FIlm Review: “The Flash” – SPOILER FREE


  • Starring:  Ezra Miller, Sasha Calle and Michael Keaton
  • Directed by:  Andy Muschietti
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 24 mins
  • Warner Bros.


Whoever said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day must have known Barry Allen.  Because of his quick metabolism, brought about due to the fact that he is the fastest person on Earth, Barry must constantly eat.  And when his usual sandwich maker takes a day off, things quickly go from bad to worse for the Scarlett Speedster.


I promised a SPOILER FREE review so here goes…


Action packed from beginning to end, “The Flash” is the DC movie fans have been waiting for.  We find Barry Allen (an excellent Miller) working at a crime lab while continuing to prove the innocence of his father (Ron Livingston), who is in prison after being found guilty of killing his wife.  Barry can’t help but think back to a better time when he was a young boy and Sundays were spent in the kitchen with his mother.  While zooming around Barry discovers that, if he can generate enough speed, he can go back in time.  Despite a warning from his friend Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), Barry decides to turn back the clock, hoping to prevent his mother’s death.  But things are never as easy as they seem.



I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this movie.  When I first heard the word “Multiverse” in previews I thought this would be a rip-off of “spider-man: No Way Home.”  I was wrong.  The script, by Christina Hobson and Joby Harold, is full of surprises, both good and bad.  New characters are introduced, most notably Kara Zor-El (Calle), cousin of a certain well-known Kryptonian.  We also see some familiar faces, including General Zod (the always solid Michael Shannon).  And, damn it, we get to reunite with the amazing Michael Keaton, returning as Batman.  He is older and wiser, certainly, but when he utters two words – “I’m Batman” – all is right with the world.  All of the performances are strong and I must give special kudos to Ezra Miller, who does double duty as both present day and past Barry.  To me, Miller’s dry-witted Flash was the highlight of the “Justice League” film.  In this film, two Millers are better than one!


Despite its length, the film moves quickly.  Director Muschietti, who helmed the two “IT” films, keeps a smooth pace, melding drama and action seamlessly.  The production design captures the various time periods well, and fans of 1989’s “Batman” will enjoy reuniting with some familiar modes of transportation!


Phew.  I did it.  NO SPOILERS!  No matter where you are in the multiverse, take a trip to the cinema and see “The Flash.”


“The Flash” earns five stars out of five.


“The Flash” opens on June 16, 2023.

Film Review: “Man & Witch”


  • Starring:  Greg Steinbruner, Tami Stronach and Christopher Lloyd
  • Directed by:  Michael Hines
  • Rated:  PG
  • Running time:  1 hr 39 mins
  • Paper Canoe Studio


There is nothing like a good fairy tale.  From the beginning of time, these stories have entertained the world over.  A man yearning for love.  Talking animals.  A witch.  Sounds like this is going to be a good one.


While driving his cart home a Goatherd (Steinbruner, who also wrote the screenplay) spies a beautiful woman, clad in white and dancing to a tune only she can hear.  He is instantly smitten.  Nearby, a young child known as Love takes notice and notches an arrow onto his bow.  As he fires the cart hits a rock and the arrow misses its target.  All in all, it’s a typical day for the man who is convinced he will never find love.



Smartly written, with strong performances, “Man & Witch” could easily be described as “SHREK meets ‘The Princess Bride’” with a little bit of “The Wizard of Oz” tossed in for good measure.  The tale is narrated by Dog, voiced by Sean Astin.  He is a big sheepdog who spends his days with his fellow farm mates, including Goose (Jennifer Saunders), Donkey (Bill Bailey) and Sheep (Eddie Izzard), who has a habit of quoting movie lines when the situation warrants it.  Talking animals.  Ogres.  Royalty.  And what about the Witch?


There is a lot to like about this film.   The cast has fun with their roles, with special mention going to Miss Stronach, who gives the Witch a vulnerable side you don’t expect.  If her name seems familiar, it’s probably because she played the Childlike Empress in 1984’s “The NeverEnding Story.”  It’s always a treat to see Christopher Lloyd on the big screen.  His Alchemist is a nice companion character to both Doc Brown and “Taxi’s” Jim Ignatowsky.  The film was shot in Scotland and takes advantage of the beautiful countryside.


“Man and Witch” receives three and a half stars out of five. 

Film Review: “Operation Fortune”


  • Starring: Jason Statham, Aubrey Plaza
  • Directed by Guy Ritchie
  • Rating: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 54 mins
  • Lionsgate
Before his military action drama “The Covenant” hit theaters recently, British director Guy Ritchie (“Wrath of Man,” “The Gentlemen”) released “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” an entertaining action flick starring his often-used leading man Jason Statham, arguably the best action movie star around. “Operation Fortune” is a fun work of popcorn cinema by Ritchie who maintains a fast pace throughout. Much like director John Ford used to do with John Wayne films, Ritchie often reuses former cast members, and this ensemble does not disappoint with recognizable faces.
When a Ukrainian gang steals a mysterious device called “The Handle” from a secret facility, the British government takes action to retrieve it before it is sold to the highest bidder. A contractor named Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) puts together a professional team to do the job. In steps calm and cool spy Orson Fortune (Statham) with a small team including American computer hacker Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza, “Parks and Recreation”) and British sniper, J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone, “The Gentlemen”).
While competing against a rival team whose employer is unknown, Orson and his group must get close to the charming, yet dangerous billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant, “The Gentlemen”) so they can intercept the sale. To increase their chances, they blackmail American movie star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett, “Wrath of Man”) to help them as Simmonds is a big fan of his. What transpires afterwards is a globe-trotting, action-packed adventure sprinkled with some good laughs and suspense.
Filled with unique, interesting characters, one of the many trademarks of Ritchie films, “Operation Fortune” has an “Ocean’s Eleven” vibe but takes it up a notch on the violence side. A couple of highlights include Grant’s enjoyable performance as a star-struck, yet ruthless gangster and Hartnett is delightful as a nervous movie star who wants to study Greg for his next part. The many action sequences are entertaining even if they are a little too choreographed and the high-tech gadgetry is reminiscent of what is displayed in the “Mission Impossible” series.
Overall, “Operation Fortune” does not disappoint and is definitely worth a couple hours of your time.
“Operation Fortune” receives three stars out of five.

Film Review: “Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story


  • Starring:  Quint Davis, Jimmy Buffet, Verdine White
  • Directed by:  Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 35 mins
  • Sony Pictures Classic
They call it the Big Easy.  Home of Mardi Gras and Saints.  But New Orleans is known for one thing above all others…The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – a celebration of the music, food and culture that has defined the city and surrounding areas for centuries.
In the early 1960s, George Wein, the organizer of the famed Newport Jazz Festival, was asked to bring his talents to New Orleans.  Unfortunately, the climate of the times postponed the first ever New Orleans Jazz Festival until 1971.  “Jazz Fest” is a look inside the event on it’s 50th Anniversary as well as the events that shaped it.
An event that draws 100,000 people a day for many days, the Festival is probably the only place on Earth where you can see everyone from Tom Jones to Pitbull to Bruce Springsteen on the same bill.  Those performers and many more talk about their pride in being asked to perform as well as the profound effect their performances have on not only on the crowd but also the musicians.
The film is full of great performances, both from previous shows and the 50th, including musical numbers by Ellis Marsalis and his sons, Earth Wind and Fire, Katy Perry, B.B. King, Samantha Fish, Al Green, and many others.  Yes, this is called a JAZZ Festival, but all kinds of music, from gospel to soul to folk are well represented and well received.  And a quick detour to the swamps gives viewers a taste of Cajun and Zydeco music.  It is amazing how much of the area’s culture revolves around music, including funerals.  I hope when my time comes that my trip to the cemetery is led by dancers and a big brass section!  Even the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was dealt with musically as musicians like Jimmy Buffet, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen took to the newly built stage to give hope to, as Springsteen sang, the City of Ruin.
Also featured is the amazing food found at the festival, with pretty much everything either fried or made with cream.  I want to find the guy making the pork cracklings.
Due to COVID, the festival skipped two years but came roaring back earlier this year, with more than 7,000 musicians on 14 stages and didn’t skip a beat.  If you can’t make it down in person, this film is a great way to enjoy the show.
“Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story” receives five out of five stars.

Film Review: “Amsterdam”


  • Starring:  Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington
  • Directed by:  David O. Russell
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  2 hrs 14 mins
  • 20th Century Studios
They called it “the War to end all Wars.”  Of course, history will tell us that it wasn’t, but shortly after WW I things were looking up for a couple of former soldiers.  Burt (Bale) was a Park Avenue doctor who married above his station and only went to war when his father-in-law suggested that a man with medals would have some esteem.  Harold (Washington), now a lawyer, was part of the all-Black unit in Europe that Burt was given command of.  When their former commanding general dies suddenly, they are asked to investigate the death.  But they may not like what they find.
Smartly written, with a few odd quirks – the trademark of a David O. Russell film – “Amsterdam” is a who-dunnit with many possible suspects.  The trio of friends – Burt, Harold and Valerie (Robbie) – met shortly after the war, when Burt and Harold were patients in a hospital in which Valerie was the nurse.  Appalled by the treatment Burt and Harold received, Valerie takes them to a couple of bird-watching friends (Mike Myers and Michael Shannon), who treat them.  Because he lost an eye, Burt is given a box of premium glass ones, an item that becomes part of the plot every time Burt is punched – which is often – and they eye falls out.  Bale proves himself a fine master of physical comedy and, based on his work here, would be a great casting choice should they ever make a “Columbo” movie.
The cast is vast and at the top of their games, with fine supporting work by Rami Malek, Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana and Robert DeNiro.  Russell’s script is tight and he keeps the action moving at a nice pace.  You do have to pay attention, as every new twist takes you in a different direction.  That being said, head to the nearest cinema and book a ticket to “Amsterdam.”
“Amsterdam” receives five stars out of five.

Film Review: “Till”

  • TILL
  • Starring:  Danielle Deadwyler, Frankie Faison and Jalyn Hall
  • Directed by:  Chinonye Chukwu
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 10 mins
  • Orion Pictures
In August 1955, Emmet Till left his mother’s home in Chicago to visit his relatives in Mississippi.  He never saw his mother again.
We first meet Emmett (Hall), known as Bo to his family, as he prepares for his trip.  A friendly, smiling boy who loves music and impromptu dancing with his mother, Mamie – an Oscar-worthy Ms. Deadwyler.  As he packs for his trip, his mother reminds him that the rules in Mississippi are much different for Blacks then they are in Chicago.  Not that Chicago is a haven of equality.  We learn this when, while shopping for shoes at a downtown department store, Mamie is informed that they also sell shoes in the basement.  Still, with a self-assured smile, and a stylish hat, Emmett boards the train and begins the journey south.  He learns first-hand how different the rules are when, once the train crosses the Mason-Dixon line, all of the Black passengers get up from their various seats and make their way to the back of the car.
Emmett discovers a whole new way of life when he arrives in the small town of Money, Mississippi.  Instead of playing with his cousins, he finds himself in the field, picking cotton, taking the new adventure in stride.  A stop at a local store brings Emmett face to face with a white woman that Emmett finds so attractive he tells her she could be a movie star, emphasizing her beauty with an innocent wolf whistle.  His cousins are mortified by this and quickly spirit Emmett away, the boy still not understanding their reaction.  Tragically, he soon will.
An important film that tells an important story, “Till” is both heartbreaking and inspirational, filled with an amazing cast of actors.  As Mamie, Ms. Deadwyler is a revelation.  Whether dancing quietly with her only child, or grieving at the sight of Emmett’s broken body, there is not a false note in her performance.  Her grief is genuine, leaving not one dry eye in the house.  But Mamie also has a quiet strength – a strength that has taken her to where she is in her life – and she feeds off of that strength every time she needs to.  The supporting cast is just as good, with nary a false beat among them.  Director Chukwu’s camera makes us a witness to everything going on and the musical score, by Abel Korzeniowski, is pitch perfect in setting the necessary moods.
A film that takes an unflinching look at one of the most horrific times in this country’s history, “Till” is a tale of two worlds, 650 miles apart.  It is a film that needs to be seen by everyone!
“Till” receives five stars out of five.

Film Review: “CREED III”


  • Starring:  Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors and Tessa Thompson
  • Directed by:  Michael B. Jordan
  • Rated:   PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 56 mins
  • MGM

Sadly, it’s usually the third installment of a film series that doesn’t fare well.  Think “Jaws 3-D,” “Halloween III,” “Superman III” among others that, while they try hard, they tend to disappoint.  Welcome to the group, “Creed III.”

Having achieved greatness both in and out of the boxing ring, Adonis Creed (Jordan) is ready to relax.  However, that time off is interrupted when a mysterious man from his past returns and demands a shot at the title he thinks is rightly his.  Cue the music.

“Creed III” borrows a lot of its story from “Rocky III.”  The champion looking to quit, only to be bullied into “one more fight” and the emotional and physical damage this fight takes on everyone involved. All that is missing is a cameo from Mr. T.  The main thing missing is Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky.  Rocky was the heart of the first two films, and his presence is sorely missed, both on the screen and to the audience.  Because of this, there is not one likable person in the cast to root for, which makes the big fight moot, because you really don’t have a rooting interest.  Adonis and his wife are constantly bickering, his old pal Damian (Majors) is a bully and unlikeable.  It’s sad when the only character you root for is Ivan Drago’s son.

On the positive side, Jordan’s direction is fluid, and he covers the boxing scenes with the eye of an old pro.  He obviously has the chops to be behind the camera.  Unfortunately he didn’t spend enough time on character development, and the audience is stuck with one-dimensional character that don’t have a redeeming bone in their bodies, which is a shame for a franchise that earned it’s love by opening its heart.


“Creed III” receives two and a half stars out of five.

Film Review: “WEIRD: the Al Yankovic Story’


  • Starring:  Daniel Radcliffe and Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • Directed by: Eric Appel
  • Rated:  TV 14
  • Running time:  1 hr 48 mins
  • Roku

I often hear people talk about the music of their generation.  My dad grew up listening to Frank Sinatra.  My mom, Elvis.  I grew up in the time of the Beatles.  But there is another musician that influenced my life profoundly,  His name is Al Yankovic.

How do you make a film about a man whose stated life ambition is to write funny lyrics to existing songs?  It’s actually quite easy.  Picking various points of the accordion master’s life, it seems that

Al (a very good Daniel Radcliffe) has a talent that must be shared with the world.  Like my friends and I, Al was a fan of late-night radio host Dr. Demento (an unrecognizable Rainn Wilson) and sends him a tape of some of his songs.  Much to his surprise, the Doctor plays his stuff on the air, which leads to Al thinking this could really be the start of something big.

Of course, not everyone thinks Al is a musical genius.  Only after he is challenged by legendary DJ Wolfman Jack (Jack Black) to create, on the spot, a parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” that he is able to quiet the naysayers.   Think Eminem at the end of “8 Mile” and you have a good idea of how things go.

The film plays fast and loose with facts, but fans of Al wouldn’t want it any other way.  If you’re a fan of “the Weird one,” then, by all means, give this one a look.

“WEIRD’ receives three and a half stars out of five.

Film Review: “Champioms”


  • Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson
  • Directed by Bobby Farrelly
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 4 mins
  • Focus Features
It is a tale as old as time – a coach, of varying past success, falls on hard times but finds redemption by helping a group of misfits overcome great odds to become a team that achieves some form of glory. “The Way Back.” “Hoosiers.” “The Bad News Bears.” “The Mighty Ducks.” Those are but a few examples of this tired cinematic theme. In his first solo directorial effort, filmmaker Bobby Farrelly, who has co-helmed such titles as “Shallow Hal” and “Me, Myself & Irene,” takes his own shot as the sports genre with “Champions.” Starring Woody Harrelson, “Champions” takes us on a cute journey as a disgraced basketball coach is forced to work with a group of young people with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, the story fails to pull the heartstrings, nor does it inspire one to jump up and down for joy.
Marcus Marakovich (Harrelson) has a history of success with his impeccable basketball knowledge. However, it’s been his inability to get to know his players that has been his downfall on several occasions. Of course, his hot temper hasn’t helped much either. One night, while serving as an assistant coach for a minor league basketball team in Iowa, he gets into an argument with the team’s head coach (Ernie Hudson) and shoves him to the court floor, which becomes the subject of national news. He then gets drunk and crashes into a police car. An unsympathetic judge sentences Marcus to 90 days of community service by coaching a team consisting of young people with learning disabilities called Friends.
Marcus is not at all enthusiastic about his current plight, but he tries to make the best of it while also trying to convince someone in the NBA to give him a shot as an assistant. As one might expect, the kids start to grow on him and he even starts a relationship Alex (Kaitlin Olson, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), the older protective sister of one of his players. The dilemma that Marcus ultimately faces is whether to stay in Iowa or go off to fulfill his lifelong dream.
The supporting cast, who represent the players on the Friends team, are a delight to watch as the enthusiasm and joy they bring to the silver screen are palpable. Harrelson and Olson are pleasant together onscreen while the former delivers an okay performance. “Champions” is a nice attempt by Farrelly to do something different, but the story lacks emotional depth and is simply too formulaic for its own good. It’s just a slight variation to what’s been done a thousand times before.
Overall, “Champions” is a soft layup rather than a slam dunk.
“Champions” receives two stars out of five.

Film Review: ‘Hypnotic”


  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Alice Braga
  • Directed by Robert Rodriguez
  • Rating: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 33 mins
  • Ketchup Entertainment
Mix in one part “Inception,” one part “Dr. Strange,” and two parts “Firestarter” and you will have director Robert Rodriguez’s “Hypnotic.” Headlined by Ben Affleck, who sadly doesn’t play the caped crusader, “Hypnotic” is supposed to be an action thriller with a bit of mystery. However, the first half of it feels like a small budget B-movie with a cast who are only in it to earn a paycheck or have joined the ranks of Nicolas Cage and play in movies no one sees in theaters. There is a cool twist in the story but it’s almost impossible to maintain interest by the time it arrives.
Having suffered the recent loss of his daughter in a brazen, daylight kidnapping, and the subsequent end of his marriage, Austin police detective Danny Rourke (Affleck) is undergoing therapy so he can return to active duty. After he is cleared, his partner Nicks (JD Pardo, “Mayans M.C.”) informs him of a tip about an upcoming bank robbery. During their surveillance, Rourke notices a man later to be known as Dellrayne (William Fichtner) and pursues him as chaos erupts all around them.
A confrontation between the reveals to Rourke that Dellrayne has some sort of hypnotic ability to make people to do whatever he wants and to bend reality itself. Convinced that Dellrayne is behind his daughter’s disappearance, Rourke enlists the aid of psychic medium Diana Cruz (Alice Braga, “I Am Legend”) who drops nuggets of info to Rourke about hypnotic abilities and the danger of Dellrayne who is allegedly the most powerful one of them all. Somehow, Rourke’s daughter is tied into it all but there are a lot of puzzle pieces Rourke must put together first.
Thankfully, “Hypnotic” is only 93 minutes long. The first half lacks intrigue, suspense or much in the way of entertainment value. It does contain cliches, stiff dialogue delivery, and uninteresting characters. Rodriguez waits way too long to introduce his twist, which is unfortunate because the film might have been much better if he had devoted more time to the story’s real secrets.
Affleck is serviceable in his role but gives off the appearance of someone just going through the motions. Worse still, he lacks any chemistry with Braga. Fichtner is okay as the villain although his character is poorly developed.
Overall, “Hypnotic” may hypnotize you into going to sleep.
“Hypnotic” receives one-and-a-half stars out of five.

Film Review: “Plane”

  • Starring: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter
  • Directed by Jean-Francois Richet
  • Rating: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 47 mins
  • Lionsgate
Action films are often a dime a dozen. They are often predictable with an abundance of character cliches involving both good and bad guys. Guns have unlimited ammunition. The bad guys are generally worse at hitting their targets than stormtroopers from “Star Wars.” You get the gist. With one of the more unimaginative titles in recent memory, “Plane” doesn’t disappoint as it checks off all the boxes for the type of film just described.
Starring Gerard Butler as Capt. Brodie Torrance, a former Royal Air Force member who became a commercial airline pilot, “Plane” takes us to Singapore where a Trailblazer Airlines flight is leaving with a scant number of passengers. We get plenty of ominous signs that trouble is on its way – there is a terrible storm they will have to fly over; a menacing looking passenger is in handcuffs on his way to stand trial for murder in Canada; etc. To add a pinch of sympathy to Capt. Torrance, we discover he is a recent widow, and he is desperate to see his daughter, whom he hasn’t seen in a long time.
Shockingly, lightning hits the plane but Capt. Torrance miraculously lands the plane on a small road on a small jungle island. Without a way to contact the outside world while be stranded in a lawless place that is run by armed thugs, Capt. Torrance enlists the help of Louise Gaspare (Mike Colter, “Luke Cage”), a former member of the French Foreign Legion and who is the one facing a murder charge, to find a way to save the helpless passengers before they fall victim to a ruthless local warlord.
If you have seen Butler in any other action movie, then you know what you will get with his role in “Plane.” The one wrinkle is that he not the story’s alpha male. That belongs to Colter’s shady character, who turns out to be able to run faster than a jet airliner as it’s speeding down a dirt road. The supporting cast members offer nothing fresh or exciting as they are too a dime a dozen in a script that is about as imaginative as a root canal. The action itself is stereotypical and makes me pine for the silliness of an “A-Team” episode from the 1980s.
Overall, “Plane” is one ride you should jump out of before it ever leaves the ground.
“Plane” receives one star out of five.

Film Review: “Knock at the Cabin”


  • Starring: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff
  • Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
  • Rating: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 40 mins
  • Universal Pictures
“The Sixth Sense.” “The Village.” “Glass.” These are but a few of the great suspense films that writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has crafted over the years. Of course, there have been some flops too like “The Happening.” Still, Shyamalan has consistently been one of the most creative and thought-provoking filmmakers of the 21st century. His most recent endeavor, “Knock at the Cabin” is an intriguing piece of work that ranks near the to tier of titles in his body of work.
Based upon the 2018 novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by American author Paul G. Tremblay, “Knock at the Cabin” takes us to a small, remote cabin where a little girl named Wen (Kristen Cui in her motion picture debut) is collecting grasshoppers. Out of nowhere she is approached by Leonard (Dave Bautista, “The Guardians of the Galaxy”), a giant of a man who has a gentle disposition about him. As he tries to make friends with the skeptical Wen, three other strangers – Redmond (Rupert Grint, “Harry Potter” movies), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird, “The Outfit”), and Adriane (Abby Quinn, “Landline”) –carrying bizarre weapons draw closer.
Scared, Wen races back to the cabin to find her dads – Eric (Jonathan Groff, “The Matrix Resurrections”) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge, “Pennyworth”) – and warn them about the scary people approaching their house. Eric and Andrew’s efforts to keep the quartet out of the cabin are in vain as they soon find themselves tied up.
What transpires from that point is nothing short of bizarre as Leonard calmly describes how all four of them have been receiving visions about the end of the world. The only way to stop the impending biblical apocalypse is for one of them to willingly sacrifice a member of their family. Otherwise, Eric, Andrew and Wen will be doomed to be the only people left alive on the planet. Andrew is convinced it’s all a scam, but a concussed Eric is not so sure. This leads to a grippingly suspenseful series of events that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
For starters, Shyamalan shows once again that he is among the best filmmakers around. His style continues to be fresh, imaginative, and entertaining. He also knows not to let his stories get too long in the tooth. Other highlights include an almost shocking performance by Grint as man filled with malice and hate; a wonderful breakout role by Cui; and a dominant performance by Bautista. The latter continues to be a genuine treat to watch on the silver screen in every part he plays. His range as an actor keeps growing and he is the true star of this film.
Overall, “Knock at the Cabin” is terrific entertainment and should be on your short list of things to watch.
“Knock at the Cabin” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.

Film Review: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton
  • Directed by Rian Johnson
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 19 mins
  • Netflix
The recipient of an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” was a critical success while commercially that’s left up in the air since Netflix only gave it a limited, brief theatrical release before streaming it exclusively. For yours truly, “Glass Onion” did not deserve the Oscar nomination like its predecessor did. Writer/director Rian Johnson’s effort is predictable and uninspired. While Daniel Craig is again glorious in his role and the star-studded cast is entertaining, particularly with Edward Norton and Dave Bautista, the story itself lacks the sense of mystery the original had. Many critics often cited all the movie’s star cameos as positive points as to why you should see the film, but even a cameo by the ghost of William Shakespeare doesn’t necessarily mean any given film is good. The overuse of cameos is just lazy filmmaking.
In brief, for those who have perhaps yet to see it, “Glass Onion” takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic on an island retreat off the coast of Greece. Billionaire Alpha technology owner and narcissist Miles Bron (Edward Norton) invites five friends – Alpha head scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), Connecticut governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), fashion designer and model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), internet influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), and Alpha co-founder Andi Brand (Janelle Monae) – to enjoy a murder mystery weekend on his island. The great, famous detective Beniot Blanc (Daniel Craig) also joins them even though Miles did not send him an invitation but assumes one of his friends did it as a joke.
Unsurprisingly, Benoit solves Miles’s “mystery” within in a matter of moments. However, Benoit warns Miles that his life is in danger as it is revealed that each person there has a motive to kill him. When one of the guests keels over dead then the real mystery only deepens, unless you the viewer have already figured out who the real evildoer is, and it doesn’t take a world-renowned detective to do so.
I will leave the synopsis at that as I do not want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. Of course, for those who haven’t I would recommend that you don’t and instead watch the far superior original again, or perhaps for the first time. Yes, Craig is charming, and his character is easily on par with such entertaining detectives as Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. He certainly doesn’t disappoint. It also never ceases to impress me just how good an actor Bautista, who made a name for himself in professional wrestling entertainment, has become. He is a joy to watch. The rest of the cast deliver well enough performances, but they are not memorable. Yes, “Glass Onion” received an Oscar nod, but that doesn’t mean it deserved it, at least in this critic’s humble opinion. Like “Everything, Everywhere All at Once,” it was thoroughly overrated film.
Overall, “Glass Onion” is a one-layer onion that will make you cry over how paper thin it is.
“Glass Onion” receives two stars out of five.



Film Review: “Renfield”


  • Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage
  • Directed by Chris McKay
  • Rating: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 33 mins
  • Universal Pictures
Currently in theaters and available on streaming is the Nicolas Cage foray into comedy horror titled “Renfield.” While Cage is an absolute delight as Dracula, “Renfield,” which is told from the viewpoint of Dracula’s human assistant, does not quite live up to the standard set by the 2014 classic “What We Do in the Shadows.” It does have moments of genuine levity, but it also falls flat in others and a performance by Awkwafina in a supporting role is nothing short of annoying.
“Renfield” opens with some creative, black-and-white recreations of scenes from 1931’s “Dracula” with Cage supplanting Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula and Nicholas Hoult supplanting Dwight Frye as Renfield. It is a wonderful way by director Chris McKay (“The Tomorrow War,” “The Lego Batman Movie”) to present a quick backstory before the story moves closer to present day. An attack on Dracula by vampire hunters, and his subsequent assistance from Renfield, who gains some of his master’s powers by eating insects, reveals just how much the Count needs his servant as well as how manipulative he is of him.
Finding refuge in an abandoned building in New Orleans, Renfield seeks out new blood for his master as he recovers from the last attempt to destroy him. Wanting to avoid killing innocent people, Renfield attends a group counseling session for people who are being controlled by others. He then seeks out these “bad” people and delivers them to Dracula for food. However, Dracula grows tired of this and wants a busload of cheerleaders instead.
Tired of being under Dracula’s thumb, Renfield begins to branch out on his own and even attempts to court a New Orleans traffic cop (Awkwafina). Amid all this, they become embroiled in a fight to bring down a notorious and ruthless gang in the city, which turns the story into a complete mess as it runs off the rails. “Renfield” goes from being creatively funny to nothing less than dull and uninspired.
Cage’s performance is the strongest suit for this film. It’s campy at times but always entertaining. Hoult is a good counterpart to Cage yet he and McKay fail to delve much into the insanity that would seep into the mind of anyone who had been harvesting victims for a vampire for decades. Hoult and Awkwafina have zero chemistry, and the latter fails to bring any comic relief to the table. In fact, it’s painful to watch.
Overall, “Renfield” has some good moments and it’s great to see Cage in a major motion picture again, but it’s only worth your time if you have nothing else to do.
“Renfield” receives two stars out of five.

Film Review: “A Man Called Otto”


  • Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño
  • Directed by Marc Forster
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 6 mins
  • Sony Pictures
There are only a small handful of thespians who could read the proverbial phonebook and somehow make it entertaining. This is applicable to Tom Hanks whose body of work speaks for itself. His newest work, “A Man Called Otto” may not be among the best films he has ever done, but it is an emotional drama with characters that feel like real people whom virtually anyone can identify with.
A remake of a 2015 Swedish film “A Man Called Ove,” which in turn was based upon a 2012 novel of the same name by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, “A Man Called Otto” begins in the winter of 2018-19 and is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) is the embodiment of what a curmudgeon is – he’s quick to call people idiots, he’s rude to everyone, and he prefers to be alone. Otto is also fastidious about rules and regulations, and he sees the world in black and white.
Otto’s behavior is rooted in part by the fact that his beloved wife has recently passed away and the company he worked his whole life for has forced him into retirement. Feeling that he has no purpose in life anymore, Otto decides it is time to take his own life.
Prior to attempting to hang himself, Otto becomes sidetracked when he sees his new neighbors, Marisol (Mariana Treviño, 2018’s “Overboard”) and Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, 2016’s “The Magnificent Seven”) trying to parallel park with a trailer. It infuriates him so badly that he marches out and parks their vehicle himself before marching back inside his home to resume his suicide attempt, which fails.
Otto, who always lived with an enlarged heart, isn’t done with trying to kill himself, but he gradually becomes more involved and hence attached to Marisol and her family as well as some of his neighbors. It ultimately leads to some genuine, heart-warming, and tear-jerking poignant moments in the film.
Hanks, who took on a slightly gaunt appearance for the role, is as brilliant as ever with the portrayal of a man in psychological despair. I still regard him as his generation’s Jimmy Stewart. He has an everyman quality about him that makes it easy for people to identify with his characters. His primary counterpart in the film is Garcia-Rulfo who delivers a strong supporting performance as a woman’s whose generosity and kindness compels her to develop a relationship with Otto despite his gruffness. Garcia-Rulfo’s emotional range is superb, and she shares great chemistry with Hanks.
Director Marc Forster (“Christopher Robin,” “World War Z”) maintains a nice, even pace throughout the film’s running time as he infuses the story with a sense of realism. He times out well a series of flashbacks to Otto’s younger days when he and his wife, Sonya (Rachel Keller, “Legion”) first meet, date, get married, and experience joys and tragedies. The younger version of Otto is played by Hanks’s son, Truman whose only other big screen role was a small part in 2020’s “News of the World,” which also starred his father. Keller delivers a sweet performance, but Truman comes across as a little wooden on the silver screen.
Overall, “A Man Called Otto,” available on streaming services, is a wonderful little drama, but just make sure you have a tissue box handy.
“A Man Called Otto” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.

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