Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Bill & Ted Face The Music

Directed by Dean Parisot

Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Kid Cudi, and William Sadler

Backstory

At the tender age of 12, I got to go to the theatre to see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and I loved it. As soon as I discovered the Internet and started googling movie rumours, whispers of a third film abounded. The idea of catching up with a middle aged Bill & Ted really started picking up steam about five years ago, and when they announced it was happening, I was thrilled. In these pandemic times, the home premiere has caught on for films. So rather than go out to the theatre and see it, I decided to drop the $20 to rent it digitally. So how are Bill & Ted in middle age?

Plot

After the events of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Wyld Stallyns went on to have great success as rock stars. But, Bill & Ted have yet to write “The Song,” the one that will unite the world in peace and harmony. Over the next 25 years, their attempts to write The Song grow more and more desperate, alienating their fans and putting a strain on their marriages. About the only bright spot in their lives are their daughters, Billie and Thea, who adore their fathers. Just as Bill & Ted are about to give up and go get real jobs, an emissary from the future arrives. Because Bill & Ted haven’t written The Song yet, the timeline is starting to collapse. If they don’t write and perform The Song in the next 75 minutes, all of reality will be undone. So, Bill & Ted hop in their ol’ time traveling phone booth and decide to get the song from their future selves, when they’ve already written it. While this goes on, Billie and Thea have their own excellent adventure, as they round up history’s greatest musicians to form their dads’ new band. Will Bill & Ted find the song in the time stream? Can they save all of reality?

What I Liked

Oh, it’s just a nostalgic joy to see these characters back at it. It’s almost shocking how little they’ve aged. And bringing them to middle-age and dealing with all that comes with it was just the most logical place to go. The casting is top notch, too. The kid playing Billie — Ted’s daughter — has young Keanu Reeves’ mannerisms down pat. And there’s some great laugh out loud moments as we see the future Bills and Teds. And you can’t help but cheer when old friends like Death show up to be part of the ride.

What I Didn’t Like

I think Keanu Reeves has been playing John Wick for too long, as he seems to be taking this far too seriously. I don’t think Ted cracks a smile once in the film. And I was almost taken aback at how small scale it is. Aside from some big set pieces in the Future and Hell, it’s mostly smaller character stuff. I don’t know what I’m putting that under “What I Didn’t Like,” as it allows for great character growth. I guess, after 25 years, I was just expecting it to be bigger.

Final Verdict

A fantastic return for Bill & Ted. Give us a the spinoff about Billie and Thea now, please.

3 Nibs

The New Mutants

Directed by Josh Boone

Starring Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga

Backstory

We have reached the end of the Fox X-Men franchise, and it has become one of the most troubled productions in the franchise. At the outset, it looks like a horror film set in the X-Men universe would be ideal. Burgeoning mutant powers lends itself to all kinds of David Cronenberg-esque body horror. Originally supposed to come out in April of 2018, it was moved to the spring of 2019 for re-shoots to ramp up the horror aspects. But then the Disney buyout of Fox began, and the film got lost in the shuffle. Once the deal was sorted out, it looked as though the film would be dropped in theatres to just get it over with. And here we are.

Plot

Danielle Moonstar awakens in a strange hospital. She’s told that her reservation was destroyed by an unknown force, and she was the only survivor. The doctor in charge of the facility — Dr. Reyes — tells Dani that they suspect she’s a mutant, and it was her mutant power that saved her. She is at the hospital to learn what her power is and to control it. She soon meets the other patients at the hospital: Rahne, who can turn into a wolf; Illyana, who can teleport and summon a magic sword; Sam, who can summon energy blasts to propel himself; and Bobby, who can shoot fire. Together, they start learning about themselves, their powers…and the sinister forces that Dr. Reyes works for.

What I Liked

The cast is pretty good and does all they can with the material. Maisie Williams makes and adorable werewolf. The small cast and confined setting gives it an intimate feel not often seen in superhero films. And (spoiler warning) how can you hate a film where a dragon fights a giant bear?

What I Didn’t Like

As horror films go, it’s not very scary. And I’m not big on horror films. It doesn’t take much to scare me. This winds up being just another variation on The Breakfast Club as our heroes sit around and talk out their issues. Even though it’s superpowered beings doing it, it’s just so run-of-the-mill.

Final Verdict

It’s not a horror film as much as it is a YA film with some jump scares. And as YA films go, it’s pretty cookie-cutter. Kinda bland.

2 Nibs

Birds Of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of Miss Harley Quinn)

Directed by Cathy Yan

Starring Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, and Ewan McGregor

Backstory

One of the few things that people agreed on with Suicide Squad was that Margot Robbie crushed it as Harley Quinn. So there was very little surprise that she’d be getting her own movie. It was a little curious, though, that the movie was going to involved the super-team Birds of Prey, as Harley traditionally had very little to do with them in the comics. But still, more Harley Quinn is never a bad thing.

Plot

Harley Quinn and the Joker have broken up, and this time, it looks as though it’s for good. After having been identified as the Joker’s main squeeze for so long, Harley is thrown into the existential crisis of trying to figure out who she is. Of course, what complicates things is, as she’s no longer affiliated with the Joker, a lot of Gotham City’s criminal element have now declared fair game. Top of the list, the crime lord Roman Sionis, better known as the Black Mask. Sionis is on the trail of a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain, and young Cassandra soon falls into Harley’s care. Also getting drawn into the chase for Cassandra are detective Rene Montoya, nightclub singer Dinah Lance, and the last heir to the Bertinelli crime fortune, Helena Bertinelli. Together, these ladies need to band together, and through it all, Harley just may find herself.

What I Liked

The fight scenes are spectacular. In case you didn’t hear, they brought the director of the John Wick films to spruce up the fight scenes during reshoots, and man, does it show. On top of that, the performances are once again top notch. Robbie again knocks it out of the park as Harley, and McGregor is wonderfully sleazy as the Black Mask. I also got a real kick out of Winstead’s Huntress, which leads into….

What I Didn’t Like

Ya know, for a movie called Birds of Prey, we really don’t see that much of the Birds of Prey. I would have really liked it if we got to know Black Canary and Huntress a little more, but as it is right now, they just kinda get dragged along for the ride.

Final Verdict

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey was just a whole heck of a lot of fun. Bring on the sequel where Harley finally hangs out with her BFF Poison Ivy.

3 Nibs

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Rise of Skywalker Poster

Starring Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russel, Kelly Marie Tran, and Ian McDiarmid

Backstory

And it all comes to an end. The Disney-produced Star Wars sequel trilogy finally reaches its closing chapter. While people mostly loved the first one, The Force Awakens, the second one, The Last Jedi, proved to be incredibly divisive in the fan base. (I’m in the “loved it” camp.) So, it was hoped that the guy who gave us the better-liked Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, could bring the whole thing to a satisfying conclusion. Does J.J. stick the landing?

Plot

There’s a chill going through the galaxy. Mysterious transmissions are broadcasting the Emperor Palpatine lives, and has allied himself with Supreme Leader Kylo Ren to form a new order…the Final Order. Our heroes decide that to end this conflict once and for all, they have to take out Palpatine’s stronghold on the hidden planet of Exegol. They quest is on to find a Sith Wayfinder, the only thing that contains a map to Exegol. To do so means finding friends both old and new. But complicating things is the fact the Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren are in hot pursuit. It seems Palpatine has nefarious plans for young Rey, and wants her alive. What are the Emperor’s plans for Rey? Will the mystery of her parents finally be explained? And will our heroes save the day?

What I Liked

Once again, we’ve got some very likable heroes in here. And it’s nice to see our core trinity of Rey, Poe, and Finn finally having an adventure together. Yes, there are some callbacks and nostalgic references to the greater Star Wars saga (resulting in some surprising cameos), but it never felt too gratuitous. Great lightsaber battles, great space battles, and some truly great performances by our lead actors.

What I Didn’t Like

The first half of the film is incredibly episodic and bouncing around as our heroes quest for the Wayfinder. New characters are introduced, and we barely get to know them, before we’re whisked off to our next step on the quest. Some characters wind up shoved to the side. As one of the few who actually liked Rose, I would have liked a little more of her. There’s just a little too much in that first half.

Final Verdict

The film took a while to find its footing, but once it did, it was a great ride at the movies. All three of these Star Wars sequels made me cry.

3.5 Nibs

Frozen II

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Starring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, and Martha Plimpton

Backstory

I’m still frequently amazed at the longevity of Frozen. Normally, by now, Elsa and Anna would have been lumped in with the rest of the Disney princesses. But the film somehow managed to strike a nerve, and Frozen still remains it’s own thing. It’s been six years since the original hit theatres. I finally saw it back in the day, thanks to the ton of positive reviews, and I came out of the theatre back then thinking it was good, but not great. But I did get a few goosebumps from the trailers for Frozen II, and I am enough of a sucker for Disney animation, that I figured I had to give it a look-see.

Plot

It’s been about a year since the first film, and our heroes are mostly in a good place. Anna and Kristoff are working on their happily ever after, with Kristoff working up the nerve to propose. Elsa seems to be settling into her role as queen, but something troubles her. She keeps hearing a voice calling to her. While following the voice one night, Elsa accidentally awakens spirits of water, fire, air and earth, threatening her queendom. It turns out the spirits, the voice, Elsa’s powers…they’re all connected. In order to get to the bottom of this, our heroes embark on a quest to an enchanted forest, that remains enveloped in an impenetrable fog. Our heroes venture in, where they’ll discover long lost tribes, more magical spirits, and terrible family secrets. Will Elsa be able to save her queendom? Will Anna and Elsa’s sisterly bond survive?

What I Liked

There’s a lot to like about the film. Olaf and his comedic relief don’t feel as forced in as they were in the first film. In fact, all the characters are still just as we remember them, and each one seems to go on a journey of self-growth. There’s some great new concepts and characters introduced. And, this being Disney, the animation is, as always, spectacular.

What I Didn’t Like

As I mentioned, some great new characters are introduced, but we hardly get a chance to know them and find out what their deal is. And while the new songs are good, the musical numbers do feel a little like they’re forced in.

Final Verdict

While I felt that the first one was good but not great, I feel that Frozen II is also…good, but not great. I had a good time, I felt some feels, but it wasn’t quite a home run.

3 Nibs

Joker

Directed by Todd Philips

Joker movie poster

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, and Brett Cullen

Backstory

Ahh, Batman. King of the superhero adaptations at this point. But people are always looking for new facets of the Dark Knight to explore. And thus, we get a solo film exploring the origins of his greatest nemesis, the Joker. I was mildly curious about the whole endeavour. I mean, they’ve been trying to do Batman-less Batman stories on TV for years. Would they be able to do so on the big screen?

Plot

Arthur Fleck is a deeply disturbed man. He suffers from a litany of mental illnesses, the most prominent of which is neurological condition that makes him occasionally burst out in uncontrollable fits of laughter. But, he soldiers on, working as a party clown, pursuing a dream of stand-up comedy, and being the caregiver for his ailing mother. He does find solace in his favourite late night talk show, and starts developing a relationship with a woman who lives in his building. It’s not long, though, before he reaches his breaking point and kills three men on the subway. As his life starts to spiral out of control, Arthur begins his path to becoming one of the greatest criminals Gotham City has ever known.

What I Liked

Joaquin Phoenix gives a truly remarkable performance as Fleck, making him both sympathetic and unlikable at the same time. It really is his movie, as he commands the screen every time he’s on. There’s a few knowing references to Batman lore, and how they incorporate the Wayne family into this is pretty neat. But….

What I Didn’t Like

I almost lost it at the end. It seems like there’s one scene that must be in every Batman movie, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t find a way to shoehorn it in.

Final Verdict

I found Joker to be a very disturbing film, but very good. I’m not big on scary films, but I got my one for this Halloween, thank you very much.

4 Nibs

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Directed by Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, and Marisa Tomei

Backstory
Spider-Man: Far From Home poster

As I remarked before, I will never not get excited for a Spider-Man film. I remember the Dark Times of the 1990s, when the movie rights were stuck in a legal quagmire, and it looked like a Spider-Man film would never be made. Now, here we are, bitching about the third reboot of the franchise! But no bitching here, my friend, as this latest iteration, placing Spider-Man alongside his friends in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been a delight. But will the latest installment be just as delightful?

Plot

It’s been one whole school year since people were brought back from the Snap, and there’s been some difficulty adjusting. Especially for Peter Parker, who’s still mourning the loss of his mentor Tony Stark. But, he’s looking forward to going on his class trip to Europe, living life as a normal teenager for a few weeks, and opening up to MJ about how he feels. Fate has other plans, however, as Nick Fury drafts Spider-Man for a mission. Seems the Snap tore some holes in the fabric of reality, allowing some creatures called Elementals to escape to our universe. Fortunately, they’re being pursued by a hero: Quentin Beck, whom the press quickly dubs Mysterio. Fury tasks Spider-Man and Mysterio to stop the Elementals. Things go swimmingly at first, but soon, evidence starts mounting up. Is Mysterio all he claims to be? Can Spider-Man save the day and tell MJ how he feels?

What I Liked

Once again, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker captures that teenage awkwardness brilliantly. He’s unsure of himself in all things, but he’s able to pull it together when the chips are down. Probably the best Spider-Man. I love what they’ve done with Mysterio and how they re-imagined him. I also love how they re-imagined <spoiler redacted>, and their cameo was a delightful surprise. Great action sequences. One sequence with Mysterio almost made me regret not seeing it in 3D. Everything about it was just great.

What I Didn’t Like

Really nothing mindblowingly new in the world of Spider-Man. If you’re familiar with the comics and the characters, you see the big plot twists coming, but again, it’s done so entertainingly, you really don’t mind it.

Final Verdict

Spdier-Man’s latest big screen outing was a whole lot of fun. Definitely a tasty desert after the heavy banquet that was Endgame.

3 Nibs

Toy Story 4

Directed by Josh Cooley

Toy Story 4 Poster

Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Pots, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, and Ally Maki

Backstory

This past decade has become one where Pixar became infamous for cranking out sequels. It gave us Cars 2 & 3, Finding Dory, Monsters University, Incredibles 2…and it began with Toy Story 3 and now ends with Toy Story 4. Did we really need another Toy Story? The third one seemed to be such a perfect end to the franchise. Well, let’s find out.

Plot

It’s been two years since Andy went to college and gave all his toys to neighbourhood girl Bonnie. While everyone has settled in, Woody still hasn’t found his role in this new playgroup. Woody sneaks along with Bonnie to her first day of kindergarten, where Bonnie makes a new toy out of a spork, that she dubs Forky. To Woody’s surprise, Forky comes to life, and Woody introduces him to the rest of Bonnie’s toys. This doesn’t sit well with Forky, though, as he’s convinced it’s his destiny to be trash and keeps trying to throw himself away. As Bonnie and her family embark on a summer’s end road trip, Woody and Forky soon find themselves separated from Bonnie in an old antique shop, where they run into Woody’s lost love Bo Peep. Woody and Forky are soon making new friends and reuniting with old ones as they try to escape the antique shop and get back to Bonnie. Will they be successful? Will Woody find new purpose?

What I Liked

There’s such a wealth of rich, new characters introduced. From Forky, to our villainous doll Gabby Gaby, and then there’s Duke Caboon, Canada’s greatest stuntman, voiced by Keanu Reeves giving it so much energy. It’s been 24 years since the first Toy Story, and this film just kind of drips with nostalgia for that first film. And you know me, I don’t mind nostalgia. The voice acting is great. This is probably the funniest Toy Story movie with tons of gags. But, they still manage to inject a lot of heart into it, with an ending that brought me to tears.

What I Didn’t Like

With these films, I often wonder what the point is of getting a celebrity to voice every role when they only get one or two lines. I’m going through the credits as I write this, and marveling at all the talent that was wasted on just two lines.

Final Verdict

A very worthy addition to the franchise, and another very satisfying end for Woody, Buzz, and the gang. If Pixar finally decides to end it, I’ll be very happy.

4 Nibs

Dark Phoenix

Directed by Simon Kinberg

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Ty Sheridan, and Jessica Chastain

Backstory

X-Men truly is the granddaddy of superhero film franchises. The film historians will tell you that the entire dominance of superhero films began with the first X-Men back in 2000. And 19 years later, we have the end. With Disney’s recent buyout of Fox, the movie rights to X-Men are heading back to Marvel and they’ll soon be re-joining the Avengers. Dark Phoenix truly is the end of a chapter, and what better way to end than with one of X-Men‘s biggest and most famous story lines? Can they pull it off?

Plot

It’s ten years since X-Men: Apocalypse, which now places this in the 1990s. The X-Men have become beloved superheroes worldwide. It appears that Charles Xavier’s goal of using the X-Men to demonstrate that mutants are not to be feared has come true…but some worry that the fame is starting to go to Charles’s head. The X-Men are called in to rescue a doomed space shuttle, and they succeed, but in doing so, Jean Grey is pushed to her limits. She starts exhibiting strange cosmic powers that she can barely control, and before you know it, she’s inadvertently hurting those she loves. No longer trusting herself or Charles Xavier, she goes on the run. But who will get to her first? The X-Men, those who seek to destroy her, or aliens who covet this cosmic power for themselves? And what dark secret is Xavier hiding from Jean? Will it destroy the X-Men?

What I Liked

Well, the opening space rescue sequence certainly is a great scene. McAvoy and Fassbender continue doing top-notch work as Xavier and Magneto.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, with our newer, younger X-Men just being crammed in in the last film, we barely get a chance to know them, so it’s tough to feel for Jean Grey and what she’s going through. The plot seems fairly routine. The entire thing just feels surprisingly…small. It’s a lot like the first X-Men film. If you’ve gone back and watched the first X-Men, and compared it to what we’ve gotten in superhero films, you’ll be amazed at how small it is. Same with Dark Phoenix. Given weighty themes and cosmic entities and invading aliens, it could have been — should have been — much bigger.

Final Verdict

Mild disappointment in the whole affair. For a grand finale to the whole franchise, Dark Phoenix sadly came off rather bland.

2 Nibs

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Godzilla: King of the Monsters Poster

Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe, and Zhang Ziyi.

Backstory:

It’s been five years since Godzilla and a lot’s changed since then. The producers of the latest American remake also got the rights to King Kong, and with that, decided to get a cinematic universe going. We got 2017’s Kong: Skull Island to re-introduce us to Kong, and now we get our Godzilla sequel, all building up to next year’s Kong vs. Godzilla. But that’s not all! Thanks to the success of the 2014 film, those American producers were able to procure the rights to Godzilla’s best-known foes: particularly Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s arch-enemy, the three-headed hydra known as Ghidora. How will all this monster action play out?

Plot

It’s been five years since Godzilla’s first attack, and the world is still wondering how to handle these Titans. Monarch, the shadowy agency that monitors them, isn’t so shadowy any more and wants to study them. And then there’s the military, who wants to hunt them down. Caught in the middle is the Russel family, a pair of Monarch scientists who lost their son in the Godzilla attack. The father, Mark, walked away and started studying wolves. The mother, Emma, stayed with Monarch and has invented a device called the Orca, which will allow communication with these Titans. But, Emma and daughter Madison are kidnapped by eco-terrorists who seek to use the Orca to revive all the Titans. The first one they resurrect: Ghidora, Godzilla’s main rival for apex predator back in prehistoric times. As all the other Titans begin rallying around Ghidora, the humans come to a shocking truth: the only way to survive is to help Godzilla. In the battle between Godzilla and Ghidora, who will be crowned king of the monsters?

What I Liked

Yes! Some truly epic giant monster fights! For those who complained that 2014’s Godzilla didn’t have enough giant monster fighting, you will get more than you share here. The music is wonderful as well, incorporating many of the classic themes from the original Japanese film franchise. In fact, there are lots of great callbacks and references to the original franchise, even embracing some of the crazier aspects. This film loves its monsters

What I Didn’t Like

My common complaint with these kinds of films…giant monster movies seem to struggle at coming up with something interesting for the humans to do, as our human plots kinda drag a little bit. And I understand that it makes the computer animation cheaper and easier, but I do get tired of these giant monster battles taking place at night, in the rain.

Final Verdict

A popcorn film in the best sense of the word…just a very fun film.

3 Nibs