Film Review: “Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

  • Starring:  Tom Cruise, Hayley Atwell and Ving Rhames
  • Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 43 mins
  • Paramount


Tom Cruise just turned 61 last week.  But when you watch his latest action thriller you may not believe that.  To call his latest “Mission Impossible’ epic “a non-stop rollercoaster ride of action” may actually be a slight.


A new, top secret submarine is testing out it’s new technology – one that makes it entirely invisible to any kind of radar.  As the sub is about to end it’s journey the captain is alarmed to find his sub being identified and fired upon.  This can’t be happening.  Right?

While the first two film in the “Mission Impossible” series were entertaining, heled by acclaimed filmmakers Brian De Palma and John Woo.  Yet, there always seemed to be something missing.  That missing piece was found in Part III, under the direction of J.J. Abrams.  A combination of action and story that continues wth the seventh installment of tghe series, “Dead Reckoning.”,

This time the story finds Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission team (Rhames and Simon Pegg) trying to find the way to stop an A.I. program known as the Entity that is becoming more and more sentient.  Along the way, they cross paths with a world class thief (Atwell), a true villain (Esai Morales) and even their own government, which, of course, is an oxymoron since by rule the government has no knowledge of their actions.


And what action it is!  From high speed car chases and train rides to an amzing freebase jump of fthe back of a motorcycle (no spoilers here – it’s in the commercials) the film actually is a non-stop roller coaster ride of action!

In between the spectacular set pieces is a well crafted story, co-written by director McQuarrie, who won the Oscar nearly three decades for the legendary “The Usuasl Suspects.”  The story here has the same attention to details that McQuasrrie brought to “The Usual suspects” and we are kept guessing who is good and who is bad with each new twist.

Despite a running time of nearly three hours, the film flows smoothly, with nary a slow moment on screen.  That being said, I can understand why they decided to split the story into two films, as I can’t see audiences sitting through a five hour plus epic, no matter how entertaining it is.

One more note.  Cruise is a producer on the film and my only thought is because no other producer would insure him.  He has upped the ante of his stunts in every “Mission Impossible’ film and his work here is among the best I’ve ever seen on film.

You’re mission, shoud you decide to accept it, is to check out “Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” as soon as you can.

On a scale of zero to five I give “Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” four and a half stars.   

Film Review: “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (Review #2)


  • Starring: Harrison Ford and Mads Mikkelsen
  • Directed by: James Mangold
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 34 mins
  • Walt Disney Studios


Sometimes things should be just left alone. Like a hornets nest or steaming pile of dog poop. This is also applicable to the entire “Indiana Jones” franchise after “Raiders of the Lost Ark” made its mark. Sure, 1989’s “Last Crusade” was fun with the late Sean Connery as Indy’s father, but the rest of the films have been forgettable to say the least. They are akin to staring at the sun because in an instant you realize it was a mistake to look. I wish I could say “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” was some superb sendoff to Harrison Ford’s iconic character. Unfortunately, it contains retread villains, a lackluster storyline, and a bow at the end that is too neatly tied.


With special effects to make Harrison Ford look young again, “Dial of Destiny” takes us back to 1944 during the Allied liberation of Europe. One more time Indiana has been captured by Nazis who are desperate to get away with their loot before the Allies take it from them. One Nazi officer has a fascination with the holy Lance of Longinus artifact, which he believes Hitler will use to turn the war around. Jones, aided by Oxford archeologist Basil Shaw (Toby Jones, “Captain America: The First Avenger”), is also in pursuit of it. However, the real prize as it turns out is half of Archimedes Dial, a mechanical, astronomical calculator designed to find fissures in time. Something that is highly prized by Nazi astrophysicist Dr. Jurgen Voller (Mads Mikkelsen).


Fast forward to 1969 New York City where we find a much older and depressed Indiana getting ready to retire from his professorship. His marriage to Marion is in tatters and no mention of his son, Mutt is made initially. Enter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag”), the daughter of his late friend Basil who pulls a reluctant Indiana into a race to complete the Archimedes Dial before Dr. Voller, who helped the United States develop its space program, can find it, and rewrite the history of World War II.


That’s all you will get of out yours truly. What I can say is that while it’s fun to watch Ford don the Indiana fedora again, the story is about as tired as his character. The initial 30 minutes or so is fun-filled popcorn entertainment, but it becomes boring. Unlike finding the Holy Grail, the so called “Dial of Destiny” is less exciting than finding what the prize is in a box of Crackerjacks. There are multiple characters from Indiana’s past who make what are glorified cameos, but these do little to improve the story. Mikkelsen, who has a unique skill to bounce between good and bad guys, is perhaps the lone bright spot with a truly villainous performance. Other than that, the remaining performances are either lackluster or annoying.


Overall, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” should have destined for the straight-to-dvd bin at your local convenience store.


“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” receives two-and-a-half stars out of five.


Film Review: “Mermaids’ Lament” (Review #2)

  • Starring:  Dayva Summer Escobar and Justina Mattos
  • Directed by:  G.B. Hajim
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 31 mins
  • Tween Sea and Sand Productions


Imagine having the ability to swim and socialize with your friends all day, not a care in the world.  If you’re a mermaid, life is pretty good.  At least until you get caught in a fishing net.  Then life can be pretty brutal.

Beautifully shot, with a script by director Hajim that delves into much more then you might expect, “Mermaid’s Lament” is buoyed by two very different performances, one almost silent and another raging.

Oee  – pronounced Oh-Eee – (Escobar) finds herself on a beach, totally alone and scared.  She makes her way to the highway, where she is spotted by Dr. Nell Jamison (Mattos), who takes the young woman first to town and, after Oee encounters a few troublemakers, to her home.  Dr. Nell is a psychiatrist and Oee is a woman in need of one.  Oee has lost her voice and this fact, along with a few things Dr. Nell considers “unusual” form not only a doctor/patient relationship but one that might be considered mother/daughter.  Nell truly cares for Oee and her well-being, but she also has some baggage of her own that effects her work and her relationship with Oee.

Both Escobar and Mattos bring true emotion to their performances, a fine achievement when you learn that both actresses are making their feature film debut.  The cinematography, by co-DPs Roselia Hernandez and Ronn Murray, is beautiful, particular the underwater shots.  The story is also complimented by an original musical score by Jessica Jarvis and Sharneisha Joyner.

On a scale of zero to five, I give “Mermaids’ Lament” three stars.  

Film Review: “Joy Ride”


  • Starring:  Ashley Park, Sherry Cola  and Annie Mumolo
  • Directed by:  Adele Lim
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 35 mins
  • Lionsgate

After moives inspired by “The Simpsons” and “Bob;s Burgers” I have waited patiently for a “Family Guy” film.  Sadly, Seth McFarlane has not heeded my wishes.  That being said, with a script co-written by long time “Family Guy” writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, “Joy Ride” is a great consolation prize.


Audrey (Isla Rose Hall) is an Asian girl who was adopted by white Americans as a child.  Her parents, hoping to help her appreciate her heritage, introduce themselves to another Asian family at the playground.  There she meets the family’s young daughter, Lolo (Chloe Pun).  The two become best friends and set out on their paths as adults.  However, despite their shared heritage, their paths are quite different.

Outrageously funny, and just a little naughty, “Joyride” is a major filmmaking achievement, avoiding the stereotypical portrayal of Asians on screen and replacing them with a well written and well performed story that feels real.

Now an adult, Audrey (Park) is an attorney who is asked to represent her firm to a prospective client in China.  Nervous for a multitude of reasons, she takes her bestie Lolo (Cola) with her, along with Lolo’s cousin, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), who is a huge KPop fan.  Audrey also plans to meet us with Kat (Stephanie Hsu), a friend from college who has found success on a Chinese soap opera.  As Audrey and her friends start their adventures, they all find much more then they are looking for.

This film has been compared to Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids,” and rightly so.  Where the former film showed that women can be as raunchy as men, “Joyride” takes that achievement a step further, showing a little seen side of a culture that is often portrayed as cold and unemotional.

To say any more would give away some major plot points, but suffice it to say that the laughs are plentiful, with a few truly emotional moments thrown in to balance the story.  If you’re in need of a laugh – a real, genuine belly laugh – then I highly recommend “Joy Ride.”

On a scale of zero to five, I give “Joy Ride” four stars.  




Film Review: “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”


  • Starring:  Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Mads MikMikkelsen
  • Directed by:  James Mangold
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 34 mins
  • Walt Disney Pictures

If Adventure has a name…it must be Indiana Jones.  A great tag line for 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”   Nearly four decades later, those words still ring true.


Our story begins in 1939, where once again Dr. Henry Jones, Jr – Indy to his friends – (Ford) is battling his old nemesis, the Nazi Parry.  This time the bad guys are trying to posses the lance that pierced Jesus on the Cross.  They also have a little something something created by the great mathematician Archimedes that, if the story is true, can be used to influence time.  Not a bad trinket to have on your shelf.


Packed with non-stop action from beginning to end, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” gives our hero one last adventure, and it’s a doozy.  The story picks up in 1969.  Man has just returned from the moon, thanks in part to a German mathematician (Mikkelsen) who may or may not have had a run in or two with Dr. Jones.  While the astronauts have their parade, Dr. Jones is teaching his last class, heading into what he believes will be a quiet retirement.  But a surprise visit from his Goddaughter, Helena (Waller-Bridge) gives him one last chance to put on the fedora.



Though I really enjoyed it, many fans were disappointed in 2008s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which was directed by the master Steven Spielberg.  What would a film directed by the man best known for “Walk the Line” and “Cop Land” offer fans?  The answer?  Plenty!  Mangold sets a frantic pace throughout the film, breaking up major action set pieces with brief moments of conversation to give the audience time to catch its collective breath.


The cast is stellar, with Ford once again at his adventurous and wisecracking self.  Waller-Bridge matches him stunt for stunt, and is a great Ying to Ford’s Yang.  Supporting work by Toby Jones, Antonio Banderas and young Ethann Isidore keep the film moving when the action slows down.  It’s a cliché, but I would pay to see Mads Mikkelsen read the phone book.  In films as diverse as “Casino Royale” and “The Hunt,” he has given some masterful performances.  His work here is another triumph.


Though rated PG 13, the film is a little darker than other films in the series (and I say that knowing that a character had his heart pulled from his chest in “Temple of Doom,” helping to usher in the PG 13 rating.  There are some violent scenes in “Dial of Destiny,” and that well-known sound effect called the “Wilhelm Scream” gets quite a workout.


That being said, it’s a true pleasure to see Indiana Jones back on the big screen, where he and his adventures belong.  After all, it’s not the years.  It’s the miles!


On a scale of zero to five, I give “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” five stars.  



Film Review: “The Flash” (Review #2)


  • Starring: Ezra Miller and Sasha Calle
  • Directed by: Andy Muschietti
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 24 mins
  • Warner Bros.


I find it tragic that the DC Extended Universe is coming to a halt thanks to James Gunn’s takeover and future reboot. In comparison to Marvel Studios, the DCEU’s releases have admittedly been uneven – who can forget “Wonder Woman” but who wants to remember “Birds of Prey”? Yet, the DCEU brand was often darker than the Marvel slate, which gave its own uniqueness. While “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” is set for launch in December, it will have a hard time not being anti-climatic after following the absolute thrill ride that is “The Flash.” Overflowing with surprises (this review will be spoiler free), “The Flash” is one of the best DCEU movies ever made with a terrific, dual performance by Ezra Miller and great supporting performances by Sasha Calle as Supergirl and Michael Keaton as Batman.


After helping Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) stop a robbery in Gotham City, Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) revisits his childhood home where his beloved mother was murdered. Still grieving her loss and dealing with anger of his father being wrongly imprisoned, Barry accidentally travels back in time using the speed force. He tells Bruce who warns him of the dangers of messing with the past. Of course, Barry ignores it.


While attempting to fix his family’s tragedy, Barry is attacked by an unknown assailant and is knocked back to the year 2013 where he encounters an alternate version of himself. When General Zod (Michael Shannon) arrives, the two Barrys try to assemble the Justice League, but it proves futile with one exception. It is at Wayne Manor they find a much older, disheveled Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton).


Our Barry and Bruce learn the Russians are holding who Barry thinks is Superman but turns out to be his cousin, Kara Zor-El/Supergirl (Sasha Calle, TV’s “The Young and the Restless”). Their plan is to free her and find a way to stop General Zod, but time and fate have certain rules as our Barry learns.


Directed by Andy Muschietti (2017’s “It”), “The Flash” is a thrilling experience full of surprises from start to finish. Some of the special effects may not look so special to some, but that’s more a matter of personal taste to a degree. The storyline has a good deal of emotional depth when it comes to Barry’s history and complexities, which are fleshed out with skill by Miller. It is rare for someone to pull off a good performance at playing a double of themselves and Miller succeeds with flying colors. The most enjoyable aspect, and the one that received the most vocal response from the audience yours truly saw it with, is the appearance of Keaton who has a substantial role in the story. It is a joy to say the least to see him on the silver screen once more as the caped crusader.


Is there such a thing as superhero fatigue? Perhaps. I have believed since the original “Blade” that comic movies would become the new Western, a once overly prolific genre. What it boils down to is the writing and an ability to maintain a high creative level that will keep the movie-going public’s interest. “The Flash” may be a victim of that fatigue, which would be disappointing as it is a truly fun summer flick in every sense.


“The Flash” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.

Film Review “Mermaids’ Lament”

It’s not very often that I get really excited for a film these days. We are filled in a world of remakes and sequels, which are fine but I always look out for anything original coming out. Let’s travel back to 2012 for a minute, I got a screener for a then little known film “Strange Frame: Love & Sax”, which was written, produced, shot and directed by a guy named G.B. Hajim. So I watched this film and was literally blown away. It is like nothing I have ever seen before and it has stuck with me over the last 10+ years. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend doing so immediately, click here. So when I saw that G.B. had a new film on the horizon, I got excited right away. This guy has a vision and his films are extremely unique.

MERMAIDS’ LAMENT deals with some serious topics such as depression and anxiety. Tell me, who doesn’t deal with these issues in their own life. G.B. brings these into the light and shows us how everyone struggles daily with their own demons. The film also focuses on our oceans and the effects of pollution and waste. MERMAIDS’ LAMENT is beautifully shot with some amazing underwater sequences as well. You can tell that G.B. has an eye for beauty that is seen throughout this film.

Official Premise: The story of two women who find strength in each other despite their personal struggles, MERMAIDS’ LAMENT follows two women: Oee (Dayva Summer Escobar) a traumatized woman who has lost her voice and may or may not be a mermaid. Her therapist, Dr. Nell Jamison (Justina Mattos) battles with anxiety herself, attempts to help Oee overcome her delusions and connect with reality. As they bond over their experiences, they learn to be resilient like the ocean and embrace the power of imagination to navigate the chaos of the world.

Dayva Summer Escobar, who played the role of Oee really delivers an epic performance. Without speaking much, she takes us on a journey of the struggles of mental health and the beauty of the ocean. Justina Mattos, who played Dr. Nell Jamison also brings it home with a deep and caring performance. This is a film that I could watch over and over. It is a heartfelt and moving story that takes us through the power of imagination and the strength that comes from human connection.

If you are in the Hollywood, CA area, I would highly recommend checking out the MERMAIDS’ LAMENT as it will be screening on June 25th at 9:30pm at the TCL Chinese Theater as part of Dances with Films festival. You can get tickets here. This is a film that needs to be seen by everyone and experienced on the big screen. It is not a $100 million dollar blockbuster but you can tell that it was a real labour of love for everyone involved. I can’t wait to see what G.B. is going to do next but count me in for damn sure!

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.

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