Movie Reviews 2022

Moon Rock for Monday (NR)

Now and then Australia pops out some mighty entertaining movies. From the Mad Max films to Crocodile Dundee. Yeah, Crocodile Dundee was an Australian film, not a Hollywood film. And a surprising number of big Hollywood movie stars are actually Australian. Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Morgot Robbie, to name a few.

We might have a new one to watch out for. Newcomer Ashlyn Louden-Gamble is a 13-year-old girl with stunning blue eyes that might even remind you of Nicole Kidman. A more fair comparison eyes-wise would be actress Alexandra Daddario. Eyes that jump off the screen. 

The story follows a girl named Monday, living in Sydney in 1999. (Placing the movie in that era kills off any cell phone storyline issues.) Her father named her Monday because she was born on a Monday. Her pet rabbit’s name is, “Rabbit.” So you know this is going to be a quirky story right out of the gate.

Monday is homeschooled by her dad because she suffers from an unnamed immune system disorder. So in essence she doesn’t get out much. But unlike the dozens of other movies with a handicapped character plot device, it’s not played for sympathy votes here. Monday doesn’t want to continue taking the daily pills with nasty side effects that make her feel sick. She just wants to live life feeling good every day.

But what Monday really wants, and believes, is that that if she travels 1,700 miles NW to the “Moon Rock” in Australia, it will cure her when she touches it. So a better description would be that this is a Quest movie.

Uluru is the famous sacred Australian site she’s referring to. You might want to Google “Uluru photos” to get a feel for the giant landmark.

We also follow a young man who robs a jewelry store with a gun and then goes on the run from the law. In a strange twist of mutual-benefit opportunities, Monday joins up with the thief which allows him a better chance of escape and puts her on a road trip (an “excursion,” as she calls it) to the Moon Rock. 

It’s mighty enjoyable for the viewer to watch these two stumble their way northward. It’s perfectly cast. Not a chance in hell you’re going to turn it off at any point. There’s a reason this independent film won all kinds of awards at the film festivals.

They meet some fairly interesting characters along the way. That might be the weakness of the film as they’re thin characters at best, but it does add some length to the enjoyable story. 

At one point the thief admits he doesn’t know how to read, but minutes later the two of them are playing the child’s game “I Spy” while driving down the road. I don’t think you can play that game if you’re illiterate. But it’s a small quibble. 

One thing I learned from the movie is that flies are endless in the Outback. There are a lot of scenes where the flies were swarming all over the actor’s faces during the scenes. You really have to be a good actor to keep delivering your lines in a professional manner with flies trying to enter your mouth and sip moisture from the corners of your eyes. I suspect the rest of the film crew was wearing beekeeper helmets. 

If you have trouble with the thick Australian accents there’s always subtitles. That’s what I did.

We need more original stories like Moon Rock for Monday in our lives. This one will stay with you.
– Wait for Rental 

Top Gun: Maverick (PG-13)

I rented the 1986 Top Gun movie a few days back to see if the original stood the test of time. In other words, was it really as good as my memory served? 

It’s still a good movie. It held up well. So I prepared myself for this highly touted sequel that is supposedly better than the original. Better? Really? Could they really pull that off? Sequels are rarely better.

The short answer is, yeah. They pulled it off. It is better than the original, and that’s saying something. Tom Cruise still has box office mojo. He can deliver the goods. And this one will tug at your emotions.

This time we get a UN representation cast of all types of young men (and women) representing the “best” naval pilots in the USA who are Top Gun worthy. YMMV. A lot of the scenes mirror the original script, sometimes annoyingly so. 

The first film had shirtless guys playing beach volleyball – I guess for the women moviegoers. This new version has the co-ed cast (shirts on some of them because of the co-ed thing) playing beach football. Not sure that was necessary in a 2:11 length movie, but OK. At least they give a reason for it this time. 

Val Kilmer is the only returning star other than Cruise. In real life Kilmer has battled throat cancer leaving him unable to eat without a feeding tube and speaking is supposedly done using electronics. I applaud the way they handled it in this film. Nuanced. Respectful. 

In this follow-up to the first film Maverick is moved to the Top Gun facility to train these young pilots to perform a miracle mission like something out of Mission Impossible. Only with jets.

That’s enough info to send you on your way to the theater. The relationships are well fleshed out, the stakes are high and the jet scenes plenty exhilarating. And the ending… it’s well done.

The ending is why you should see this film immediately before others blab about it. Maybe you’ll figure it out, or anticipate it. Maybe you won’t. But you’re only guessing.
– See it on the Big Screen

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (R)

Nicholas Cage stars in his wackiest role yet (which is saying a lot!) by playing himself in a film that tackles his strange need to take any movie role offered to him while trying to keep his family close at the same time – as well as then playing an action role within the actual movie we are watching about him.

If that sounds confusing it should. I can only imagine the insanely described movie pitch that got this movie funded for production. 

In short, it works… if you like Nicolas Cage. Which is basically the test as to whether this film is for you or not. It hasn’t performed well financially at the box office so that’s got to be a blow to Cage’s ego if he’s keeping score using that litmus test. 

Tiffany Haddish is horribly cast in the requisite minority role. But the movie also has a young actress playing Cage’s teen-age daughter. She adds some necessary (grounding) realism to the film and plays so well off of Cage that I thought she just might be Cage’s real daughter. She’s not. She’s Lily Mo Sheen, Kate Beckinsale’s daughter in real life. So there’s that nugget.

The less you know going in, the better. If you’re a Cage fan, I’d skip the trailers and detailed descriptions of the movie and just go for it.
– Wait for Rental 

The Innocents (NR)

A very slow moving Norwegian tale of mean-spirited young kids with strange powers that they use for evil deeds. You wouldn’t want any of them in your neighborhood. 

The main star is a little girl who is double-jointed. Not much strange power there, at least at first. But good grief is she mean to the core. Her older sister plays a helpless autistic kid (a lot of that going on in today’s films). The actress isn’t autistic in real life so she’ll probably get industry demerits for that. 

Then we have a brown-skinned young boy and girl. The girl is afflicted with vitiligo, an inherited disease that has caused large patches of her skin to have white patches (see movie photo above). She has vitiligo in real life, so perhaps that cancels out the other actress “acting” like she has autism. The two brown kids have supernatural powers like the autistic girl. Because as we have all learned from movies, these types of people are super-duper special.

The biggest flaw with the film is that these kids play such awful people. Examples include killing animals. They even torture and kill a cat, with a few scenes I’d consider over-the-top for any cat lovers out there. People probably left the theater or turned off the rental after seeing such things. It’s one thing to hear about it, it’s quite another to witness it. People around these kids are tragically burned and bones shattered. It’s not done in a way that we’ve seen before (and somewhat accepted) with such movies as Saw, Final Destination or even the sick Eli Roth films like Hostel. This is somehow worse.

It’s hard to explain why it’s worse, but I think it comes down to context. There just isn’t much of that here. Other movies have lots of interesting and inventive locations to take us to, and they develop the characters until we care about them. That’s important with such films. Here it’s just evil little kids who are unable to drive or go anywhere, so they just hang around their boring little neighborhood and do evil things to each other and anything around them. The budget might have been $2,000 by what we see. 

These characters are such worthless souls that it would have made a much better film to simply burn all four of them at the stake at the 45 minute mark and leave the audience applauding.  

To add insult to injury, another tragic flaw that has afflicted too many movies since Marvel dumbed everyone down is that we get no explanation of how these kids got their powers. How can that be? Why only these four kids? No one knows? Do the writers even know? Or care? I can’t believe audiences just buy into everything these days as if there are no laws of nature or precedent. It’s sad. We’re not sixth-graders. We deserve better. 

This film got a 95% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I can only assume it’s because of the super-duper, diverse casting. Good grief, the world had gone completely off the rails.

(In Norwegian language with clear English subtitles)

V/H/S/94 (R)

This is one in a series of low budget “found video” movies where we are supposedly watching VHS footage (from 1994) of horrific happenings (usually involving gore). I haven’t seen any of the previous V/H/S titled films. From this example I’m not going to race to see the earlier releases.

Right out of the gate it’s poorly scripted and poorly acted and I thought to myself, Oh my God, what did I just rent? Then much later (one hour in) it took a turn for the better when the plot changed and the special effects were outstanding. How can that be?

It’s not until the credits roll that you see they used multiple writers and directors for each of multiple stories or segments of the film. The lame (and long) section titled “Storm Drain” was written and directed by newcomers Jennifer Reeder and Chloe Okuno. That explains it. As weak as you would expect from the outset. 

Simon Barrett wrote and directed the segment, “The Empty Wake.” It’s OK. Timo Tjahjanto wrote and directed, “The Subject.” It works best of all. Insane use of special effects. Like, how on earth did they do that? special effects. The “Terror” section, about a rural anti-government militia was written and directed by Ryan Prows. Crazy idea and shocking, but it works for what it is – on a low budget.

Throughout the entire movie of multiple stories (all based on the found footage idea) they overuse the added effect of old beat up videotapes that had been played too many times, with with lines showing across the screen where the tracking knob would obviously need adjustment to clean up the picture. It makes it look as if we Boomers suffered for decades with crappy VHS picture quality because none of us knew where the tracking knob was. (Sigh).

They also want viewers to believe that we had our VCRs and VHS video cameras (using massive VHS cassette tapes) running on battery power all the time. They forget that portable batteries sucked in 1994 and only allowed for short camera recording times. We always plugged in when filming things like plays or performances of any kind. 

Here, when the power goes out at a funeral home many hours into the casket viewing time, the multiple VHS cameras being used to record the wake for posterity keep right on recording. Anyone alive back in 1994 would laugh at that idea.

With only one solid segment that really stands out I just can’t recommend it.

Corrective Measures (NR)

Just when you thought the movie delivery fragmentation issue couldn’t get any worse, this is a “Tubi Original” movie starring Bruce Willis that’s available only on the free streaming service (commercials!) called Tubi.

With the new knowledge that Willis is suffering mental issues (aphasia), the last bunch of movies he’s released now make sense. He wasn’t just phoning it in for cash. The man has literally lost his ability to think and remember his lines. Armed with that new info it’s like witnessing a car wreck to watch him try to get through a movie over the last couple years. 

He’s a bit more coherent in Corrective Measures than he was in Fortress (released in 2021). If you want to see someone in a total Alzheimer’s state of mind, Fortress (an awful movie anyway) is painful to watch – because of Willis and his deer in the headlights acting. It’s reported that most of the time he didn’t even know why he was on the movie set or what he was supposed to be doing at any given time. Almost sounds illegal to use a star like that. But he wasn’t accused of abusing any women, in a profession littered with such career-ending land mines, so his career just continued on autopilot while everyone around him made money off his name, including his wife. Shameful.

Corrective Measures is billed as Sci-Fi, Action, Mystery & Thriller – but it’s played like a cartoon (or comic book) comedy so I don’t know why they try to hide that fact. A bit like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

We see enhanced humans like a really low budget Guardians of the Galaxy (none of the crazy-looking freaks are shown on the movie poster). Anyone possessing mutant genes that make them into super powerful people lands them into this super-duper, supermax prison where they are stripped of their powers and abused by a comical warden (played by Micheal Rooker). We’re supposed to enjoy the ride as we watch these genetic freaks deal with each other (fight) and bicker with the warden and his angry guards.

This film was directed by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, a Canadian comic book magnate. Yeah, you read that right. It’s based on the Corrective Measures comic book series. Yippee! So if you’ve spent your whole life collecting and peddling comic books and watching cartoons nonstop (no judging), this might be your favorite movie of 2022. It wasn’t mine – and it’s FREE to watch on Tubi, over and over, as many times as you want! 
– AVOID! (Unless you want to see Willis in mental decline.)

The Contractor (R)

Chris Pine stars in The Contractor, a serviceable revenge movie suitable for rental. It’s slow out of the gate and you’ve seen the same paint by numbers script done a dozen times before, many of them better than this one. But revenge movies always make for a fun formulaic ride which is why so many of them are made.

Not much storyline to explain. A discharged soldier (Pine) is down on his luck financially and decides to work as a hired “contractor” doing whatever he’s told to do based on his tactical training as a soldier. His team of contractors are sent to Germany to collect things from a secret lab and things go badly. Then it turns out there is a double-cross boss situation going on.

Like I said, we’ve seen this scenario countless times. There is also an annoying use of shaky-cam during super close-ups of people’s faces when they are merely speaking to one another. To the point of inducing nausea. It would be less bothersome when watching at home on TV.

One thing that stands out:
I like that all the shooters, good guys and bad guys can aim and main characters actually sustain gunshots from automatic weapons. 

The things that are eye-rollers:
Shame that some get shot with automatic weapons and heal to “perky” in 8 hours or so.  

Any time you see anyone talking on a satellite phone just know that like all satellite devices they ONLY work with a direct view of a clear sky above. They won’t work with trees above you and they certainly don’t work indoors. They won’t even work if it’s raining hard.

One of the main characters has a handicapped kid in a wheelchair. The actor playing that part really does have cerebral palsy among other issues. That checks a huge Hollywood box that lets the filmmaker off the hook for the other usual handful of P.C. boxes they are supposed to check to get a movie made in today’s world. Because of that the rest of the cast is refreshingly realistic and convincing.

But the moral lesson at the film’s finale is contrived: 
Real countries don’t purposely release pandemic viruses. China does, repeatedly. The H1N1 Bird Flu (Swine Flu) and SARS came out of China. Then the Wuhan virus sprung up in Wuhan, China. The Chinese Communist Party knew they had a new killer respiratory virus on their hands and blocked all Wuhan residents from traveling domestically within China. That should (could) have been the end of it. But instead, the CCP allowed those same Wuhan residents to travel overseas with no restrictions during Chinese New Year, spreading the deadly Wuhan virus worldwide within weeks. 

To make it look as if other countries are working to do the same thing is pure Hollywood fantasy. Only China purposely does that.
– Wait for Rental 

Ride Till I Die (NR)

This film covers the life story of Ricky Ringer, a famous championship bull rider. He’s never won the “big one” (think Super Bowl or Gold Medal). So as his career winds down as he ages himself out of this young man’s sport, can he finally grasp that winning season?

Just to get this out of the way at the top, this is not bull fighting. These 2,000 pound bulls are not hurt or killed in rodeos. The riders are hurt. Badly. Nightly. So there’s no reason to shy away from this sport on “animal rights” grounds. Bulls are ornery animals. Riding them is hard as hell. 8 seconds is as long as anyone goes for – then they desperately try to get off. 

It’s a huge sport in the south, not so much in the northern US. So I’m guessing most people are not familiar with the life of a rodeo bull rider. It’s a job. Just like cashiers. Truck drivers. Accountants. 

Bull Riding. It’s a full-time job. Who knew?

With full access given, this documentary covers the life of these cowboys really well. We see the toll it takes on their bodies, in vivid detail. We also see the toll it takes on their families. It’s a slice of life most of us have never thought about. That makes for quite a film. 

If there is a major shortcoming it’s this:
They don’t spend time explaining the scoring process for this sport. Especially for a sport that few watch or understand in the grand scheme of world sports. 

It’s more than just staying on a bull the longest during the night of contestants. Your “form” counts too. Reading up on it afterward I see that the bulls are also scored on each ride. Again, who knew? It would have been great to hear this stuff thoroughly explained by either Ricky Ringer or a scoring official. To me it seems to be similar to ice skating or gymnastic competitions where the scores are mighty subjective. It’s especially tricky to score the bulls because they have no idea they’re being scored. Hard to really shine when you don’t even know why you’re at the event. 

Ricky Ringer is a good ol’ boy, cowboy. A likable guy and family man who lives to ride bulls. He’s had brutal Evel Knievel injuries. But keeping it real, with all the smoking going on I’d guess most of these cowboys die from lung cancer. As with any documentary, the filmmakers have to roll the dice as to whether there will be a big payoff moment or not after years of filming their stories. You’ll have to watch to find out how this one ends. 

This went straight to streaming. 
– Wait for Rental

Ambulance (R)
{Photo insert above, from right to left: Eiza González, Jake Gyllenhaal and black Superman.}

This is the most laughably ridiculous movie Hollywood has released since, well let’s see – the first Hollywood movie was released back in 1910. So Ambulance is the most laughably ridiculous movie since 1910. Not to say it’s not a thrill ride (it’s directed by Michael Bay) it’s just absurd from all angles. 

The main draw actors are Jake Gyllenhaal and Mexican singer/actress Eiza González (the tough wife of Jon Hamm in Baby Driver).

Let’s start with the good stuff. Just as in Baby Driver, Eiza González delivers some great scenes, here at the start and end of the movie. She plays EMT Cam Thompson who we quickly find to be a deep and interesting character. It’s standout stuff that shows she’s the real deal and worthy of bigger roles ahead. The middle (hour+) section of the movie is so over the top ridiculous that there’s really no judging anyone in the cast during that lengthy gobbledygook of political correctness and anti-physics. (Lots more on that later).

But Eiza González’s first few scenes and last scene of the movie are showcases of stellar acting. Eiza and a little girl play out scenes that might make your eyes well up with tears if you’re susceptible to such things in movies. Jake Gyllenhaal is Jake Gyllenhaal. If you know who he is you needn’t hear more about his role. The guy can flat-out act as the “bad seed” brother.

Then you’ve got Michael Bay at the helm of the picture, pulling all the strings. Love him or hate him (lots of folks in both camps) the guy could film the slow process of draining maple syrup from maple trees with a gazillion camera shots and angles to make you believe it’s actually exciting to watch those boring drizzles of amber. 

Here Bay has the cameras endlessly swooping around like a hummingbird on an acid trip giving the audience seemingly impossible shots from impossible angles with impossible swift and precise focus. Dare I say the camerawork and constant explosions are just enough to keep you from walking out of the theater as the story insults your intelligence for over an hour.

The very shortened explanation of the story is that a little black boy became best friends with a little white boy in the inner city. The white kid’s parents adopt the little black boy so they became “brothers.” We immediately fast forward to current day where the black kid has grown-up and is struggling in life while his white brother seems to be doing very well. Real world stuff. (You can just hear the Hollywood writers going to town on their laptops, gearing up to push their agenda of “opposites” within minutes. The ideas they expect us to swallow as this story unfolds get completely out of hand).

To get money for his wife and child, the black brother gets talked into robbing a bank by his bad white brother. The heist goes terribly wrong and the brothers end up carjacking an ambulance with two hostages trapped inside, a shot cop and Cam, the female EMT. 

It’s then an endless chase movie similar in length to the original movie Speed. Except this is one hundred times less believable than Speed. As Cam tries to save the life of the twice shot cop, the ambulance is swerving and dodging obstacles (mostly hundreds of cop cars) and weaving around like only a Hollywood stunt driver could achieve (or the good black brother in this story) – with zero damage to the humans riding in the back of the ambulance. For hours. Anyone in the back of that ambulance would be thrown around and broken into pieces like Evel Knievel. Except they’d die from the trauma long before the story ended.

The Hollywood writers don’t miss a trick. A little old Asian lady accidentally getting into the elevator with the big bad criminals? Yep. A tent city of California homeless people in the background of multiple shots? Yep. Gay men kissing? You bet. 

Hundreds (possibly a thousand – because it’s a Michael Bay film) of white men keystone cops, driving and flying helicopters as if they are sixth graders who have stolen the vehicles. For hours we watch as they can’t shoot straight (with automatic weapons) nor can they set up roadblocks or stay on the roads. The cops crash into literally everything imaginable, often rolling out of the smashed cars like circus clowns to keep the rating away from a slaughterhouse NC-17. For hours they chase the suspects as if they are legally blind and inept. In case your are not aware, white people are incompetent idiots!

Only the black cops and the gay FBI pursuer have a clue about anything

The black brother guy (the good brother) is not only a great father, but also an F1 driver. Really? Is that what an inner city black kid would be good at? Is he an Olympic skier too? It’s simply not plausible.

In real life, here on planet Earth, actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays the good brother, was a gifted football player in high school who even played against future NFL champion Marshawn Lynch. In college he was a great hurdler. Now THAT makes sense.

But back on planet Opposites, this better half, black good brother is able to skillfully pilot any vehicle, such as an unstable ambulance all over LA. But that’s not all! He’s also a field medic from the Gulf War who can shove his hands into the chest cavity of the helpless white shot cop who’s been rolling around in the back of the Wacky Races ambulance, to help save the cop’s life. To be clear, the good black brother was the one who shot that cop – twice. But why dwell on something as trivial as attempted murder, am I right? This guy’s got hero written all over him!

This good brother even donates his own blood into the cop while driving the ambulance around roadblocks like Sandra Bullock! He’s black Superman, only without the cape and occasionally agrees to rob banks. Hero!

We’ve all seen fanciful medical scenes in TV shows and films. But at the midway point this film jumps the shark. You simply have to shake your head. Scooby Doo cartoon hospital scenes were more believable.

The ambulance tries to escape for untold hours. Not even O.J. Simpson would buy into the length of this California highway chase. So many hours go by that at one point a California branch Mexican cartel gang starts building a self-driving Cadillac outfitted with a military machine gun like something out of the movie Predator, and C-4 explosives on the floor boards to really put it to the cop barricades. The cartel then places a dummy behind the wheel of this self-driving killer machine. Perhaps one of the dummies who was involved in writing this script.

After a gazillion bullets are shot at the ambulance over a period of hours, it never suffers a scratch. Of all the holes in the story, those missing holes are the least of the issues going on.

There are glimmers of greatness with a few of the Eiza González EMT scenes. Enough that they should give her a vehicle (no pun intended) along the same plot line. With a Spanish husband and a Spanish kid. Wouldn’t THAT be a different Hollywood movie.

The rest of this Ambulance story is breathtakingly dumb as only Hollywood could conjure up.
* * *
A dirty little Hollywood secret (for Americans) is that overseas moviegoers often see films a week or more ahead of the US and Canada. For those that are curious about how movies are typically released worldwide nowadays, Universal will release Ambulance theatrically as follows:

Indonesia 16 March 2022
Philippines 16 March 2022

Thailand 17 March 2022
United Arab Emirates 17 March 2022
Argentina 17 March 2022
Mexico 17 March 2022
Singapore 17 March 2022

India 18 March 2022
Turkey 18 March 2022

France 23 March 2022
Italy 23 March 2022

Australia 24 March 2022
Brazil 24 March 2022
Germany 24 March 2022
Denmark 24 March 2022
Netherlands 24 March 2022
New Zealand 24 March 2022
Portugal 24 March 2022
Slovakia 24 March 2022

Estonia 25 March 2022
Finland 25 March 2022
UK 25 March 2022
Ireland 25 March 2022
Iceland 25 March 2022
Norway 25 March 2022
Poland 25 March 2022
Sweden 25 March 2022

Malaysia 31 March 2022

South Korea 1 April 2022
Lithuania 1 April 2022

Czechia 7 April 2022
Hungary 7 April 2022
Ukraine 7 April 2022

Bulgaria 8 April 2022
Canada 8 April 2022
Sri Lanka 8 April 2022
Latvia 8 April 2022
Taiwan 8 April 2022
USA 8 April 2022

Spain 13 April 2022

Note the absence of Mainland China in the above release dates. China would typically be at the top of the release date list, but only 20 foreign movies a year are allowed to run in Mainland China and many aren’t even American films. This film has no Chinese main characters or Chinese storyline so that would doom it right out of the gate. Not sure what Spain did to Hollywood to be last on the release list.

The Pink Cloud (R)

I took a chance on this award-wining independent film.

What if you literally couldn’t go outside for years? Like a bubble boy. Not because of a disease but because the strange pink clouds outside would kill you within 10 seconds. Thankfully this story was well out of reach of the overused Based on a True Story nonsense tagline that studios try to reel us in with.  

This story takes place in Brazil in a relatively spacious apartment that I assume to be well out of reach for the average Brazilian. A couple wake up on the beach after a one night stand to find pink clouds building up and civil defense speakers telling everyone to go inside immediately.

At first the couple hits it off. But as you can imagine, as the weeks go by isolated in this apartment, spending 24/7 with each other they go a little stir-crazy. In this story the guy accidentally sabotages chances to have sex with her for dumb reasons that make utterly no sense. The female director (Iuli Gerbase) doesn’t understand how insanely powerful the sex drive of a man is when a recent-relationship woman offers him sex, so her irrational movie direction goes completely off the rails. No guy would believe any of it. 

Story-wise, the idea that any government could quickly install “magical tubes” to everyone’s home to deliver food, medicine and even Amazon delivery of electronics and toys is beyond dumb. And this being poor Brazil makes it even dumber. 

The pink clouds continue until the woman has a child. We watch as the kid grows up. We watch the couple fight like cats and dogs. For years. 

Watching couples endlessly fight is never fun. Especially if you’ve paid money to watch couples endlessly fight. I think I was actually angrier than the angry couple because of this point.

So will this couple ever reconnect (in their apartment, no less)? What’s it like living in an apartment 24/7 for 13 years (with a growing kid)?

I found out the hard way that it’s as dreadful as it sounds on paper. 

The only reason I can think of to rent this movie is if you want to brush up on your Portuguese.

(In Portuguese with English subtitles) 

The Batman PG-13

The fact that this huge blockbuster film isn’t offered in 3-D should be the final nail in the coffin. 3-D is as dead in theaters as it is in the home. Rightfully so. It’s about time. Avatar 2 (or whatever it’ll be called) will revive it for a Hollywood minute but can’t save the lame unnecessary 3D format. Good riddance.

This movie is dark, both in tone and with the fact that it seems the sun burned out at some point along the way. 3 hours of nothing but nighttime scenes. What’s worse (for Gotham folks) is that to be green (I’m guessing) there are very few light bulbs in any buildings in Gotham. So flashlights are standard issue whenever going into any structures. They never reveal why.

At 3 hours you’ll probably want to check out the theater restrooms just prior to seating. While you’re at it, check out the lighting in there and marvel at what the Gotham folks don’t have.

It’s a detective story this time with far less action than any previous Batman movie. The good news is that it’s not boring, which is saying something. Kudos to director Matt Reeves who has a solid résumé of films to his credit. He believes in crazy things like using heavy duty tripods so we get a professionally shot movie. I’d almost forgotten what that looks like. Refreshing!

The scenes run long to play out the mood but contain just enough steady information that you don’t drift off. It’s hard to do but he got it just right. The acton scenes work even better with the long lulls in between. Batman sure beats down the baddies like we’ve not seen before. 

Colin Farrell plays The Penguin. No way you’ll recognize him. The makeup and prosthetics are so good you’d only know that from the credits. 

Very few gadgets this time as this story takes place relatively early in the Batman timeline. So too, love interest Catwoman is still tinkering with her suit-to-be. This time it’s Zoë Kravitz taking the Catwoman role. She’ll become the least memorable of the Catwoman bunch. She’s certainly no Michelle Pfeiffer. And strangely (realistically!) this 5′ 2″ catwoman gets her ass kicked every single time she gets into a fight. So that’s new.

In one of her lines she says, “The problem with the world is rich, white assholes.” 

That’s not racist, right? Hmm.

But it’s ok because Zoë Kravitz is half black, half white, like Hale Barry when she was cast in her own Catwoman movie. It’s a thing.  

As is often the case, this movie shoehorns in a half black actress to finesse the necessary quotas. I’ve highlighted this phenomenon for years. Hollywood loves their half black actresses. We’re not talking “biracial.” They’re not half Asian. Hollywood specifically needs blacks in prominent roles in all movies. And people have finally caught on to the half black ruse. This constant use of “box office acceptable biracial babes” has created a backlash with the 100 percenters in the actress field. See this article written by frequently-used half black actress Thandie Newton for details on the subject. She’s been made to publicly apologize for not being “black enough” to count toward the quotas. It’s quite a read:

If you’re wondering how many half back actresses with acceptable features have been used for decades in Hollywood movies to skirt the quotas, the list is a lot longer than you think. Here are just the most prominent ones:
Vanessa Williams, Jennifer Beals, Halle Berry, Lisa Bonet, Thandie Newton, Vanity, Zoë Kravitz, Kerry Washington, Rashida Jones, Zazie Beetz, Alexandra Shipp, Rachel, Yara Shahidi, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Kylie Bunbury, Laura Harrier, Hannah John-Kamen, Gloria Reuben, Elizabeth Ludlow and Zendaya. Then there’s Jasmin Savoy Brown who’s not only half black but she also adds “queer” to her résumé, which gives her bonus points in today’s world. That mix pretty much guarantees her endless work.

Zoë Kravitz is the least pretty of the above bunch so lord only knows how she landed this Catwoman part. With all the hubbub from full black actresses, Zoë will likely lose this Catwoman role to a really black actress going forward. Maybe Wesley Snipes has a daughter who acts. Oops, his wife is Korean so their kids would still enrage true blacks. 

Sometimes you just can’t win. 

Since this is 1 of only 20 “foreign” films that are green-lit to be released in Mainland China each year, Hollywood also shoehorned in a scene of a meek Chinese man being targeted and attacked when getting off the city subway. Hollywood has no shame.   

Overall the biggest flaw with this latest Batman film is that the ending (last 15 minutes) are laughably unsatisfying. I’m not suggesting it’s not worth a trip to the theater. If you enjoy expensive blockbuster films, it’s worth a trip to the theater. But prepare yourself to be wildly underwhelmed with the Hollywood “message” and tone of the finale. It’s a huge letdown.
– See it on the Big Screen

The Ledge (R)

This one got raked over the coals by the so-called professional critics. But I found it to be plenty entertaining.

Here’s the test for whether it’s for you or not:
If you like movies where people get themselves in a situation where falling to their deaths is a real possibility, this has that going on in spades.

If it makes your fingers tingle when the camera work is done in such a way that you feel the danger as people climb around on the edge of a mountain, this will certainly make your fingers tingle. It’s effective in a lot of scenes.

If either of those things are a turn-off, there’s no reason to watch this movie. But if you’re still interested, this is a story about two women climbers who are skilled enough to tackle the Dolomites (mountains in Italy). In fact they’re so skilled that they’re going to climb the face of the mountain while the four men they meet at the base of the mountain are going to take the easy side route, due to their lack of mountain climbing skills.

The guys turn out to be bad dudes (understatement) so it quickly turns into the women against the men. Normally that would be a quick finish to the story except for that wrench in the works where the women are clearly far more experienced climbers than their weekend warrior pursuers.

There are some Die Hard kung fu grip moments that will leave you rolling your eyes. But for a story with very few moving parts (that are easy to piece together from the start) it still works.
– Wait for Rental

Ted K (R)

One look at the thumbnail above and you know why people are curious about Ted Kaczynski. For those old enough to remember the Unabomber, his likeness was posted on everything. It was the longest manhunt in FBI history.

Like a lot of bombers, he was pretty inept at actually killing people (see below). But maiming folks is still a pretty effective attention-grabber. His goal was targeting what he felt were bad companies. He wanted to affect change on society.

In a nutshell, Ted Kaczynski wanted the world to go backward, away from the technological advances we were making. He would have been much happier living under China’s Mao during the Great Leap Backward. Or in Cambodia under Pol Pot. Both regimes made their population go back to agrarian principals while executing anyone with obvious smarts, skills and talents.

People like Ted Kaczynski have an aura about them. What makes them tick? (Pardon the pun). How did he get away with his 14 bombs over 16 years? A&E and other channels/shows (here’s looking at you 48 Hours) are basically a constant stream of shows about scoundrels that kill people. It turns out that examining such people from a distance is quite entertaining.

The problem is that a lot of larger than life icons are a huge disappointment up close. Sometimes it’s best not to meet or delve too deeply into people who have an aura or odd mystique about them. To those that get close, Madonna turns out to be a disappointing a-hole. And here it turns out this bomb-tinkerer Ted guy living in a 10′ x 14′ cabin in the woods – is quite simply a real bore. Though he was a mathematical genius in college, once out of school he was nothing more than a broke, dirty bum living in the woods. A dirty bum with an ax to grind.

According to this drama/biography Ted had a lot of axes to grind. They spend an inordinate amount of time showing us how any noise bothered Ted. Long scenes of snowmobiles crisscrossing the slopes near his cabin. Mountain bikes running around trails near his home. Barely audible jumbo jets the size of a matchstick head flying across his sky. How dare they? Logging happening all around him. Strip mining coal operations nearby. Everyone with their loud, whirring, thumping, buzzing machinery. 

All too noisy for him. “You kids get off my… mountain!” Then we get montage after montage of the damage happening to the Earth by these destructive operations. Over and over, throughout the film. Ok, we get it. Enough of the “Earth will become a smoldering cinder if we don’t listen to Ted” nonsense. No one is renting this Bio for any “sympathy for Ted” preaching. Enough foreplay! This guy made bombs, right? Ever see a Hollywood movie? We all love bombs and explosions. Get to the bombing chapters of this cat’s life!

Unfortunately they spend way too much time illustrating over, and over, and over the things that made Ted Kaczynski angry. This two-hour movie would have been much better with fewer “save the planet” footage montages and wrapped up in a tight 90 minutes.

For those that don’t know the end of this Unabomber story, his brother recognized Ted’s writing when Ted’s long manifesto was published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Penthouse Magazine (where I read it). His brother was the one that broke the case – not the FBI. That’s the case more times than not. Without tips, the FBI struggles to close such investigations. The Shoe Bomber was taken down by other plane passengers who found it off-putting to see him trying to light his shoes with a Bic lighter. Same with the Underwear Bomber. The inept Times Square Bomber was so suspicious that citizens broke his cover long before his car bomb could go off. The Fort Dix Six videoed themselves shooting guns and shouting about Allah and then were caught when they took the tape to Circuit City to have it transferred to DVD!

The US spends 100 billion a year to fight these bozos. Money going out the window in perpetuity.

As citizens who actually stop these bad guys, just know that The FBI and Homeland Security thanks us for our service. 

This film contains too little real substance for a recommendation. Better to watch a scoundrel-filled episode of 48 Hours instead. 
– Avoid!

Delicious (NR)

There are a lot of movies called Delicious. This is a review of the 2022 movie directed by Éric Besnard.

It’s 1789 France where fine dining is only done by aristocrats. Good food was not to be wasted on lower class people who lacked the palate to appreciate such painstakingly prepared foods and wines.

In this story a great chef is sacked by his “Duke” master and is sent packing to make it out there on his own. So the chef and his son start making basic soups beside the road to serve to any commoner passing by on horseback/carriage. Then a middle-age woman shows up at their roadside establishment on horseback. She sits outside and refuses to leave until the chef agrees to take her on as an apprentice. She even sits outside on a log in the cold rain overnight, refusing to take shelter in the barn.

It’s an odd wrinkle to the story and I found her whole angle to be quite a stretch throughout. 

Regardless, in the end what we’re witnessing is the creation of the first official “restaurant” in the world where people from all walks of life, rich or poor could order whatever they wanted from a fine menu, while sitting at tables side by side. And at the same time, per this story, France takes the credit for all of it. Where the first restaurant was really invented is certainly debatable.

There are a lot of movies out there that show sumptuous visions of wonderful food being prepared onscreen, enough to whet the appetite of the viewer to the point of food porn. Unfortunately this is one area where this film falls flat. Either they really didn’t go for that angle (per story time constraints) or the foods that were historically prepared in the late 1700’s weren’t yet up to today’s version of enticing food porn.

If you are really, really interested to see how the first restaurant was conjured up, this is your movie. Otherwise I’d only stream this if you are on some kind of all-you-can-eat plan (no pun intended).  

In French with English subtitles.
– Wait for Rental

Last Looks (NR)

Let’s start with the knowledge that this is a Comedy/Action movie. Knowing that going in helps a lot. 

A retired cop/investigator living a minimalist life of retirement in the woods is brought out of retirement by a couple things, but mostly because of the forced disappearance of his old flame (played by Morena Baccarin).

The cop is played by Charlie Hunnam, who I’m not familiar with. But he’s been in a lot of shows/movies and is terrific in this quirky role.   

You may know Morena Baccarin from the past TV series Gotham. She was also in the Deadpool movies and in the “planet killer” comet movie Greenland. She doesn’t have much screen time here playing the girl that disappears but she’s always good in her roles.  

Mel Gibson also stars but in a way that leaves him out of most of the scenes. 

The movie (directed by a relative newbie) can be described as Tarantino/Cohen Brothers-like. Not only by the long list of very interesting characters the story introduces along the way but by the funny little additions of stated facts. Like the main character adhering to his life rule of owning only 100 things. Every time he says it, it’s funny.

The violence is harsh but ends with cartoonish shaking off of the blows. Hard to describe, but it works. The murder mystery drives the story forward but as you watch, that’s the least of your attention. The characters are the enjoyment of this ride. I’m guessing very few people will see the movie. If I was the director I’d be mighty disappointed by that. In our current world of 95% fails and hits that are merely retreads, this low budget (direct to streaming) movie deserves to be seen.
– Wait for Rental

Ditched (NR)

Here’s a Canadian low budget horror/slasher movie starring a real life Inuit Indian actress (that bonus category checks the only necessary box for “inclusion” in this one) playing a paramedic who finds herself in a crashed ambulance with a prisoner strapped to a gurney and a crashed police car in a ditch (get it?) in the woods beside the road. Some of the cops/ambulance workers regain consciousness and find themselves suffering from “Overacting 101.” They’re also constantly out of breath for no reason just like Edward Furlong in his many terribly acted scenes in Terminator 2.

As a bonus, the Indian squeals like a four-year-old every-single-time she sees a shape go by or a bloody figure. You’d think a paramedic who’s no doubt seen a plethora of auto crashes would handle herself better. 

Then hokey hairy monsters straight out of the low budget 1965 Lost in Space TV show show up to cue the Eli Roth style bloodletting.

That’s all folks. It’s just plain awful. Don’t bother.
– Avoid!

See for Me (NR) 

Interesting concept with some huge blind spots.

The story follows a blind girl who gets hired to house-sit for people who travel and leave their pets behind. In this case she’s cat sitting. It’s an odd scenario and the people who hire her think it’s odd, too. But nobody wants to be the jerk who doesn’t hire the blind girl.

The biggest flaw in the movie is that the blind girl is the jerk. It makes it harder to root for her when a group of home invaders enter the mansion she’s in in the middle of the night. 

The title of the movie refers to a fictional (for now) App that assists blind people with a live operator who looks around using the blind person’s phone camera feed and tells them what their surroundings are. It’s a nice twist on the tired, I’m hiding in the house with killers looking for me and I’ve never played hide and seek before theme of movies.  

The strength of the movie is Kelly, the woman on the other end of the See For Me App (played by soft features, half black (Hollywood loves that) Jessica Parker Kennedy). Here she plays an Iraq war vet who also plays MMO team military video games over the internet in her spare time. She basically saves the movie with her no-nonsense tactical guidance. The jerk blind girl listens to 20% of her helpful tactics, but at least we get to hear what Kelly would do in the situation. It’s refreshing. If Kelly had a gun she’d immediately shoot any bad guy within sight in the house.

I’m with Kelly. Most women in movies aren’t tuned into that same bandwidth.    

Actress Emily Piggford, with the sheriff’s department, shows up after the 911 call. She too is a standout in the film. VERY believable. I suspect they had a cop write that entire scene from a cop’s perspective. 

But there are so many flaws. 

Why does the blind girl have the phone screen brightness all the way up? No blind person does that. They don’t need to see the screen – at all. Blind folks can get three days out of single cell phone charge! I know it illuminates her face for the camera but it’s not believable for a second and it would only help the bad guys find her in the dark mansion as she tries to elude them. We didn’t need that blaring blue light on the whole time just so you could get to the Battery Low! plot device. 

Then there’s this silly notion that never goes away where people, including bad guys, search a huge house with their LED flashlights instead of simply turning all the lights on. There’s not another house around for miles. Why are they all walking around in the dark? Are they worried about their carbon footprint?

The gun has a cartoon clip with an endless supply of bullets. A molecular miracle of dozens of rounds scrunched into that handgun. 

The camerawork is clean and professional. The house is modern and cool looking. The App idea was well worth pursuing. Why they had to make the blind girl such a jerk is the real question. It doesn’t add to the story. For me it makes it barely worth recommending. 

But in this era of awful reboots and the same Marvel cartoon movies being remade over and over with just a different title slapped on them, this different story is likely worth a rental. And it went straight to streaming.
– Wait for Rental

End of 2022 Movies.

Go to 2021 Movie Reviews