Scene-Stealers Movie Reviews That Rock Mon, 22 May 2023 13:13:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scene-Stealers 32 32 ‘Fast X’ Drives The Ridiculous … and The Fun Fri, 19 May 2023 13:39:52 +0000 Post image for ‘Fast X’ Drives The Ridiculous … and The Fun

[Rating: Swiss Fist]

In theaters now.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has too much “family.” Since his cinematic saga began 22 years ago, he has expanded his crew, adopting everyone from the ex-LAPD police officer, Brian O’Connor (the late Paul Walker) all the way up to his formerly estranged brother, Jakob (John Cena). Almost everyone he encounters in the movies ends up on Dom’s team. The state of that family is threatened by a new villain (Jason Momoa) in the new movie, Fast X, when revenge is the motive and suffering is the game.

This franchise has definitely grown extremely long in the tooth with its high action but silly stunts and situations several movies ago. The unfortunate death of Paul Walker and the touching goodbye in Furious 7 gave a window of opportunity for moviegoers to see those chrome wheels spin into the sunset for the last time. But there’s money to be made, so the movies continued. In this tenth installment, the sins of the past try to catch up with Dom and the family, as the son (Momoa) of Hernán Reyes (see Fast Five for reference) seeks revenge not only for the death of his father but also for the vault of money the Toretto gang stole. This leads to a multi-location stitching of action sequences in between scenes with subpar dialogue.

There was laughter in my audience for moments that were meant to be taken seriously. But what do you come to a Fast and Furious movie for anyway? You come for the exotic locations, the unbelievable action scenes, and the cars. And they’re all here in this installment. There’s even a street-racing scene to try and recapture the essence of the first films, deluxe with NOS car boost and all. These attempts at bringing it back to the initial vibe of the original film are noteworthy and best of all, no cars in space, F9

After nine installments, the cast for this one is stacked with faces you’ve seen previously: Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Sung Kang all return. You also have new “family” members with the inclusion of Brie Larson and Rita Moreno. And this is hardly half the cast of star power. Unfortunately, none of them give a performance that’s memorable. That’s reserved for bad guy, Jason Momoa. He is downright fun in this one. It can be credited to the writing of his character as an eccentric psychopath with a bloodlust for suffering and revenge. But I think it’s what Momoa brings to the character. Sometimes you can tell when an actor is having a blast in a role and it’s apparent here. He takes total pride in all the evil things he does. And he does it with a Joker-like flair. If anything saves this movie from being another forgetful sequel, it’s him. 

Co-writer Justin Lin and director Louis Leterrier (the Transporter films) set this movie up to be the beginning of the end, all the way down to the mid-credits scene. By this point, you know what ridiculousness to expect from these movies. And if you’re in for the ride, and Momoa’s character sticks around, this franchise might end on a surprising upswing from where it’s been for the last decade. 

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‘Fast X’ is obnoxiously dumb “fun” Fri, 19 May 2023 12:17:58 +0000 Post image for ‘Fast X’ is obnoxiously dumb “fun”

[Rating: Swiss Fist]

Only in theaters.

I love the Fast and Furious movies. Total guilty pleasures. They are ridiculous. They are dumb. They are mindless. But they are fun, which makes them great. Well, not this new one. But as a franchise, I love the way this series just woke up one day and said, “I’m going to be ridiculous and crazy and I don’t care what anyone thinks”. That being said, “great” is a pretty strong and probably misleading word to use to describe Fast X, the astonishing tenth movie in the franchise that has spanned 20-plus years, all starting back in 2001 with the premise of, “what if we made Point Break except with street racers instead of surfers”?

Fast X goes back to the events of Fast Five (2011), which have finally caught up to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his furious family. Jason Momoa (Aquaman from the DC movie universe) plays Dante, the son of Reyes, the villain of Fast Five. He’s out for revenge because Dom’s crew killed his daddy — remember when they were dragging that safe around? That was awesome — So Dante is mad about that and he plans on taking it out on the family by blowing a bunch of stuff up and blaming it on Dom’s crew. The rest of the movie is cat and mouse, everyone is split up, on the run, being chased. In addition to Dante, they’re being hunted by this dude Aimes (Alan Ritchson, Aquaman from the WB Smallville TV universe). He’s in charge of whatever secret government organization Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) worked for. So they are once again “criminals on the run” but they’re also still heroes and superheroes and invincible, flying daredevils. There’s a lot going on. Also Brie Larson is just kinda thrown in there somewhere as Mr. Nobody’s daughter.

It’s kinda like Avengers: Infinity War in that it’s only the beginning (again) of the end. I’m not sure how many times these movies have been called “the first of a trilogy to end the franchise” by Vin — I feel like the first time was around the time of Furious 7, but I digress — but here we are in 2023 and Fast X is allegedly the first in a “studio requested” trilogy to end the franchise.

Everyone is back. Seriously. Almost everyone who has ever graced the screen is back for the tenth installment. Nobody dies, even the macguffins are surviving from movie to movie now. Of course, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is back. She gets some action stuff but little else to do. So then we got Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) back for comic relief. Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) is back because her character hasn’t died yet. Han (Sung Kang) is also back despite the fact he did die (in the third movie, FF: Tokyo Drift), which actually took place chronologically after the sixth movie, Fast and Furious 6, only to return unharmed in the last movie, F9: the Fast Saga. Oh, and Helen Mirren is back as Shaw’s mom because even the bad guy’s parents are in these movies. Then there is Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), who was Mr. Nobody’s sidekick in…one of them. (Note: Yes, these are actual character names.) Last but not least is the return slash debut of Dom’s kid, Little Brian — remember he had a kid with that Elena a couple of movies ago? — he’s played by Leo Abelo Perry. He’s 8 now and old enough to drive a car and kill bad guys apparently.

Returning villains who have since joined the crew include Shaw (Jason Statham, Furious 7) and Jakob Toretto (John Cena, F9). Also Cypher (Charlize Theron, Fate of the Furious, F9) comes back because she got away at the end of the last one. Even Mia (Jordana Brewster) is dragged back into the action and given literally nothing to do except be present and accounted for. The problem with her character continually returning is every time they bring her back it seems dumb that Brian (Paul Walker, RiP) isn’t with her.

Momoa shows up here and let me tell you, he is steals every scene he’s in. The dude came to play and he’s having fun being a bad guy. It’s clear he Googled over-the-top villains, did his research, and just threw a little bit of all of it into his performance. There’s a lot of Heath Ledger’s Joker, a bit of Gary Oldman’s Stansfield from Leon the Professional. He’s going to go into Fast X part 2 as the top ranked FF villain in the latest polls.

The action is once again…just crazy. Something is always going fast or blowing up or jumping off something to land on something. It’s madness and chaos and it hardly ever makes sense. Unfortunately a lot of it is CGI but it’s also fun to watch. It would be nice if this franchise made a point of using more practical effects because it’s always noticeable and it makes a difference. Besides, I’d love to see Vin actually drive a Charger down the slope of a dam and jump it. I bet Tom Cruise would do it.

Directed by Louis Leterrier (Transporter, Now You See Me) after Justin Lin bounced out over creative differences with Vin or the studio, this flick hits the gas and never taps the brakes. That being said, Fast X has it’s share of glaring problem. First off, at 2 hours and 20 minutes give or take, it’s about 30 minutes too long. Second, the cast is huge. Too huge. We all love the cast. They’re all great. — I forgot to mention Rita Moreno is in this too — But they don’t kill anyone off ever, right? So, there are never any real stakes. But at this point there are just too many characters and not enough for any of them to do. The second act gets pretty clunky trying to juggle all of these characters. And really, there isn’t enough plot to support any of them really. And then it all, just kinda ends, like in the middle of a scene, it just….is over. What is it called when a movie ends on a cliffhanger without actually bringing any of the storylines to a close? Unfinished? That might be the right word. So all this crazy shit happens and then it just ends like, “there’s gonna be another one, but we’re done here”. Um. Okay?

Fast X is one of the most ridiculous movies ever made. It’s packed with unbelievable plots, action and characters saying dialogue no one would ever say. But it’s fast, fun, and holy hell is it ridiculous. Do we need another serving? No. Will we take some? Sure, but let’s make sure we’re wrapping this up. Oh, and stick around for the mid-credits scene to see who is going to come in to save the day.

I went with the “Swiss Fist” on this one because while this is a terrible movie, it’s also the sum of everything that has led up to it and also I thought just having a fist up there by the poster made the most sense.


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“The Mother” Needs Family Therapy Fri, 19 May 2023 06:06:32 +0000 Post image for “The Mother” Needs Family Therapy

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

On Netflix now.

I feel like in the last few years, Jennifer Lopez has had a few movies just not work for me. Who was once a star of rom-coms that work very well, now stars in B-movies thrown onto more streaming services to get buried in the next weeks or so. Her latest film, The Mother (directed by Niki Caro) is J-Lo doing action, something she’s done before and familiar with.

However and overly long film and somewhat complicated and boring plot line leads this to a terrible mess with a godawful post that reflects the movie. 

An unnamed woman only known as The Mother (Lopez) works as a military operative. She brokers a deal of guns and ammunition (as a lot of these Netflix original movies seem to do these days) to Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes) and Hector Alvarez (Gael Garcia Bernal). However, when it is discovered that the men are doing much more than just smuggling arms, and instead using this all as a cover-up for human trafficking, the mother becomes an informant for the FBI.

She in turn as revenge is attacked by Lovell and it is revealed she is pregnant. To keep the mother safe from Lovell and any other advisory, the mother sends her newborn into hiding and secluded herself in Alaska in an attempt to protect her daughter. Years later however, her past comes back to bite and the mother has no choice but to protect the ones she loves. 

I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this in Lopez’s other film Enough from twenty years ago. I’ve seen this in maybe every other Netflix film in the last two years and I’m over it. I never once was interested in the plot of this. From the opening scenes that does one of my least favorite setup’s (putting us into a story where we should already know the people but don’t) to the way Lopez just looks and sounds like she’s forcing these words out, make it more exciting! 

Lopez is a good actress. It’s a shame she’s picking so many projects that are making her seem like somebody as an amateur because she’s not by far. The Mother is too familiar and with so many streaming movies, it’s following too many. 

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The New ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ Is An Airball Thu, 18 May 2023 16:43:40 +0000 Post image for The New ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ Is An Airball

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down]

Streaming on Hulu May 19.

A joyless, unfocused, and utterly uninspired remake of a movie that had all of that to spare, White Men Can’t Jump (2023) should have stayed on Hulu’s bench. Devoid of cultural relevance by way of its social commentary, sporting action, or humor, the movie also doesn’t have much in its leads, whose lack of chemistry is matched only by the movie’s non-existent enthusiasm for them (and basketball). Less of a sports buddy-comedy and more of a character study of two people with none to speak of, this one is a brick.

A cold open flashback introduces high school basketball phenom Kamal (Sinqua Walls), whose promising career is cut short by an off-screen incident that sees him hustling at gyms for spare change when he’s not working as a delivery driver a decade later. Kamal runs into the ostentatious Jeremy (Jack Harlow) during one such courtside shakedown, where the latter fleeces the former of $300 in a shooting contest. Jeremy’s long pants, detox juice, and socks/sandals combo mask his seasoned basketball history at Gonzaga, where a double ACL injury cut his career short (though not his desire to play).

Both men hide their court hustling (among other indiscretions) from their partners, yet each justifies it by hanging their hopes on a return to professional ball (and a potential better life for their families). Kamal pitches a partnership hustling at local courts to cover the buy-in for a two-on-two tournament, where victory could solve both his and Jeremy’s financial and personal problems. The pursuit also teases at a return to professional basketball for both men, which seems to be more important to them than the money and any relationship stability combined.

The basic outline of the film matches the 1992 version with just a few changes to the main characters and their backstories, so what doesn’t work about this movie has everything to do with the execution rather than the conceit. For starters, the interplay between Walls and Harlow is flat, humorless, and about as exciting as a job interview. The script admirably tries to give the audience something to care about with both, whether it is a pill problem or fatherhood troubles, yet too often these issues and their collateral damage become the focus of a story that should be about how fun it is to play (and be around) basketball.

And speaking of basketball: director Calmatic and the script treat the activity like a chore, or the vegetables that must be choked down to get to the next course. Like he did with Bull Durham and Tin Cup, director Ron Shelton imbued White Men Can’t Jump (1992) with a joie de vivre about the sport that celebrated the eccentricities and rough edges of the game. His version used basketball as a canvas upon which he sketched out and revealed the character of the leads and the world they occupied. This newest take on the material leans too heavily on two dudes whose dribbling and shooting is an afterthought to their shitty drama and unsuccessful comedy routines.

More than anything, though, the original brought the audience into the world of the sport, allowing them to feel like insiders amongst experts whose esoteric ball-speak was just familiar enough to remain accessible. Shelton’s use of basketball retained the fun while also making fans of all degrees feel like they could engage in the action, while Calmatic keeps everything largely clinical on a visual and emotional level.

The original also found a way to address issues of class and race without muddling the tone of the picture, which succeeded in remaining light throughout. Released a month before the Rodney King verdict, the 1992 version floated on a cloud of early-90s optimism that presumed the worst parts of this struggle were in the past. This allowed Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, and the movie the freedom to riff on a seemingly harmless series of stereotypes without treading too deeply into the implications behind them.

This new reboot inherits the name of its predecessor, and is forced to tread a similar thematic path, yet Jeremy’s clunky ramblings to Kamal about the latter’s assumptions/underestimation of white players fails to capture the humor or the relevancy this topic. And that’s fitting, too, because that sums up pretty much everything wrong with this remake, which fails to replicate (and doesn’t seem to understand) any of the factors that made the 1992 version successful. The chemistry between the leads can be measured in micro-units, the on-screen action is dull, the pacing is stilted, none of it is fun (or funny), and the movie has nothing to say.  

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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” A Worthy Finale Wed, 17 May 2023 00:54:32 +0000 Post image for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” A Worthy Finale

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Up]

We’ve all suffered the Marvel fatigue for the last few years in the post Endgame world. Movie after movie, and now streaming shows added into the mix has made this cinematic universe in my opinion, a mess.

However, there are at least a few beacons of hope to get me hyped for the next billion-dollar project. To me, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise just hits differently. James Gunn’s trilogy just makes me laugh and makes me care about these characters. Despite some hesitations, I’m happy to say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a grand and emotional finale to our intergalactic friends. 

Years after the events of Endgame, the Guardians Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) now protect from their outpost in Knowhere. They are attacked by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) as revenge for the events of Vol. 2. Warlock critically injures Rocket and tampers with his kill switch that prevents the guardians from saving their friend. It is determined that in order to save Rocket, they first must get aid from Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) who is an alternate timeline version after the events of Infinity War. The Guardians soon discover Rocket’s past at last. He was mutated by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) whose vision of a perfect world resulted in horrific animal mutations. His one goal is to destroy Rocket and the Guardians who interfere in his plans. 

While Rocket is unconscious waiting for his friends to save him, audiences finally learn of Rocket’s background. Without going into too much detail, while being experimented on by the High Evolutionary, Rocket befriends an otter Lylla (Linda Cardellini), a walrus Teefs (Asim Chaudhry) and rabbit Floor (Mikaela Hoover) who all dream of the perfect world the High Evolutionary has envisioned for them. 

What I liked about this was the fact it didn’t feel like a standard Marvel film. I think only a few movies before (most recently Wakanda Forever) make me feel like this. I wasn’t rolling my eyes at nonsense because the world of the Guardians is all nonsense and a whole lot of action.

Giving audiences the backstory of Rocket for the final film (maybe) in the franchise was a great move from Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay. It’s something worth waiting for and yes, something that made me cry. Also, how in the world this film doesn’t get praised and recognized more for its makeup and production design is beyond me. It’s incredible. One such location of a floating flesh planet is rich to the eyes with its very vibrant colors. 

If anything Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 might be one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not ashamed to say it because it made me feel like I was watching something from Marvel’s hey-day, which is the entirety of the Infinity series. This is the weird stepchild of a franchise that needs to find its way—and with these saviors of the universe, maybe it will again one day.

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“Book Club: The Next Chapter” Is No Bestseller Wed, 17 May 2023 00:50:21 +0000 Post image for “Book Club: The Next Chapter” Is No Bestseller

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

A BIG congratulations to Jane Fonda who stars her third film in just the first half of 2023. Along with Diane Keaton,Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, these brassy ladies take a trip to Italy in Book Club: The Next Chapter. There they find themselves of a certain age and get as drunk on wine as ever, forgetting all about the title of the movie and the titular books. 

When COVID struck the nation in 2020, book club friends Diane (Keaton), Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Bergen) and Carol (Steenburgen) took their club on Zoom. There, they could still talk about books, sex, and drink wine. Once they are able to get back in person again, it is announced that Vivian is set to marry Arthur (Don Johnson), a former flame she reconnects with in the first film. The girls decide it’s no time like the present to spend a girls trip away to Italy where they surprise Vivian by making the trip a bachelorette party.

In Rome, the ladies get to try on dresses and drink as much wine as they please. However, on their way to Venice, they come into some trouble when their bags are stolen. Despite this, they still have a good time, including Carol reconnecting with an old flame despite her better judgments and Sharon hooking up with a man she just met. Hey, when in Rome! Or Venice! Soon, the ladies’ hijinks will get the better of them and they’ll have to learn to accept their ages and their outcome in the future. 

Did any of you catch where they actually had a legitimate discussion over multiple books? Yeah me either. I get that the title is just supposed to show that this book club is a group of friends who do their thing, but why only have Steenburgen even bring up the book and how it’s influencing their lives? The book that does this by the way is The Alchemist. 

Just seeing that there was a sequel to a movie that was just so-so was already going to be an interesting experience. I hate that I didn’t care for this, given the cast is so stacked and talented. It needed more humor and you can definitely tell a lot of them (especially Keaton) seemed to be here for a paycheck.

Book Club should stick to reading and drinking at home. 

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“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” Answers the Call Tue, 09 May 2023 22:30:23 +0000 Post image for “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” Answers the Call

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Up]

In 1970 one book was so radical for young readers, it still appears on lists of the most challenged books. Judy Blume’s novel (FINALLY) turned film Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret enters a new era where the topics explored in Margarets world are still taboo. This teen dramedy explores the world of a young girl questioning her own life and if she’s moving too fast in growing up.

Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Forston) lives in New York City with her mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams) and father Herb (Benny Safdie). When the family announces dads new job is going to send them into the suburbs, away from even grandma Sylvia (Kathy Bates) Margaret has to adjust to this new life. She’s already going through her awkward phase as a sixth grader. When she meets Nancy Wheeler (Elle Graham) and her group of friends, Margaret soon discovers more about herself than she might feel comfortable. She is pulled into asking mom for a bra, wondering about when she’ll get her first period and worries about a neighborhood boy she likes. Barbara on the other hand, not used to domestic life, fills time doing job after job for the PTA in the hopes to find some happiness. Even Sylvia, missing her family vacations to Florida to hang with people her own age. Margaret then goes on a journey of self discovery when it is revealed her mother doesn’t speak to her own family based on religious differences.

I have never read this book, but believe me I raced to the Barnes and Noble next door to get a copy. I was hooked the second this started because of the light-heartedness of it all. Not once does it make you feel down about yourself. This film just makes you chuckle along and feel for this young girl who just wants to grow up, even if she doesn’t know what the hell that means. 

Director Kelly Fremon Craig who won me over with 2016s The Edge of Seventeen won me over with this. She understands the teen dynamic. No more are we getting the teen movies of the early 2000s that focus on teens losing virginity, but now we are getting sophisticated teen dramedies that make us think of when we were awkward teens. I’m so glad that when I saw this it was filled with an audience that reacted well. Check out this film as soon as possible, period.

“Somewhere in Queens” Everybody Loves Raymond Tue, 09 May 2023 22:29:51 +0000 Post image for “Somewhere in Queens” Everybody Loves Raymond

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

We’re at the time of the year for high school graduations where kids will go off to find their futures and find themselves. Parents will push them to want to do their best, but sometimes parents push their kids to do what the parents want them to do. In his directorial debut, Ray Romano gives us Somewhere in Queens about a family that has one shot to get their son out of a mundane future. 

Leo Russo (Romano) and his wife Angela (Laurie Metcalf) raise their son in Queens among their eccentric family of construction workers. Their son known as “Sticks” (Jacob Ward) has been shy and awkward all of his life. However, it is in basketball that Sticks really comes out of his shell. He’s noticed by a college recruiter and this one small moment sets Leo on a domino effect of what happens if Sticks could get into college and be something. This is sidestepped a bit when it is discovered Sticks is dating Dani (Sadie Stanley) and is head over heels for her. Sticks will do anything, even sacrifice a possible basketball career for Dani much to his parents dismay (especially Angela who has some hilarious one liners to describe Dani). Leo has to choose on who to make happy: himself or his son.

I personally thought this was a fine movie! Romano really likes to center stories around the family dynamic and for good reason. He knows how to attract audiences who go to this with their families (as I did) and to see a story that could connect to others. Plus it’s always great to see Laurie Metcalf in a film role which doesn’t happen enough these days! One aspect of this film I really didn’t care for, but I guess it’s a big driving force is that of Sticks and Dani. Yes, they are teenagers and Romano explores what happens if teens break up…but they’re annoying. They are both one dimensional characters who go through minimal motions and emotions while the adults are doing all of the heavy lifting! 

So, if you’re in the mood for a nice family drama here you go. Everybody loves Raymond and Laurie Metcalf and putting them together to talk smack about the world around them for the better of their son is a damn delight! 

“Peter Pan & Wendy” Doesn’t Soar Tue, 09 May 2023 22:29:04 +0000 Post image for “Peter Pan & Wendy” Doesn’t Soar

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

Now Streaming on Disney+

Disney, Disney, Disney. What are we going to do with you? If you’re not making actually good movies that people want to see and yet don’t see (looking at you Strange World), you’re throwing some mediocrity on the streamers for people to remember you made, but not watch because of the thousands of options. Disney’s latest remake in their list of running out of ideas is Peter Pan & Wendy. A re-telling of the 1953 film for a new generation. But in all honesty, who really cares anymore. 

Peter Pan is the classic story of the boy who won’t grow up and his adventures in Neverland. Our Peter (Alexander Molony) takes the Darling children Wendy (Ever Anderson – daughter of Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich), John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) to Neverland. Along with Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi) the story pretty much doesn’t change from what you already know. Lost boys (and a whole plot point of Peter having girls in the group too), Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatâhk) and of course Captain Hook (Jude Law) seeking his revenge on Peter. 

We’ve seen it, read it, experienced it, believed in it all before. Nothing new. 

What is new is a bit of the take on the story. As stated before the Lost boys are a mix of young boys and girls and Tiger Lily is actually not played by a white woman (much like Pan in 2015) but instead an Indigenous actor. Peter is also a bit defenseless and pushed toward the back of the story to make Wendy more of a heroic figure than a damsel in distress. She holds here own toward a melancholic Hook who gives a bit of backstory over why he hates Pan despite taking his right hand. 

With all that said, it’s fine. I wasn’t captivated because I grew up with the 1953 classic. Despite its NUMEROUS flaws, it’s a childhood fave. Not to mention the superb 2003 Peter Pan that I grew up with and adore. This was fine. I wasn’t enchanted by anything. Director David Lowery helmed the 2016 Pete’s Dragon which I wasn’t a huge fan of. For one thing, when I think of Neverland, I think of a bright magical place. This film was so dark, I had a hard time watching this during the day. Neverland has its life sucked out of it to keep it brown and gray colors. It needs a little pixie dust to give it some life. 

Disney needs some fresh ideas. They don’t listen to fans as long as they have money in front of them. The constant live action remakes are getting old as the second they started. We audience members have more and they’re just going to get worse and lack the life and joy the animated films provide. 

“The Pope’s Exorcist” Won’t Compel You Tue, 09 May 2023 22:28:30 +0000 Post image for “The Pope’s Exorcist” Won’t Compel You

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down]

2023 is the 50th anniversary of a particular horror film that popularized the world of demonic possessions, vomiting of pea soup and exorcists. Since then, it’s all pretty much gone downhill! In yet another version of “hey you know what movie the people want to see?!”, The Pope’s Exorcist (directed by Julius Avery) provides very little to the imagination on what it takes to give audiences an actual thrilling exorcist movie. Don’t even get me started on the accent of Russel Crowe

Based on a (alleged) true story, Father Gabriele Amorth (Crowe) the Pope’s personal exorcist is hired to visit a family in Spain. Mom Julia (Alex Essoe) and her two kids Amy (Laurel Marsden) and Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) have taken possession of a family home, which happened to be a former monastery. However, sinister events occur almost immediately which lead to young Henry being possessed by the evil that lurks in the basement of the house. Enter Amorth who, along with Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) have to face the demon head-on. Soon, they discover the past of the house and dive deep into the dark basement of the home to reveal the evil that lurks below. Amorth has to help this family before it is too late and evil unleashes its full force not only on the family, but on the world itself. 

This was literally nothing I haven’t seen before. It’s cheesy to the point I laughed when I first heard the forced Italian accent of Crowe and it’s not even scary. Every “scare” in this has been found in countless exorcism movies for the past four decades. It was more of a chore in getting through this than anything. An interesting note is that the real Father Amorth is the subject of William Friedkin’s The Devil and Father Amorth which itself isn’t very good either. Maybe the Pope’s personal exorcist (not to be confused with the pope’s personal exerciser – his fitness guru) shouldn’t be the subject of two movies that go nowhere. In this I found more homages to The Conjuring and that universe that I should have. 

Does Russell Crowe really need to make a movie like this in 2023? The Pope’s Exorcist is so riddled with cliches it’s not even funny! And yet, the audience was packed because “scary” movies are just something we want to see even though most times, they are a painful slog to get through. 

Come and Get Your Love-ly Trilogy: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Ends on a High Note Fri, 05 May 2023 14:34:31 +0000 Post image for Come and Get Your Love-ly Trilogy: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Ends on a High Note

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

In theaters May 5th

People are going to head to the theaters for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 expecting yet another mindless romp through comic book escapism, not at all ready for the emotional tidal wave that’s barreling towards them. Granted, this MCU series has always boasted more heart than its peers, but Vol. 3 takes it to a whole other level, ripping the guts out of viewers who aren’t remotely prepared for this. Cashing in the full measure of well-earned pathos that comes from investing in character over spectacle, this final chapter of the Guardians trilogy is maybe the best of the bunch, and proves that this genre is at its finest when focusing on its own story rather than the connected universe it (theoretically) must feed.    

Director James Gunn has made source music as much a character as any of his leads throughout this trilogy, and that’s no different in Vol. 3, which opens with Radiohead’s “Creep” (the acoustic version from the “My Iron Lung” EP…a great pull) as a framing device to catch the audience up on everything. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still reeling from the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), whose return from the dead in Avengers: Endgame didn’t lead to a romantic reunion between the two. Her absence has handicapped the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are effectively leaderless on the ship/plant Knowhere when the lab-grown super-being, Warlock (Will Poulter), catches up to them.

Warlock is fighting on behalf of a gold-skinned species (The Sovereign) that ran afoul of the Guardians in Vol. 2, and are trying to get their revenge while simultaneously doing the dirty work of an unethical bioengineer known as The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). The High Evolutionary created Rocket (Bradley Cooper) some years ago and wants him back, and Warlock’s attempts to see this through via a two-for-one revenge-favor combo nearly lead to Rocket’s demise. The modifications that the High Evolutionary made to Rocket hinder all attempts at medical aid, however, so it’s up to Quill and the rest of the Guardians to find the information needed to crack Rocket’s bio codes and save him.

It’s all pretty straightforward and is a welcome relief from the endless series of doomsday, universe-collapsing stakes that have defined the MCU in many of the most recent installments. The Guardians are really just trying to save their buddy throughout the course of Vol. 3, and while more collateral damage pops up to raise the stakes, at its core, this is a movie about friends trying to save their friends (in both the A and B-stories). Flashbacks to rocket’s past as the victim of genetic manipulation and testing drive this home (and then some), adding no shortage of iron to the movie’s emotional glove.

And good golly…does that glove ever connect. The greatest strength of this franchise is the consistency and connective tissue that binds it together, and once again, Gunn harvests rich drama, humor, and buy-in from the events of previous installments. This isn’t like an Iron Man movie, where one installment has Tony blowing up all of his suits, and the next shows him with a warehouse full of them, or a Captain America installment, where the lead is just a conduit for larger world building and back-door piloting for other, less-interesting characters. The Guardians series has always been about the journey of its characters first and foremost, and Vol. 3 saves the best for last. Rocket’s place as the primary focus of both the secondary and primary plots establishes an emotional and thematic framework for the trilogy writ large, and pays off not just the arc of his character over the course of half a dozen MCU appearances, but all of the Guardians up to this point.

It’s a clever feat, and one that works because Gunn is interested in just these characters and this world. This also allows Vol. 3 the time needed to close the emotional loop for each of the primary cast and even the secondaries, too: allowing series mainstays like Drax (Dave Bautista) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) to get similar closure as Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and even Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova). Granted, none of the action scenes are reinventing the wheel, here (if you’ve seen one spinning-camera Quill and Groot shoot-out, you’ve seen them all), and somehow Pratt is getting less and less interesting throughout each installment, but the work of the rest of the cast and Rocket’s story more than make up for any of this.

Defined by the heart and character work that has made this one of the strongest pillars of the MCU, and supplemented by an origin story that is going to gut audiences the world over, Vol. 3 closes this franchise out on the highest of high notes. Scored to yet another banging soundtrack that is aging right along with the characters, and benefitting from a script and consistent direction that keeps its characters front and center, the Guardians finish their run just as they began it: on their own terms and utterly unconcerned with the adventures of others. It’s a lesson the MCU would be wise to learn from, even if all evidence hints otherwise. Like a space orphan trying to make a name for himself as “Star Lord,” one can dream big, though.  

“Evil Dead Rise” is Bloody Good Mon, 01 May 2023 16:37:47 +0000 Post image for “Evil Dead Rise” is Bloody Good

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

My experience with the Evil Dead franchise has been a rocky relationship. My resentment towards not getting invited to the musical version in high school by my friend group made a lasting impact on the bloody franchise and its gore fest of fright. I have since gotten over it and think that Sam Raimi’s films are great. It’s sinisterly delicious that a new franchise has spawned and offers a new round of shock value. Evil Dead Rise (directed by Lee Cronin) takes the evil out of the woods and into the big city to create its new nightmare. 

Band groupie Beth (Lily Sullivan) takes a surprise trip to visit her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) in Los Angeles. Ellie lives with her three kids Danny (Morgan Davies), Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Kassie (Nell Fisher) in a run down, near condemned high-rise in an already seedy neighborhood. The two sisters haven’t seen each other in years and this reunion was a long time coming. After a major earthquake that traps the three kids briefly in the basement parking garage. The earthquake ripped a hole in the ground and the kids discovered an entrance to a bank vault (the high rise was once a bank). Inside the vault, Danny discovers crosses, vinyl records and a tomb with a strange book inside. Upstairs, Danny, curious as to what is on the vinyls, plays them and as any fan of this franchise knows…don’t play the records! 

What happens next and almost immediately is sheer chaos as now, Ellie has succumbed to the evil forces that the book processes. The children and Beth play a game of cat and mouse in the apartment. The bad news is, the earthquake and the force of evil have destroyed any chance of escaping the top floor of their building. Can they outwit their mom or face even more evil than humanly possible? 

Evil Dead Rise is a pretty good return to form for this franchise. I wasn’t a huge fan of the 2013 film because I felt it was too excessive in the gore (which is kind of weird to think). This flick had way too much exposition for its own (I get it, sisters haven’t seen each other in years…family therapy…)good but once evil takes over Ellie, things go bad real quick. I loved all of the bloody ideas that Cronin has thrown in here to make skin crawl and heart rates increase.

Pay close attention to a scene involving a cheese grater that I was actually nauseous with! This film also does a good job in bringing back the nostalgia of the original franchise and throwing in a few easter eggs. One such easter egg involving the elevator is spot on that I pointed at the theater screen in sheer delight! 

This movie doesn’t need to be hyper-aware of what it is, because its main purpose is for audiences to have fun and scream a bit. And guess what? It does just that. Even in the opening scene, this movie gets you good right off and wants to keep you on your toes and will not let go until every drop of blood is spilt.

“Beau is Afraid” and So Am I Mon, 01 May 2023 16:36:15 +0000 Post image for “Beau is Afraid” and So Am I

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down]

I’m just going to get into it but what the fuck did I just watch? Beau is Afraid is the third feature from Ari Aster who clearly has a lot of family issues after what we have seen in Hereditary and Midsommar. Beau is Afraid is yet another in a long line of mommy issue movies that are made instead of seeking out therapy. I don’t know Aster’s life, and yet, this movie is off the wall bonkers and makes so damn sense. So let’s get into it. 

Beau Wasserman (Joaquin Phoenix) is an anxious man living in an already anxious environment. His neighborhood is filled with people who want to hurt him and his entire life is one panic attack after the next. He prepares to visit his mother (Patti Lupone) for the anniversary of his fathers death, but a series of events prevents him from even leaving his apartment. When he discovers his mother was killed in a freak accident, he sets himself to travel to her no matter what it takes. In his quest he is hit by a food truck run by Grace (Amy Ryan). Grace and her husband Roger (Nathan Lane) take Beau in to aid in his recovery. More and more things ensue so that Beau can’t get home just yet. From there, Beau escapes these two and their insane daughter Toni (Kylie Rogers). Beau is now on a quest to get back home no matter what it takes. 

And it takes a lot…

But what exactly does it take, I am not sure. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a drama or a comedy. The events with Grace and Roger are incredibly uncomfortable that I could feel for Beau in every regard. Once he leaves the “safety” of their house, things go bonkers. A traveling acting company makes Beau examine his life in the past, present and future and then Beau makes it home and more shit happens all in a three-hour ride. 

And what a wasted three hours this is…

I don’t normally complain about a long movie, but when a three hour movie wastes every single second by confusing its audience, then what’s the point? There’s no substance to this except mom issues. I don’t care what this movie is supposed to say because frankly I don’t care. I saw it with only two other people in the audience and they were with me and their general reaction was a huge what the fuck?! Beau’s odyssey is a nightmare that you (and probably Beau) want to forget as soon as possible. 

I Am Your “Mafia Mamma” Fri, 21 Apr 2023 18:05:50 +0000 Post image for I Am Your “Mafia Mamma”

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

There’s a new Don in town and she’s here to take names, drink wine, and bake muffins. And she’s all out of wine.

In the best way possible, Toni Collette stars in a new fun feature, Mafia Mamma that will give any mob boss a run for their money. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, this silly tale of a housewife turned mafia boss is a riot. 

Kristin is a middle-aged housewife who becomes an empty-nester and who is separating from her cheating husband. She receives a call from Bianca (Monica Bellucci) across the globe in Italy, saying that her late estranged grandfather has passed away. Seeing this as an opportunity to deal with her life and have an Italian getaway a lá Eat, Pray, Love, Kristin travels to Italy. Right off the plane, she meets Lorenzo (Giulio Corso) who sweeps her off her feet. 

After arriving at her family’s villa, she learns that her grandfather wasn’t just a winemaker, but part of the Italian mob. It was his dying wish that she take over the family business to prevent war between various families. Kristin in a comedy of errors fulfills her grandfather’s wishes. She also sees that she’s happier in Italy than she ever has been and wants to help her family’s legacy in more than one way. She begins to revamp the wine business and use a pharmaceutical line as the cover for her not-so-shady dealings. Kristin must make a choice to leave the family business and return back to her mundane suburban life or stay in Italy where it seems she’s most happy and in love with Lorenzo. 

Nobody said a movie had to have much substance to it and indeed, Mafia Mamma has none. Instead, it’s a movie that you just go see to go see and have a lot of fun with it. Toni Collette is fucking good in this because she is good in anything she does. She’s been on a streak lately of getting roles where she can have fun, so I’m still going to love her. 

There are plenty of Godfather references thrown into this movie and all for the better to make this silly romp through Italy something I could watch again just to have a chuckle. I audibly gasped to see how this movie decided to end. If you’ve seen The Godfather, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

“Renfield” is a Tale of Two Nics Sat, 15 Apr 2023 17:17:47 +0000 Post image for “Renfield” is a Tale of Two Nics

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up]

“I’m a vampire!”

“I’m a vampire!” 

Those immortal words rang through the 1988 film Vampire’s Kiss and now, 35 years later, Nicolas Cage finally gets to be the vampire he was destined to be. Renfield (directed by Chris McKay) tells the story of the Counts familiar (Nicholas Hoult) and his quest to break up from the vampire’s relationship and live his own fulfilling life in modern times. 

Renfield has been a constant assistant and companion to Dracula for the last 100 years or so. He’s gone through leaps and bounds to ensure his master is always kept alive but the blood of innocents, but as any underpaid employee will tell you, there’s a time where you just gotta tell the boss enough is enough. In modern day New Orleans, Renfield still tramps the city finding his master victims, but to much dismay. When a chance encounter with a local gang led by Tedward Lobo (Ben Schwartz) and his mother Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo) sends shockwaves around a mysterious man who has supernatural powers, Renfield seeks the aid of Rebecca (Awkwafina) a cop who wants to take down the Lobos for killing her father. 

Renfield wants to help Rebecca because she sees him as a person and not just a piece of meat like Dracula does. Renfield has a moment of self-discovery from his emotional support group that maybe it is time to leave Dracula high and dry and live his own fulfilling life. That is of course, until the old vampire boss has a goal of his own without the use of his emotional assistant. 

This semi-silly movie is unfortunately spoiled all throughout the trailer. Because I go to movies so much…the trailer gives most everything away. All of the funny bits and bobs are only when Cage is on screen gracing us with the kind of over-the-top performance that he is so good at. Renfield and Rebecca just sitting and talking isn’t the most interesting thing in the world and that’s what a lot of this is, even in its short runtime. I really dug the fighting scenes because they finally deliver – a high-energy laugh-out-loud movie, like we were promised. 

The honest-to-goodness best part of this is the total homage to the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula film that I think was given some nice justice instead of used for just a cheap trick. That made me actually smile and remember that above anything else. 

Overall, I wish we had gotten a straight-up modern-day Dracula story and not the story of Renfield. I know Universal is wanting to do more fun things with their monster IP, but focusing on the assistance and putting capital CAGE in the background seems like a silly thing to do.