Film Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania


  • Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly
  • Directed by: Peyton Reed
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 125 minutes
  • Marvel Studios
After a long and sometimes lackluster collection of full-length movies and Disney+ series, Marvel’s Phase 4 came to an end with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which was a high note for the franchise as it nabbed five Academy Award nominations. The dawn of a new phase of Marvel movies has arrived with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” again featuring Kansas City’s own Paul Rudd as the titular hero. While “Quantumania” lacks the dramatic depth of “Black Panther,” it does showcase an entertaining story with good character development, particularly with Rudd’s character, and a great performance by Jonathan Majors as the time traveling villain Kang the Conqueror.
We find Scott living a peaceful life with his teenage daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton) while his girlfriend, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) aka The Wasp has become a corporate executive. During a visit at the home of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Cassie, with encouragement of Hank, has somehow pulled a Tony Stark by building a device that can act as a satellite in the Quantum Realm. This is much to the chagrin of Janet who demands to have it turned off, but alas she is too late as a portal opens up and sucks them all down to the Quantum Realm.
Scott and his annoying daughter stumble into a rebel camp where they are initially treated as prisoners. Meanwhile, Hank, Janet, and Hope travel to a city where Janet divulges secrets from her 30 years in the Quantum Relam, including her relationship with the time traveler known as Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). As it turns out, Kang, the Quantum Realm’s despotic ruler, is trapped and needs a complex power core to escape.
After being captured by his subordinate, M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll), formerly Darren Cross who was thought to be dead, Scott is forced to reacquire the power core so Kang can enact his revenge against those who banished him. Scott soon learns the hard way that Kang was right in telling him that he is out of his league.
The first appealing thing about “Quantumania” is Scott’s development as a character during the course of the three films featuring him. Unlike Thor, who has become regressed into a buffoon and Peter Parker, who can’t seem to grow up, Scott has grown from just being a bumbling burglar. Of course, it could be more but there is obviously a reluctance to get too far away from having comedic elements in his story.
Pfeiffer is also a delight to watch as she simply takes over her scenes as the story peels away the layers of her character. However, the true star of the entire film is Majors, who already played a version of Kang in the outstanding Disney+ “Loki” series. Majors plays him with an ease as Kang vacillates between stoicism and pure rage. His Kang is easily on par with Thanos as the greatest villains in the Marvel franchise.
While the special effects are outstanding, they are simply window dressing as sometimes the settings and the story itself appear to have been copycatted elements of a pair of “Star Wars” films. The pacing is a little disjointed at times, but the biggest grievance is Cassie. She is arguably the most annoying character in any Marvel movie or series. While Newton is obviously a talented actress because she did get the part, her performance is akin to listening to someone running their nails down a chalkboard. Poorly written character and an equally unlikable performance that drains some of the life out of the film.
Overall, “Quantumania” is an entertaining flick that at least lays the groundwork for a hopefully a much better and well-rounded slate of Phase 5 films.

Film Review: Guilermo del Toro’s PINNOCHIO

  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Gregory Mann
  • Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
  • Rated: PG
  • Running time:  1 hr 57 mins
  • Netflix
Nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature Film category, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” or just “GDT’s Pinocchio” from here on out for brevity’s sake, is a delightful, stop-motion animated take on the 1883 Italian novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi (1826-90). Packed with talented voiceover work, del Toro’s effort often pulls at the heartstrings. However, it is a much darker version than the 1940 Walt Disney film and should probably be viewed by slightly older children.
The story begins in Italy during World War I when talented yet humble carpenter Geppetto (David Bradley, best known as Argus Fitch in the “Harry Potter” series) loses his son and only child, Carlo during an aerial bombardment of his village by the Austro-Hungarian air force. Devastate, Geppetto plants a pine cone at Carlo’s grave and for the next 20 years as the tree grows he grieves continuously for him.
Enter Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) who establishes his new home inside the pine tree only to see it cut down by a drunk Geppetto. Filled with rage, Geppetto begins to carve a wooden puppet boy from the pine tree, but passes out before he is finished. While he is asleep, a wood sprite (Tilda Swinton) brings Pinocchio to life and grants Sebastian a wish so long as he acts as the wooden boy’s guide.
When Geppetto wakes up he is terrified at what he sees as Pinocchio exhibits an uncontrollable zest to ask questions, get into trouble and not do what he is told since he has no sense of right and wrong, despite Sebastian and Geppetto’ best efforts. What follows are a series of misadventures for Pinocchio that include becoming an enslaved circus attraction and later a trainee in Mussolini’s fascist army.
The director of such previous works as “Hellboy,” “Pacific Rim,” and “The Shape of Water,” del Toro once again delves into a world with fantastical beings and how humans interact with them. And once again his story, which is also part musical, is intriguing to watch as it unfolds. Filled with tragedies and triumphs as Pinocchio learns the hard way what it means to be human, del Toro’s effort is bolstered by wonderful voiceovers that include other notables as Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman, John Turturro and Christoph Waltz.
Overall, “GDT’s Pinocchio” is an imaginative, darkly whimsical film that will set you on an emotional pendulum from start to finish.

Film Review: “Attachment”

Starring: Sofie Grabol, Josephine Park and Ellie Kendrick
Directed by: Gabriel Bier Gislason
Rated: NR
Running Time: 105 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

On paper, “Attachment” reads like a meet-cute sitcom episode. Maya (Park) is a washed up Danish actress making ends meet as a children’s entertainer at a library when she bumps into Leah (Kendrick), a youthful Jewish student who is exploring the world in her studies. The two immediately connect as they go back to Maya’s place for some cute glances and steamy sex. Things are off to an incredibly fast and amazing start when Leah suffers a bizarre seizure at night which results in a leg injury. So Maya goes with Leah back to her home in London where Maya meets Leah’s overbearing mother, Chana (Grabol). Definitely a meet-cute formula that’s about to get gobsmacked by something evil.

Without spoiling anything, “Attachment” is a movie we’ve seen before, utilizing several clichés to move the plot along, but what elevates the story is the unique qualities it brings to the table. Very rarely do we see these kinds of films with LGBTQ+ characters and Judaism as the subtext. That’s not to say the film intentionally includes these elements to be unique. Matter of fact, the film interweaves the nuances of these elements with clichés so that the clichés don’t feel nearly as prevalent. They’re still there, and at times give away what’s happening in Chana’s home.

The biggest thing I enjoyed about “Attachment” is how deep, even with how brief it sometimes is, we go in-depth with these characters. We learn more about Maya to where we understand why she feels the way she does about Leah. We also begin to recognize the toxic codependency between Leah and her mother. It’s difficult at first to tell which one is the most toxic and which one is potentially responsible for the increasingly paranormal things happening in the house. But like I stated before, if you’re a horror aficionado, you might be able to figure out what’ll happen in the final act because of the clichés.

Thankfully the film focuses more on mood than jump scares for its horror so that the film never feels cheap. Even when the runtime begins to feel a bit too long, the story continues to chug thanks to an effective atmosphere and believable performances. For me, it was difficult at times to figure out if this film works better as a horror with romance elements or a romance with horror elements because at times the film does both effectively and sometimes poorly. For the sake of the genre argument, I’ll say that this is a fine addition to the growing LGBTQ+ and Judaism horror collection. Maybe it’s because we haven’t seen these kinds of people in these stories, but “Attachment” feels fresh, even when it’s doing a juggling act we’ve seen dozens of times before.


Film Review: “The Last Deal”

Starring: Anthony Molinari, Sala Baker and Gigi Gustin
Directed by: Jonathan Salemi
Rated: R
Running Time: 91 minutes
Scatena & Rosner Films

Our score: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

Very rarely do I start a film and begin to wonder how long it’s been sitting on a shelf, whether it’s the finished project or just the mere concept of the film “The Last Deal” is about Vincent (Molinari), a black market marijuana dealer who goes from being the king of the street to just another cog in the machine when marijuana is legalized in California. Doesn’t this seem like the kind of film you’d hear about or see pre-pandemic?

“The Last Deal” opens with Vincent narrating the first 10-15 minutes so that we can understand his life and business. As to why we need Vincent to narrate what we’re already seeing or having it take that long is a telltale sign that the film is going to have a lot of head scratching narrative and storytelling choices. The issues that arrive in Vincent’s life is when he realizes that he can’t play the marijuana game legitimately. So before being squeezed out of the market he decides to make one final score with rotten money from a rotten person. That’s where things begin to take a nosedive for Vincent.

How do we know Vincent borrowed money from the wrong person? That person, in the credits, is named “The Boss” (Baker). He’s such a bad guy, supposedly, he has a henchman for when he plays poker, for when he enjoys a beverage on his patio outside and even a henchman that watches TV while “The Boss” messes around in another room. He also threatens to kill Vincent and everyone he knows when the money and drugs are suddenly stolen from Vincent. It’s not that the story or even the idea of the whole story is bad, it’s just executed poorly.

For one, we never really care about Vincent. At times he seems to lack a personality. I say that because the only time we get an inside view into his mind and life, he’s complaining about how difficult it is and how it lacks certain joys. He has a girlfriend and a place to live, but he doesn’t like living in an apartment and the relationship with his girlfriend is on the rocks; so much so that at multiple points in the film, Vincent seems to view her as an afterthought. I’m sure there is an intention to make it seem like his life is nothing but drug dealing or that he’s unable to see its beauty, but even in casual interactions, Vincent seems devoid of basic human emotion. The only time we see him emote is when one of his colleagues is murdered, but even that rare instance of emotion is brief. I would generally say it’s the acting, but when I think about Vincent as a character, he really is a one-dimensional creation.

When the film’s third act finally rolls up, you should know what’s going to happen because the story is very painted by numbers. There are several surprises, however, they feel more like plot convenience than anything. I really wanted to sit back and enjoy this film because the plot allows for that, but the film has too many noticeable issues for me to ignore and mindlessly enjoy. “The Last Deal” should be your last option when picking what to watch.

Film Review: “Eo”

Starring: Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo and Isabelle Huppert
Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski
Rated: NR
Running Time: 88 minutes
Janus Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

You hang around animals long enough, you begin to notice things like expressions in their face and how much personality they have. Despite the obvious language/species barrier, it’s fascinating that animals and humans alike are able to understand certain aspects of each other whether that’s happiness or fear. We’re also able to recognize each other’s body language when we’re angry, depressed or joyful. You’d think we’d get along better, but a film like “Eo” shows how that bond is at times oceans apart or beautifully close.

“Eo” is pretty straightforward. It’s about a donkey named Eo, who is a circus donkey when we first meet him. He has a loving owner and doesn’t seem to mind the outdated spectacle, but some animal rights activists are about to “free” him. There’s something comical about watching Eo quietly roaming around amongst angry humans yelling for it to be free, even though the concept of freedom is probably alien to Eo. After being “freed,” we see the folly of the animal rights activists who believe their job is done and let Eo roam freely to potentially be harmed or maimed. The rest of the film serves as a journey that’s heartwarming, tear-jerking, thoughtful, sad and ultimate meditation about life.

Despite being a donkey, Eo should have probably earned an Oscar nomination for delivering a world of emotion through his eyes. At times the camera hovers just inches from Eo’s eyes and we see thousands of words etched into them as he encounters friends, foes and the utterly bizarre, like a soccer match where Eo becomes the focal point through no actions of his own. The film is brief which helps with a lot of the moments where the camera simply follows Eo on his voiceless journey in Europe.

I found myself entranced by Eo’s journey even though there wasn’t anything specifically thrilling about it. It is just a donkey, after all, but Eo is more than that. He represents that soft spot that all humans have for animals. Even when we don’t like a specific creature, we still don’t necessarily wish them harm or want to see harm come their way. I think that’s what makes Eo so fascinating to watch and that’s because his encounters would tell you no person is safe, but all humans you encounter could be potentially safe. Eo sometimes feels like a representation of humanity, going through the motions, encountering adventures that may or may not be the best thing for our soul. We blindly go through life hoping everyone and everything we encounter is good-natured, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

“Eo” is a film I thought about for days after watching. Personally I know it’s because I attempt to view humanity through these kinds of films. I feel like there’s poor ways of conveying the importance of creatures and the bond we share with them, like “A Dog’s Purpose,” but films like “Babe” help ground us in the reality of coexisting with creatures on this blue marble. “Eo” goes way deeper than I thought. What does coexistence mean when one side mistreats the other? What does life mean when sometimes a singular purpose for one’s existence is ultimately the consumption of the other? What does coexistence mean when we attach ourselves to them in toxic ways? Sure, some animals that aren’t donkeys have a poor temperament and just aren’t cuddly or loveable, but neither are all humans. “Eo” will make you smile, cry and ponder what exactly is going on in this crazy world and you’ll be a better person after all of it. Good donkey.

Film Review: “Women Talking”

Starring: Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Rooney Mara
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 104 minutes
United Artists Releasing

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

George Carlin once said, “There’s no such thing as rights. They’re imaginary. We made ’em up. Like the boogie man.” I open my review with that quote for two reasons. First being that 2022 was the year that women experienced the loss of their body autonomy rights. Second being that the women in “Women Talking,” never had rights because of the boogie man.

“Women Talking” opens with a group of women in an unnamed religious colony discussing the revelation over the prior days/weeks that ghosts or Satan aren’t behind the drugging and raping they’re experiencing. Nope. It’s the men who live among them. Their friends, their neighbors, their fathers, their spouses, etc. For years, those men have been the ones who have been drugging the women so that they can sneak in at night and rape them only to tell them the next day it’s the boogie man. With this revelation, something has to happen, right? The men are caught and arrested, but the rapists post bail and are on their way back home as if nothing happened. The women at this discussion represent different houses of thought on what to do before the rapists return. Some women believe they should do nothing and continue to be the subservient class in this community. Others believe it’s time to stay and get their fists and noses bloodied. A good portion believe that it’s simply time to leave.

Unfortunately the above scenario is not the work of Hollywood, it is based on a book written by Miriam Toews, a former Mennonite girl who fled her Canadian Mennonite community when she turned 18. “Women Talking” isn’t looking to bash one of the more peculiar sects of Christianity though. Outside of showing the horrific reality that women are still second-class citizens in portions of the world, “Women Talking” also examines a very key question in trauma, “What now?” The three options above spur fascinating on-screen discussions that cross the proverbial universe of these women. The revelations are handled differently, with some women still drinking the flavor aid that the best option is to ignore the crimes because…God’s “wishes?” Other women want to leave, but then wonder if that means taking their children. Some of their children are boys, does that mean their boys will grow up to become rapist monsters? Do they leave the boys? Can any man be trusted? If the women stay and fight, how will the community as a whole react? What will stop the men from banding together and retaliating if it’s a war between the sexes?

A film like “Women Talking,” which thankfully spares the audience the visuals of the rapes, relies heavily on its actors and script, and both are a cannon shot across the bow. Not only are the perpetrators called out in the story, but the real world is called into question by these discussions. I could break down the stellar performances and moments, but “Women Talking” is truly a film that demands attention and silences you with the power of words. At times the film is an emotional wrecking ball, making the words of these women more powerful than any scene featuring the crimes themselves. The casting is truly spotless because even the lone man (played by Ben Wishaw) in the community, who is helping the women by keeping record of their discussions and chiming in when called upon, adds emotional layers to the women debating something they’ve probably never debated or even discussed before.

In a lot of ways, “Women Talking” plants its feet in the past and in the present day. In some regards you can view the film as a historic look at how women finally release themselves from the shackles of their oppressors to give rise to a movement and help create the birth of a new society, one in which both sexes are equal. You can also see the modern commentary hidden in the tearful debates between our characters. Either that or the old idiom is true, history is doomed to repeat itself. Foy, Buckley and Mara lead the way for this ensemble cast tasked with not only conveying a powerful message, but doing it in a riveting way where the viewer will either find themselves teary eyed, aghast or silent. For some viewers, those who have already seen the movie, “Women Talking” bookended a rough 2022 for women in America, and for some viewers, this film is your rallying cry in 2023.

Film Review: “The Whale”



  • Starring:  Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink and Hong Chau
  • Directed by:  Darren Aronofsky
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 57 mins
  • A24


And the Oscar goes to…..  Brendan Fraser.  That is all.


OK, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here.


An online class is in progress.  The main screen is filled with the faces of all of the students.  The only black frame belongs to the instructor, who informs the others that the camera on his laptop is broken.  But it isn’t. He’s just afraid of being seen.


Driven by Brendan Fraser, who gives a performance that is both brilliant and emotional, “The Whale” tells the story of a man whose life has spiraled downward as his waistline has increased.  Charlie (Fraser) was once a happy man with a wife and daughter.  A college professor, he was able to share his love of literature and of writing.  But Charlie had a secret and that secret destroyed not only his life, but the lives of those that loved him.  Now it is only through food that Charlie can achieve any semblance of happiness, finding consolation in a bucket of chicken or a couple of giant meatball and cheese subs.  He is looked after by his friend, Liz (Chau), who drops by often offering dinner and some companionship.  Liz knows that Charlie is slowly killing himself, but he refuses to seek medical help.  Only after receiving a couple of unexpected visitors does Charlie begin to think of happiness.  But not for himself.


I’m a big guy.  I can always afford to lose a few pounds.  And I can admit here that I have had people refer to me as fat.  But I’m Audrey Hepburn compared to Charlie.  Usually, a large person is played for laughs on screen.  Think Eddie Murphy in “The Nutty Professor,” Martin Lawrence in “Big Momma’s House” or the final scene in “Dodgeball” where a very hefty Ben Stiller makes a self-depreciating joke and remarks to the audience, “Are you happy?  Fatty made a funny.”  But with “The Whale” you have no desire to laugh at Charlie.  You sympathize with him.  When he struggles to take a few steps, you feel his exhaustion.  And when he strains to pick something up off the floor, you can feel your fingers reaching out as well.  But Charlie doesn’t want your sympathy.  He just wants to be.


I have always been a fan of Brendan Fraser.  From “School Ties” to the “Mummy” series to the underappreciated baseball comedy “The Scout,” he has always appeared genuine on screen.  His performance here is no different.  You feel sad for Charlie.  Not because he’s heavy but because he’s a human being.  It doesn’t matter if Charlie weighs 400 pounds or a buck twenty-five, the hurt he feels is evident in his eyes.  And the ability to express such emotion with only a glance is the hallmark of a great actor. 


Fraser is supported ably by his co-stars, including Ms. Chau, Sadie Sink as Charlie’s estranged daughter and Ty Simpkins as a man literally on a mission who knocks on Charlie’s door.  There is not a false performance in this film.


As a filmmaker, director Darren Aronofsky can be very hit or miss.  On one side of the spectrum, he created a masterpiece with “Requiem for a Dream.”  On the other hand, I give you “The Fountain.”  “The Whale” is another fine achievement and one that should be seen and appreciated. 

Film Review: “The Fabelmans”


  • Starring:  Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle and Judd Hirsch
  • Directed by:  Steven Spielberg
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 31 mins
  • Universal


A young boy goes to the movies.  What he see’s has such an impression on him that he makes film a major part of his life.  That young boy could never have known that 2 hours in the dark would change his life forever.  I should point out here that the young boy in question is me and the movie in question was “Jaws.”


New Jersey.  1952.  Young Sammy Fableman (LaBelle) is taken to the movies to see “The Greatest Show on Earth” by his parents, Mitzi (Williams, in an Oscar-worthy performance) and Burt (Paul Dano).  Burt is a scientific engineer, so instead of explaining movies in terms of enjoyment he spouts off about how the film runs 24 frames per second, giving still images the illusion of movement.  Despite his father’s description, Sam is mesmerized by the film, especially the famous train crash (oops, SPOILER ALERT!).  He plays the scene over and over in his head when he gets home.  When he receives a train set for Hanukkah you can see the wheels turning in his head.  Especially when he picks up his fathers 8mm movie camera. 


An obviously very personal film for Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans” could easily be compared to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” – without the naked women, of course.  It is rare for any filmmaker to give such an inside look at his life, and while this isn’t a true bio-pic, there are many similarities between Sam and Steven.  His mother was a very talented pianist and his father instrumental in the development of the computer.  Williams even wears her hair in the same style as Leah Spielberg.  But there are enough little changes in the story to make the audience wonder “did that really happen?”



The film is buoyed by an amazing cast, all at the top of their game.  Williams is stellar as a woman who has put her own creativity on hold to encourage her husband.  Dano excels as a man who truly loves his wife but can’t see the proverbial forest through the trees.  He constantly refers to Sam’s passion as a “hobby” and it’s obvious he doesn’t understand.  Supporting work by Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch helps flesh out the story.  And special praise indeed for young Mr. LaBelle, who just turned 20 this past weekend.  It would be nerve wracking enough to have your second major film directed by Steven Spielberg but to ALSO be playing the director…Yikes!  LaBelle approaches the role with the same wonder that Spielberg must have had as a young man.  It’s a beautiful performance.


With all Spielberg films, the production values are first rate.  And it’s so nice to once again see a Spielberg film accompanied by a beautiful musical score by the great John Williams.  Spielberg and Williams.  Takes me back to “Jaws.”


Like Spielberg, I made short films throughout high school but that’s pretty much all we have in common.  Though I did notice that he’s #22 on the Internet Movie Data Base STAR METER while I’m listed as #965,422.  Close. 

Film Review: Journey to Royal – A WWII Rescue Mission

HARRISBURG, PA — This documentary directed by Christopher Johnson of Misty Falls Motion Picture Company, and produced by Mariana Tosca, p.g.a. is a remarkable and effective piece of documentary filmmaking that chronicles the incredible stories of the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron rescue team during World War II.

This film tells the story about Lt. Royal A. Stratton and the rescue mission he flew to save the lives of nine downed B-29 bomber airmen adrift in the dangerous Japanese waters after their aircraft was hit by flak that started a fire in the rear of the plane.

I had never heard about Lt. Royal Stratton before, so for me, the film shines a new light on unsung heroes from World War II that we are forever indebted to.

The story, or rather stories, takes us right into the action with the feature narrative portion to start us off before we jump into the documentary section of the film. The editing is smart and successful which plunges us right into the stressful situation. The documentary portion is not only informative but educational and adds to our understanding of rescue efforts in the Pacific.

The documentary is an effective piece of cinema that informs and educates. Overall, this documentary is a very well-made and incredibly effective piece of filmmaking that is immersive cinematography with gripping action, mixed with firsthand accounts and historical images, showcasing the valor of the squadron who faced overwhelming odds to bring their brothers home.

Highly recommended for those interested in military history and in accounts of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

Dr. Zapotoczny is an author, historian, and professor of history. He can be reached at and his website is

Film Review: “The Menu”



  • Starring:  Ralph Fiennes, Nicolas Hoult and Anna Taylor-Joy
  • Directed by:  Mark Mylod
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 46 mins
  • Searchlight Pictures


I must admit before I continue that I do not consider myself a “foodie.”  If you know me you know I enjoy eating but I’ve never understood the high price restaurants that serve tiny portions on tiny plates made up of things I’ve never heard of.  One example in my lifetime:  I went to Washington D.C. to conduct an interview for my book on “Jaws 2,” offering to take the couple I was speaking with to dinner near my hotel.  While I was thinking something casual, like Houlihan’s or a similar establishment they gave me the name of a little place a block away from where I was staying.  The company, and the conversation, was amazing.  The food was…meh.  $260 later, after we said our goodbyes, I stopped at Subway on my way back to my hotel. 


Tyler (Hoult) is excitedly pacing back on forth on a dock.  He explains to Margot (Taylor-Joy) that he has been waiting seemingly forever for this night to come.  A night on an isolated island tasting food created by the most famous chef on the planet, Chef Slowick (Fiennes).  As they board the boat neither Tyler, no the other guests, can contemplate what will be on the menu.



A film that is both dark and funny, “The Menu” benefits from the combination of a smartly written script and some excellent performances.  If you’ve ever watched a reality cooking show, you know that the chef’s featured often have an overstated sense of importance.  That is true here with Chef Slowick, whose single clap of a hand can bring his entire kitchen staff to attention.  Fiennes is perfect in this role, going from stern taskmaster to sarcastic joker seamlessly.  The guest list is quite eclectic, with everyone from a well known food critic (Janet McTeer) to a once famous actor (John Leguizamo) who now tells people his career is in “the presenter phase.”  Each “course” is presented as a great surprise, though not all of the surprises are good ones.


The film is beautifully shot, with each course its own individual piece of art.  I may never eat pickled cucumber balls or slurp down some fancy oysters but they certainly do look good.  So does this film.

Film Review: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Starring:  Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett
Directed by:  Ryan Coogler
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 41 mins
Marvel Studios
There are very few film franchises that can boast as many quality films as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The majority of these films have been embraced by both fans and critics alike.  Even so, there are a few films that miss the mark.  “Iron Man 2.”  “Thor: the Dark World.”  And now, “Black Panther:  Wakanda Forever.”
A year after the death of King T’Challa, the country of Wakanda is still in turmoil.  Countries all over the world seek the rare vibranium that is found in Wakanda, without success.  When it appears that the rare element has been found in the Atlantic Ocean, the attempt to harvest it is foiled by an aquatic group under the leadership of a man called Namor.  Cue the action!
I can only imagine the difficulty it took to devise a sequel to the Oscar nominated “Black Panther” after the unexpected passing of actor Chadwick Boseman.  And while “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has many of the elements that fans love it is missing one main ingredient.  Heart.  Instead of emotion, the film is an ongoing barrage of action scenes, with characters traveling all over the world to track down Namor (Tenoch Huerta).  Every familiar character, from Queen Ramona (the amazing Bassett) to her daughter, Princess Shuri (Wright) to the leader of Wakanda’s army, General Nakita (Nyong’o) battle the bad guys, with small bits of Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss thrown in for some minor levity. 
A major problem with the film is the pacing.  Director Coogler has put together a film that is at least 30 minutes too long, as if he really didn’t know where to end it.  Also, the musical score sounds as if it were written for an entirely different film, with no subtlety in the quieter scenes while blaring in others, as if to say to the audience “hey, this is important!”  It feels like the producers weren’t sure about financing a stand-alone Submariner film so they kind of blended Namor’s story into this one. 
On the positive side, the performances are strong and the visual effects are outstanding.  But great effects do not always a great movie make – I’m looking at you, “Avatar” – and the humanity that Mr. Boseman brought to the title character is greatly missed.   

Film Review: “Terrifier 2”

If you enjoyed Damien Leone’s original “Terrifier” – then you’re in luck! “Terrifier 2” is the type of sequel where it feels like the director knows exactly what worked and didn’t work within their original film, and decides to double down on all the best parts. While “Terrifier 2” certainly has its fair share of bad performances and feels about ten minute over-long, it feels like an actual improvement over the first film in so many different ways. For starters, the original “Terrifier” is a perfectly enjoyable horror flick that is (rightfully, in my opinion) criticized for being completely light on plot and too reliant on its gnarly kills. Within the first twenty minutes of “Terrifier 2,” it’s apparent that Leone heard the criticisms and delivers a genuinely engaging protagonist within Sienna (Lauren LaVera) with a moderately compelling, emotional arc at her core. This won’t necessarily win any Oscars, but it’s nice to actually care about the characters this time around!

The film opens nearly exactly where its predecessor left off, with Art the Clown (played by the incredibly committed David Howard Thornton) terrorizing the coroner in a morgue. He soon sets off on a new quest for terrorizing more victims on Halloween, as Sienna and her brother (Elliot Fullam) are caught in the middle of all the carnage. The first thirty minutes are spent almost entirely setting up all the various supporting characters surrounded by the two leads, and the rest of the 138 minutes are a blood-bath that makes the first film seem tame in comparison. “Terrifier 2” is an acquired taste that still won’t satisfy all horror fans as it leans even further into torture-porn category than the original did, but you have to admire Leone’s commitment to furthering both his narrative and the extremes he can go-to with the kills Art the Clown can pull-off.

Another vast improvement here is the visual style and production design on display. The original “Terrifier” looked fine for a film of its budget, but one of the most striking things to me as this one began is that the cinematography is genuinely pretty impressive from the get-go. This is all due in-credit to DP Geroge Steuber, who also shot the first film. This advancement in style and change of pace within a more sporadic, popping production design and sets make for the horror to be all the more creative and creepy. Specifically, there’s a dream sequence near the beginning of the film where Art the Clown appears in Sienna’s dreams that is really impressive to watch and one of the more creative horror sequences that I’ve seen this year.

The original film was completely reliant on Art the Clown as a character and wasn’t focused on delivering much else, and it’s understandable as David Howard Thornton is absolutely magnetic and terrifying (no pun intended) in the role. But it is a refreshing change of pace to see him go against Sienna in this, who makes for a more than worthy adversary for Art. Lauren LaVera completely owns this role, and I could see her becoming an iconic final girl for the midnight-horror movie crowd as this is destined to become something of a cult-classic. The final set-piece that pits the two of them together made me desperately wish I saw this with a crowd! 

While “Terrifier 2” is far from the best horror movie I’ve seen this year, it’s easily the grossest and gnarliest – and I’m not easily squeamish. This type of horror usually isn’t my bag, but I have to admire its pure lunacy and commitment to grossing you out at every turn. It’s vastly entertaining, with a true vision behind the camera – and it makes me so happy to be a horror fan nowadays, being able to witness the renaissance we’re currently going through; creatives are truly expressing themselves in wild ways, and Damien Leone is no exception to this as he delivers an absolutely bonkers sequel that improves on the original in just about every way imaginable. And without spoiling it, make sure to watch throughout the credits to see a peak at how he plans to expand the “Terrifier” mythology even further! 

Film Review: Deadstream

Starring: Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone and Jason K. Wixom
Directed by: Joseph and Vanessa Winter
Rated: R
Running time: 87 minutes

Up until recently I’ve shrugged off the found footage genre. During the 2000s I was blasted with advertisements of audiences watching the latest found footage film shrieking in terror with the ad assuring me that it’s the scariest film ever. While I can chalk that up to obnoxious and misleading advertising, the genre also suffered from several other things. For instance, screen distortions for cutaways, bothersome shaky cameras, predictable jump scares and flawed storytelling issues like, “Why is this being filmed? Why are they still recording?” My negative assumptions about the genre were thrown into an open grave in 2022 because of films like the surprisingly terrifying “Outwaters” and the journey into insanity, “Masking Threshold.” Now “Deadstream” has arrived with a shovel.

When we meet Shawn Ruddy (Winter), the host of the wildly popular Youtube show “Wrath of Shawn,” he’s attempting a comeback after being canceled. The practical joker, like a lot of real-life Youtubers, enjoys putting himself and others through crazy stunts like dog sledding in his underwear or crossing the Mexican border illegally in a trunk. The stunt that got him canceled though, he’s not upfront about. The stunt he’s going to do to put the woke mob at ease will be staying the night by himself in an abandoned Utah home known for paranormal activity simply referred to as the “Murder Manor.”

Shawn is ready to film and impress though. He has various cameras in tow that he sets up around the house, he removes spark plugs from his vehicle and locks himself in the house, and quite literally throws the key away. This is all to prevent himself, a self-professed scaredy cat, from escaping. I know you’re already thinking back to the first paragraph where I complained about found footage logic. But alas, “Deadstream” has a fantastic reason why Shawn is staying the night in a building with murder in it’s name. Money. To keep his few remaining advertisers happy, he is setting rules like investigating every ghostly sound or sight he encounters and allowing his advertisers to drop him like a sack of potatoes if he flees the premises.

Money aside, Shawn isn’t smart and is a legitimate coward. You think locking yourself in a home would be enough, but to completely immobilize your transportation to a home in remote Utah? Also, while deathly afraid of the unknown, he certainly doesn’t have any issues doing or saying things that might antagonize a ghost. He walks around with creepy Halloween music to play while he narrates the surroundings and stories about what haunts the Murder Manor. All that being said, Shawn is a real scummy individual, prioritizing profits and followers over his own well-being and those around him. So when the ghosts come out to play, we don’t necessarily feel sorry.

However, Winter, who not only plays Shawn, but directs and wrote the film with his wife, crafts Shawn to be oddly likable. His girly cries of terror made me laugh every time it happened and he manages to have a few agreeable jabs at the woke audience that has forced his hand. Given the circumstance, he does seem to channel the thoughts and reactions of an individual exploring the abandoned house of death. As someone who explores abandoned buildings on occasion, I’ve never explored a building that has death in its nickname, nor would I do it alone. It’s also obvious that the reason Shawn was canceled in the first place, continues to weigh on him consciously.

“Deadstream ” is what happens when the “Blair Witch Project” and “Evil Dead II” design a haunted house. The first third of the film has plenty of creepy moments and the inevitable jump scares that are more fun than annoying (he shrieks like a Kindergartener on a playground). The brisk first half of the film helps give way to a nightmarish funhouse bathed in blood and body parts as Shawn scrambles, fights and cries for safety. Funny moments range from the macabre ghouls that attack Shawn to Shawn interacting with the audience that’s watching on the livestream. Not only do they bait him into doing stupider things, but also remind him of his own fallacies as he begins to realize the direness of his situation. “Deadstream” is a fun found footage film that will make you laugh and cheer at the follies of an attention seeking Zoomer douchebag who deserves every ounce of terribleness heading his way.

Film Review: “The Munsters”

Starring: Jeff Daniels Phillips, Sheri Moon Zombie and Daniel Roebuck
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Running Time: 109 minutes
Rated: PG

Growing up in the 90s I would watch Nickelodeon. For me and most people I knew at school, we would watch all the cartoons until the clock struck 7 p.m. and then we would keep watching, but it wasn’t cartoons that Nickelodeon would be showing at night. Nick at Nite, the counter kid programming, would air reruns of beloved classic sitcoms like “I Love Lucy,” “The Jeffersons,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and “The Munsters.”It would not surprise me if I ended up watching every single episode of those shows as a kid, and the astounding thing is my memory of all those shows is fond, but gray. The specifics of the shows, like individual plot lines, is fuzzy, but I remember the characters, their house, their catchphrases and all the other things that delighted audiences during their original run and those kids in the 90s that grew up on them. It’s fascinating when adoration for something churns about cinematic abortions like “The Munsters.”

I struggle writing this review because I do like Rob Zombie, as a musician and director, but more as a musician. Just like kids in the 90s my first taste of Zombie was playing “Twisted Metal” games and through that I would end up interested in buying some of his albums and would sometimes play “Twisted Metal” ad nauseum just to hear “Dragula” one more time. I’ve also seen Zombie live at least half a dozen times and I always recommend seeing him to fellow rockers and metalheads because he’s a very theatrical and explosive performer. As for his movies, I have a soft spot for “Devil’s Rejects” and “The Haunted World of El-Superbeasto,” and I don’t necessarily hate him like some horror fans do for rebooting “Halloween.” I can respect his vision and see what it was he envisioned, and appreciate it. That being said, “The Munsters” is still a cinematic abortion.

The 2022 film serves as a prequel, but don’t expect to learn how a Frankenstein’s monster and vampire ended up with a werewolf son. Dr. Wolfgang (Richard Brake) is putting together his perfect creation, but slip-ups along the way create Hermann (Phillips), who has the body of a giant lumbering oaf with the brain of a failed comedian. Hermann garners the attention of Lily (Moon Zombie), despite the objections of her father, the Count (Roebuck). It’s actually not a bad idea for a prequel, but the storytelling problems pop-up early before they become frequently obvious and annoying. While the material is faithful to the original, on the surface, it misses the point entirely. The black and white TV show featuring monsters on the outside, but a loving family on the inside has been rebooted into a 70s cartoon looking universe with characters that feel more like fan fiction bastardizations than they do actual representations of the originals. It brings to mind other failed films that missed the point of the original TV entirely, like “Wild, Wild West” and “Inspector Gadget;” similar cinematic abortions I might add.

The characters, who feel more like caricatures as opposed to living, breathing people monsters, are stuck in the proverbial “old country” for the first hour of the film and we’re never given a reason to care about their lives or the meaningless conflicts that arise. It’s impressive watching Zombie drag the wedding almost into the second hour of the film when we all know that’s the inevitable point that needs to be reached. The first hour of this film could have been whittled down to 20 minutes in capable hands, but instead we’re treated to bad jokes, odd montages, and scenes that just don’t fit, like Hermann being in a punk rock band. All of this adds up to an unenjoyable experience that makes you question every single moment as if you’re being fed a lie.

I hate to fault the acting, but I have to. At a certain point I wonder if Phillips and Moon Zombie recognized they were doing poor performances. They’re both talented, but in this film they’re barely able to move past being one dimensional characters. If you were to ask me about my impression of their attempts at recreating iconic TV show characters, I’d tell you that Phillips needs to sound less prepubescent when delivering Hermann’s lines and that Moon Zombie says “Hermy” so much I began to wonder if she was channeling Ms. Piggy saying “Kermy” more than anything.

I want to tear apart nearly everything I witnessed, but I don’t want to do that because I don’t believe it’s fair. This movie is obviously low budget and when listening to Zombie, you can tell that this vision came from a great place of adoration. That being said, I think it’s fair to ultimately place the blame for this trainwreck of a film at the feet of Zombie. I think he’s still an incredible talent, but it’s clear that “The Munsters” is his rock bottom as a director. The creativity on display, mainly in cameos and set designs, is overshadowed by lapses in creativity, like lumpy dialogue, jokes that feel more like aliens attempting human humor, bizarre misplaced acting and a plot that insults basic human intelligence. Let’s hope this is the last time someone attempts to resurrect a dead piece of entertainment property. I’m now left wondering if this is how all those “Halloween” fans felt back in 2007.

Film Reeview: “Potato Dreams of America”




  • Starring:  Dan Lauria, Sara Barbieri and Tyler Bocock
  • Directed by:  Wes Hurley
  • Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 37 mins
  • Darkstar Pictures


Potato (Hersh Powers) is a little Soviet-era boy in love with American movies.  He enjoys these films so much that, when his mother Lena (Barbieri) is being beaten by one of her boyfriends, he forms his hands into a viewfinder and watches the incident unfold as if it was on the big screen.  An odd boy, Potato accepts his mother’s current, abusive boyfriend because he has a color television…much nicer then their old black and white model.  Still, he has very few friends.  Unless, that is, you count Jesus Christ (Jonathan Bennett), who drops by often.  It is a very oppressive society that portrays anything different as evil.  Among the presumed evils – homosexuality.  Potato is taught that everyone in the West is a homosexual.  Except Freddie Mercury, who is much too talented.    Wanting to be free of the chains of their country, Potato and his mother are overjoyed when she is chosen by a man in America as a mail order bride.  Soon things will be different in the glorious USA.  Right?



An unusual film, based on the life of writer/director Hurley (who was born in Russia), “Potato Dreams of America” is almost two different films.  Where the Russian act is very bleak visually, it is filled with some great humor.  Yet when the setting moves to America, things begin to get quite serious.  It’s also unusual in that the main characters are portrayed by different actors during the second act.  Potato is now played by Tyler Bocock while Lena is now portrayed by Marya Sea Kaminski.  All four actors embrace their characters, as does Dan Lauria, the American husband with secrets of his own.



Hurley’s script is quite funny, especially in the first act, where Potato and Lena do their best to tolerate those who are intolerable among them.  And while the film is not rated, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the second act deals with some very adult subject matter, so be advised.  That being said, “Potato Dreams of America” is a charming film that deserves an audience.

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