fact that it was a Roald Dahl story.

I was unimpressed.

In The Witches, a boy (Jahzir Bruno) is orphaned in a car crash and goes to live with his grandma (Octavia Spencer). Little did he know, witches were real and they were all around. His grandma had encountered a specific witch when she was a child and that witch turned Grandma’s friend into a chicken. So when the boy encounters a witch at the store, Grnadma took him away to a seaside resort. Unfortunately, there was a witches convention going on there with the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) unleashing her evil plan to change all the children of the world into mice.

There are some huge names connected with this project. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis. The score was composed by Alan Silvestri. The credits included names such as Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón. That is a lot of talent to be connected to this film especially considering how disappointing this was.

Octavia Spencer is always awesome and she does her job here really well. Anne Hathaway is so over-the-top in The Witches as the Grand High Witch, it seems as if she is having a blast. Stanley Tucci is in the film too (not sure why).

The cast was not the issue. Roald Dahl’s work is wonderfully dark and funny. Even Willy Wonka has undertones in the film of the darkness that exists. Here, much of the darkness has been removed in favor of family friendly moments. The only really dark moment was the ending with the fate of the Grand High Witch, which was satisfying. I would have enjoyed that tone more.

There were several plot points that seemed to be important, but were totally dropped. For example, Grandma spent the whole film coughing badly, implying that she was sick. I guess not as it does not come into the story at all. There was several references to garlic in a soup scene that made you believe that garlic may play into the resolution of the arc. Nope. I guess it is just a one off joke.

Another issue I had that, for a film from 2020, the CGI was below average. There were many places in the film where the CGI was noticeable and that is a sin for a current movie, in particular for a film where three of its main characters are talking mice.

This might be an effective film to plop the children down in front of during this holiday season, but for the adults in the room, be prepared to engage elsewhere.

2.5 stars

The Midnight Sky

Christmas break began with the first of several big movies coming out with Netflix’s The Midnight Sky directed by and starring George Clooney kicking things off.

The science fiction story was adapted from a novel called Good Morning, Midnight. George Clooney played scientist Augustine who was isolated in the Arctic on a planet that had suffered some kind of catastrophic event. Augustine discovered a little girl who did not talk named Iris (the debuting Caoilinn Springall).

Meanwhile, a crew of astronauts were attempting to return to earth after their trip to one of the moons of Jupiter. The captain, Adewole (David Oyelowo), and Sully (Felicity Jones) were together and trying to find their way home.

The astronauts did not understand why they were not able to contact anyone on earth.

The Midnight Sky was pretty slow, and I am not sure if anything really happened. The film looked beautiful and was filled with some wonderful shots, but it was pretty dull.

George Clooney does a good job as the lonely scientist performance-wise. The acting on the shuttle was strong as well with David Oyelowo, Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, Tiffany Boone and Demián Bichir were at the very least solid. Some of them did not get as much time as others, but they fit well into the narrative that was being told.

The film was also pretty depressing for 2/3s of the run time. There was a ton of melodrama in the movie and there were few points of brightness. There is one major exception with “Sweet Caroline.” There was just too much depression and, when it compares with the slow pace of the film, it became difficult to watch at times.

The Midnight Sky looked great but the rest of the film was a bit of a slosh to get through. Clooney’s performance was good, but it did not elevate the film enough.

2.75 stars

The Croods: A New Age

When I went to see the original The Croods animated movie a few years ago, I hated the experience. I have always wondered if I hated the movie as much as I hated the experience.

You see, the theater I saw The Croods in was cramped, filled with screaming children, and there was a child throwing up a few rows behind me. I was stuck in the furthest seat over and was hating the entire environment. There is no doubt that the movie viewing experience can affect the way you perceive the movie so I did not enjoy the first Croods movie.

Now, the public at large did not seem to love the film either and I am not sure who was exactly clamoring for a sequel seven years after. I avoided the film. There was no pull for me to head out to the theater and potentially expose myself to the Covid-19 virus to see the sequel to the Croods.

Heck, it came out on streaming and I still was not anxious to see it. Finally, I decided that I should watch it.

The first thing that I realized was that Ryan Reynolds voiced the character Guy, something I did not remember from the first one. I remembered Nicolas Cage doing the voice of Grug, the father, but Reynolds was a surprise.

Then, the first half of the movie was about what I expected. Harmless. Unremarkable. Predictable. In fact, it felt like I was watching a Bizarro version of Aladdin with Guy as Prince Ali and Dawn Betterman (Kelly Marie Tran) as Jasmine. Perhaps that made Eep (Emma Stone) Abu. Although later on I thought maybe Eep was Aladdin instead.

I guess I should give a plot synapsis. The Croods found “Tomorrow”, the land Guy was searching for and met up with Guy’s parents’ old friends, the Bettermans, Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann). The Bettermans wanted Guy to come back and hook up with their daughter Dawn, and they tried to manipulate Grug to give Guy back.

Grug was feeling scared about Eep leaving the tribe so he was easily manipulated by Phil.

This was about the first 45 minutes of the movie and it was fine. Nothing major. There were a few funny bits, but nothing that I cared about, as you could tell from the weird Aladdin analogy I was mentally working on.


The movie went completely bat shit crazy.

I mean… totally bat shit crazy. I have to say, I liked it. It was bizarre, wild, flipping insane.

You have to respect a movie that is willing to let itself go this bat shit crazy. I’m not even sure how to describe it. King Kong on acid? Land of the Lost meets Willy Wonka? The Partridge Family and the Flintstones have a baby? There was even a series of Jack Black songs from out of nowhere.

Thunder Sisters? Punch monkeys language lessons. Wolf Spiders. Flying hair named Wigasus.

All of this feels as if they needed to cram everything possible into the third act because they knew the remainder of the movie was average at best. And yet, that third act was so nuts that it might have won me over. I don’t think I need to see the original again and I don’t think another sequel is needed, but this can only be experienced.

3 stars


A disaster movie starring Gerard Butler? I’ve seen this before. Nothing special here….

Oh, wait.

I take it all back.

I loved this movie. I never expected to love it as much as I did. I mean, come on. All of these disaster movies are the same and there is little difference about them. At best, they provide a couple of hours of escapist fun and at worst they are big, dumb spectacles that make no sense.

However, Greenland showed that it was more than this. Not only was it big, dumb escapist fun, it was also filled with emotional beats and surprisingly tense situations that felt true to the moment. It was more than our indestructible hero wading through CGI destruction to save his loved ones. While there is some of that, it is not the center of the movie. The movie’s center is actually the flaws of the characters and the nature of the human species.

A comet, dubbed Clarke by the media, approached the earth and the expectations were that it was not going to cause an impact on the planet. However, construction worker John Garrity (Gerard Butler) received a presidential alert on his phone that he and his family had been selected to be taken to a bunker. Though currently estranged from his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), John maintained a positive relationship with his son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). When the notification came through, it became apparent that Clarke was going to be more of a problem than what was being reported.

The Garritys packed quickly and headed for the location presented them. After they arrived, they were split and it was determined that, because of his diabetes, Nathan was no longer eligible for the program. The family struggled to reunite and to find a way to safety.

Yes, a lot of that synopsis sounds familiar to other such genre films, but you have to trust me. This film elevates above the others through some exceptional writing.

One of the things that really sold me on the film I was watching was how it pulled no punches in the execution of the plot. There seemed to be little special about John Garrity. He was not a major scientist (as Butler was in Geostorm) or a former government agent of some sort. He was just a normal guy who had his own problems. I immediately was able to accept Butler in the role. It fit him beatifully.

Another thing Greenland did was it showed how horrible the situation was as the Garritys had to face the fact that they were leaving their friends and family behind. There were some scenes of real anguish where they were faced with desperate parents begging them to take their child too, and John knowing that they were restricted from doing it. The audience knew the result of John’s rejection of the idea, and the film did not shy away from showing the anxiety built by these near-Sophie’s choice like moments.

But what this film does above all else that I loved was how it elevated the no name heroes to a huge status. It did not just show the dark side of the human condition (looting, violent reactions etc.), but it showed the men and women of the human race just trying to help where they could. The army major (Merrin Dungey) who there doing her job despite having to leave her own family behind. The nurse who is able to help Nathan with his diabetes during a time where he had been separated from his parents. The family willing to pick up Allison alongside of the road and take her with them. The kind hearted young man who told John about the flight to Greenland. These were characters who were, most likely, not going to survive the extinction level event that was coming, but who were simply trying to do what they could to make a difference where they could. It was a true portrait of the best of the human society and it was the message that stuck with me more than those who embraced the chaos.

Scott Glenn had a short, but powerful appearance as Allison’s father. In just a few scenes, Glenn was able to imbue Dale with a humanity and a forgiveness that was desperately required for his family.

Roger Dale Floyd does a great job as Nathan, and the character of Nathan is allowed to be smart. There is one scene in particular where Nathan is in deep trouble, but he does the smart thing instead of the typically stupid choice that is served to just extend the plot. When that happened, I actually fist pumped and I was so proud of Nathan. That’s weird I know, but I loved that he was given the opportunity to be a real person.

Sure the movie has its warts too. There are definitely coincidences that happen to allow the Garritys to make it to where they were going and the trip to Canada seemed fairly simple (with the exception of one firestorm). Still, those are things that can be ignored with suspension of disbelief. Truthfully, there is less suspension of disbelief needed here than most of this type of genre movie.

And the ending of the movie was not necessarily strong. There was a spot where I thought the movie was going to end which would have left me feeling differently than where it ultimately did end at. I kind of wish they would have gone with the more uncertain conclusion.

So while this is not a perfect movie and it does get weighed down at times with the conventions of the genre, Greenland elevates so much more beyond the typical clichés and expectations of a disaster film that it was a sweet surprise and a film that I truly enjoyed watching.

4.25 stars

Let Them All Talk

The first movie that I will review from HBO Max is the new film starring Meryl Streep called Let Them All Talk.

Meryl Streep is a huge star. She is considered one of the best actors of the last couple of decades. Having her new movie on the streaming service is a big deal. Of course, HBO Max is heading toward huge releases starting with WW84 on Christmas. Let Them All Talk is a nice way to kick it off.

Meryl Streep played Alice, a famous author who was taking a cruise to England to accept a prestigious award and she invited her old college friends Roberta and Susan (Candice Bergen & Dianne Wiest) to travel with her. The three friends had fallen away from one another in the years since Alice’s success.

Alice also invited her nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges) to come along. Tyler was the glue that keeps the trio together and managed to handle whatever came up. One of those details was the publishing house’s agent Karen (Gemma Chan) who was trying to find out what Alice was writing, with the hope that it was a sequel to her huge hit book, that incidentally revealed a ton of details on the life of Roberta.

The film is harmless and focuses on the three ladies, as well as a “relationship” between Tyler and the older Karen. There were some solid performances in the film and the characters were well developed. However, there was no doubt that the character that I enjoyed the most was Roberta and the main reason for that was the charming and exceptional Candice Bergen.

Bergen got the meatiest character to play, a woman whose difficult life came from the publishing of the original book and who looked to be out for herself. Among other things, she was on the prowl across the ship for a potential husband who may have plenty of money. Roberta’s back story was just as fascinating making you wonder exactly what kind of person she was.

Meryl Streep’s Alice was played snooty and overbearing, yet there was something relatable to her. That may be because of Streep’s overt charm. You warm to her as the film pressed on and you realized that there was more to the story than what you could see.

Steven Soderbergh directed this movie and it was a solid and enjoyable experience as three great legendary actresses chewed up the scenes. I will admit that the scenes with Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chen were less interesting for me, but they are harmless and help play into the overall narrative. Alice’s connection to Tyler is one of the things that helped to humanize her for the audience.

The ending took a turn that I did not expect and that is always welcomed.

3.3 stars

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Based on a Tony Award winning play by August Wilson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the final performance of actor Chadwick Boseman, and what a performance it was.

Boseman passed away in August from a years-long battle with cancer. Best known as King T’Challa from Marvel’s Black Panther, Boseman has been impressive in his film roles, but there may not be anything more impressive than his turn as Levee, a temperamental trumpeter with plans of musical success.

As Chadwick Boseman’s performance was not enough, Viola Davis absolutely slays it as Ma Rainey, the real life black singer called the “Mother of the Blues,” a demanding singer unwilling to budge from what she wanted.

Viola Davis recently won an Oscar for her role in Fences, another movie based on a play, alongside Denzel Washington, who produced this film. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom feels much like a play on film, just like fences did. The sharp dialogue, the powerhouse monologues, and the claustrophobic sets give this film its tone. Davis and Boseman bring the fire.

The film told the story of a recording session in 1927 on a hot Chicago afternoon. Ma Rainey, late arriving, tried completing a recording session with her white manager and producer. Her backing band had their own troubles, led by the emotionally unstable Levee.

The dialogue of the film was equally parts brilliant and uncomfortable. The constant use of the n-word was difficult to hear even though I know that is the verbiage of the culture. However, the monologues, in particular those delivered by Boseman, were utterly spellbinding and revealed the deep seeded pain of the character and made us understand the choices that he made.

Viola Davis is practically unrecognizable as the Mother of the Blues. The costume design and the manner in which the film was shot were beautiful and transcendent. The music was alive and electric. The film was a look at race, prejudice and the power of music to overcome the boundaries placed upon some.

This is another amazing film from Netflix this year. You cannot help but feel the loss of Chadwick Boseman, the unanswerable question of just how high he could have taken his career. You need to make sure you see this raw and stirring performance.

5 stars

I’m Your Woman

Amazon Prime has been releasing some solid work this year, maybe not quite up to the level of Netflix, but pretty close. The most recent release from the studio appeared this weekend and starred Rachel Brosnahan in a crime thriller with a different point of view.

I’m Your Woman takes the POV of a wife of a member of a crime family. Set in the 1970s, I’m Your Woman featured the story of Jean (Rachel Brosnahan), the wife of Eddie (Bill Heck). Jean knew that Eddie was a criminal, but she had no idea to what extent he had taken it, nor did she know much about Eddie’s background.

One night, Eddie brings home a baby. Jean was barren and had decided that she would never be a mother. The arrival of the baby, they named Harry, changed her perspective and her life. So when Cal (Arinzé Kane),a complete stranger, showed up and told her to run, it became a difficult situation.

The film spends more time with Jean, trying to figure out exactly what was happening, and trying to keep herself and Harry safe from the outside forces that seemingly want to get to Eddie.

Cal takes Jean to his family cabin where, eventually, Cal’s wife Teri (Marsha Stephanie Blake), his son (De’Mauri Parks) and father (Frankie Faison) joined her there. Teri brought more secrets with her as they awaited the return of Cal.

I really enjoyed this film. I loved the turning of the plot structure around so that it is not as much about what was happening with the crime underworld as much as it was about Jean and her reactions to the moments around her. Rachel Brosnahan was fantastic as Jean, totally gripping and uniquely engaging. Her confusion and apprehension caused the audience to feel the same way. As everything seemed to be collapsing within on Jean, the audience felt the same snesation.

I thought Marsha Stephanie Blake was remarkably entertaining and original as well. It was clear as soon as she arrived that there was more to her story than what we were getting, and she developed into one of the best characters on the screen. You were never quite sure exactly whom you could trust here.

I was also so very thankful that I could not guess what was going to happen next. These types of crime thrillers tend to be filled with clichés, but I’m Your Woman avoided most of those, mainly with the major shift in POV. I was not sure how things were going to play out and what the end would be, and that is a very good thing.

And there was a scene that I yelled out in excitement. It was an awesome shot and it reminded me of Pulp Fiction.

I enjoyed I’m Your Woman very much. I liked how the genre was bent around in a different perspective and how the film became more of a character story than one of the typical crime films.

4 stars


As I was starting to compile my Year End Review lists for the I Am Groot “voice over” award and the best animated movie of 2020, I realized that 2020 was an underwhelming year for animation. With a few exceptions, 2020 has not been a standout for animation. However, it is very possible that December is going to save this year’s animation. Pixar’s Soul is coming Christmas day on Disney + and then on Apple Plus was the release of Wolfwalkers, and Wolfwalkers may be the best animated movie we have gotten yet in 2020.

In the 17th century Irish town of Kilkenny, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) was the daughter of Bill (Sean Bean), a great hunter that had been brought into the town to deal with the wolf problems, and she wanted to help her father. Her father, determined to keep her safe, wanted her to stay in the town so he would not lose her as he had lost his wife, her mother.

Robyn went into the woods to prove to her father that she could hunt by his side. Unfortunately for Robyn, she was caught in one of her father’s wolf snares. A pack of wolves showed up and the leader of the pack, Mebh (Eva Whittaker), tried to free Robyn from the trap. Robyn believed that the wolf was trying to attack her and fought back. In the end, Mebh bit Robyn.

Turned out that Mebh was a “wolfwalker,” which was, by sense, an Irish werewolf. Wolfwalkers would be human, but, when they went to sleep, tuned into a wolf, leaving the human body in a form of a coma, until the wolf returns and reunites with the body.

The bite to Robyn wound up making Robyn a wolfwalker and changed the way she would look at the world and the forest. She had to try to help her new wolf friend while dealing with the madness of the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney), whose word was law and who was determined to kill all wolves.

The animation here was beautifully drawn and was unlike most animation today. There was a rawness to the animation and it helped create the mood of the film. There is a simplistic feel to it, but I would argue that the animation was more than what it appeared. The character designs were wonderful and original, creating an amazing looking group.

The voice work is exceptional, especially from Sean Bean and Honor Kneafsey. It was filled with emotion and passion, as characters were forced into doing things that they did not really want to do. Sean Bean is fully tortured in what he had to do and what he felt he was inevitable.

There was a Studio Ghibli flair to this movie as well, as if Studio Ghibli told Irish tales. I have seen some criticism of the movie that the story is simplistic, but I do not necessarily agree with that. I will admit that I was never sure what was going to happen and I was uncertain about how events were going to play out, happily, tragic or some combination. That kept the stakes high.

Wolfwalkers on Apple + was a beautiful and exceptional animated film that can be enjoyed by the adults right alongside their children. It is most likely the best animated film of the year.

Now it’s your turn, Soul.

4.8 stars


Disney + has released a new family film on their streaming service this weekend starring Jillian Bell as a Fairy Godmother wannabe-in-training called Godmothered.

In the film directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones movies), Jillian Bell played Eleanor, the wide-eyed fairy who was in training to become a Fairy Godmother. She took the classes taught by Moira (Jane Curtin), who stuck to the old school philosophy of “happily ever after.” The demand for fairy godmothers were in short supply and their land was being threatened with closure.

Eleanor took it upon herself to find someone she could help in order to save the land. This led her into the life of Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) and her two daughters (Jillian Shea Spaeder & Willa Skye). Mackenzie was a widow having difficulty moving her life along and her feelings were affecting the lives of her children and her job prospects.

As is the wont of these films, this leads to shenanigans.

There is nothing special or original about Godmothered. Everything here has been seen before. Still, the film is sweet and sacchariney like a diabetic coma. You might get a tooth ache from all the sugary situations presented in this film.

Jillian Bell was good in her role. She fit nicely in the character and that commitment to the character of Eleanor helps with the weaknesses in the movie. June Squibb is here too (initially being the narrator, but giving that job up about 10 minutes into the film) and I always enjoy her. Jane Curtin is playing a depressed Professor Mcgonagall-type character that throws some roadblocks in Eleanor’s way (eventually)

The story did not stand out, but it was fine for what it was.

However, there are certainly worse movies that you could watch and Godmothered does have a decent message/theme. I could see this being a passable family film. While it does not transcend anything from this type of fairy tale genre, you could do worse. That may not be a rave review, but I did not hate watching it. For a Saturday night movie on Disney +, this is okay.

3 stars