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The greatest geek fest since "Wreck-It Ralph."
29 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I just got back from seeing a sneak preview matinee of this movie. So sneaky, in fact, that I was--quite literally--the only one in the theater! So, yeah: I was able to jones on all the video game cameos I recognized. Iron Giant; Freddy Krueger; TMNT; Batman and Batgirl; Spawn; and so many more.

And, in terms of 3-D graphics, this movie's V.R. sequences blow JUMANJI: WTJ out of the water.

Of course, it's not just the CGI that matters, here. It's the underlying message that Stephen Spielberg delivers via his own thinly-disguised avatar (Mark Rylance as "James Halliday"). Specifically; that flesh-and-blood reality is what really matters.

Granted, anyone who's seen the trailers for this film, over the past six months, can guess the moral of the story right off the bat. But, then again, THE CIRCLE (the next most-recent big budget "cyberpunk" film to come out, within the last twelve months) seemed to have the totally opposite message! One that, now as then, I disagree with, unapologetically. .That's why I got such a big kick out of seeing H, Sho, and Daito's real selves, I knew that they'd be completely unlike their avatars.

And I was right (lol)!

Fair warning, though: if you're expecting this to be Spielberg returning full circle, to family-friendly entertainment, you might be slightly disappointed. There's some live-action female nudity (from the back), plus one f-bomb.

It is, however, the perfect date movie for those who were video game kings and queens back in the day. Live long and prosper...and may the Farce be with you!
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Beneath (I) (2013)
I can't believe this p.o.s. was filmed in my home state.
19 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this on Syfy Channel On Demand. And, if ever there was a reason for _not_ disabling fast-forward, this movie provides it!

This movie was nothing more than a boring hybrid of JAWS and LIFEBOAT, filmed on location in the Naugatuck Valley town of Oxford, Connecticut. With the monster in question being a "mutant catfish" that is all too-obviously a poorly constructed animatron. And with the only "big" name actor in the entire cast being Mark Margolis (last seen as Elias' father on PERSON OF INTEREST)!

In short? I might have given this flick five out of ten stars if it had a less predictable ending. Like, say, the two girls being the only survivors _alongside_ Jonny the part-Native American.
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TWISTER + HARD RAIN + DIE HARD = Shkembe chorba!
11 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
For those who have never heard of it? That's a Bulgarian stew. . .made of tripe.

The only reason I went to see this film, at my hometown multiplex, was due to WRINKLE IN TIME having been sold out. The exact opposite of this Anglo-Bulgarian co-production. I was--quite literally--the only customer in the theater during the 4:30 matinee! And, having recognized all the plot elements so liberally borrowed from the movies mentioned above, I can easily see why.

Oh, it's a pleasant enough little time killer, if you can't get to see any of the new, bigger budget releases (like W. I. T.). But, as mildly exciting as it is, it still doesn't change the fact that the only big-name actor in the whole cast is that old Charioteer of Fire, himself; Ben Cross. Playing, of all things, an Alabama police chief! And a predictably corrupt one, at that.

Then, there's the estranged brothers who lost their poor old daddy during Hurricane Andrew. The guy seriously thought he could get his tow truck unstuck before the hurricane he was barely keeping ahead of, on the open road, caught up to him and killed him on the open ground? Even I can't suspend that much disbelief! I mean, the common sense thing to do would have been to say "S***w the truck!" and just put himself and his two sons in the cellar of that farm house. But, then again, I guess that just goes to prove that "common sense" is a bigger contradiction in terms than "honest Republican President."

Speaking of which, I bet the NRA are going to love how Breeze Rutledge makes use of all that extra storage space in his garage. I wouldn't even be surprised if they were silent partners to one of that hodge-podge of production companies listed at the beginning of the film!

In short? If you want to avoid the long line of families waiting to see Disney's version of the Madeline L'Engle classic, then go see this film with a clear conscience. Otherwise, save your money.
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Second least-watched Winter Olympiad in TV history.
27 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Some people might disagree. But, as far as I'm permanently concerned, the only Winter Olympiad more lackluster was the one from Sochi. That one, I didn't even know had come and gone! At least, not until I had to google the name "Ashley Wagner" after seeing (and hearing of) her, for the very first time, in two recent TV commercials.

The closing ceremony, alone, paled in comparison to the closing of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Unbearably so! That's why I opted to binge watch THE LIBRARIANS, on TNT On-Demand, instead.

In short? Maybe NBC should let ESPN monopolize both the Summer and Winter Olympiads in 2020.
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Black Panther (2018)
Excellent lead-in to AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
17 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The story is straightforward enough. The prologue is set in 1992, where a much younger King T'Chaka visits one of his War Dogs (Wakandans who are supposed to impartially spy on the Outside World) who turns out to be his younger brother Prince N'Jobu! Charges of treason are leveled against the prince, following which...

...the movie fast-forwards 24 years.

That's right. The bulk of the movie is set one week after the ending of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. And the bulk of the script has been brilliantly adapted from the debut story arc in Marvel Comics' "Jungle Action." A magazine of the 1970's that helped revive reader interest in Prince T'Challa after his departure from the Silver Age comic book Avengers, ten years earlier. And which first introduced then-teenagers like me to such memorable characters as Erik Killmonger; M'Baku the Man-Ape; and Monica Lynn.

Sadly, the latter has been replaced by another, more geographically convenient love interest; the Lady Nakia. But, the other two are still around and refreshingly updated for the 2010's. M'Baku, in particular! In the comics, his tribe/clan worshipped white gorillas (as part of a cult outlawed by the more dominant Panther Clan). Yet, in this movie, they worship a West African avatar of Hanuman (the Hindu monkey god).*

While Erik Killmonger goes from being a common mercenary to someone with an initially mysterious grudge against T'Challa. Hence, the former's eventual double-cross of Ulysses Klaw (who, btw, goes from East European mad scientist-changed-into-creature-of-living sound, in the comic books, to expatriate South African cyborg in the film).*

I don't want to give away too much of the rest of the story. Suffice it to say that Chadwick Boseman gave just as convincing a performance as T'Challa as he did in CA:CW. Thereby making the two hour-and-then-some running time fly by relatively fast. Including the now-customary sneaky epilogues during the ending credits!

One strange thing, though. Based on all the advance person-on-the-street interviews I saw on the six o'clock news, this movie was hailed as a revolutionary (and long overdue) first step in bringing an African-American superhero to the silver screen. So, why was most of the audience who went to see this at my hometown multiplex...of the Caucasian persuasion?

Ah, well!*

*Don't ask. Just enjoy.
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Winter's Dream (2018 TV Movie)
The Superman from "Lois and Clark" meets the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
13 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Fear not, though! In this Hallmark TV-movie, they play strictly down-to-Earth characters. She plays an ex-Olympic skiier who had an emotionally debilitating agony-of-defeat moment. He plays a widower ad exec who means well, yet has more willingness than ability, when it comes to coaching his daughter and only child, the skiing prodigy. So, they strike a bargain. She provides sound professional advice for the daughter. And, in return, he provides sound professional advice on how to out-publicize the big rival ski resort that's hosting a competing winter sports gala.

I know; I know. Sounds like one of dozens of other such TV-movies hallmark has done. Especially for Christmas! But, this one is a little different. For one thing, it sort of bridges the gap between the end of the Xmas movie season and the "Count-down to Valentines' Day." So, there's no over-emphasizing of any major holiday.

More importantly, though, Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson get to show off some of their under-rated character acting. Their abilities at such heretofore stymied discourtesy of made-for-Syfy Channel monster movies! As two regular people, bringing each other out of their respective romantic shells, they refreshingly excel.

Definitely a ten-star dramedy.
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The Commuter (2018)
What you might call a "Non-Stop" train ride of thrills.
14 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, a pun was very much intended. Because this is the same type of plot as when he played a semi-alcoholic sky marshal on a transatlantic flight. Only this time, he's a recently unemployed ex-cop-turned-insurance salesman stuck on a commuter train (hence the title)!

If you go to see this, don't expect it to be action-packed, right off the bat. It starts out with a slower pace than the entirety of "Walk Among The Tombstones!" And, to be honest, even after Michael (Neeson's character) starts getting those phone calls from Joanna (Vera Farmiga's character), I was thinking to myself...

"I bet this turns out to be a paranoid fantasy. He's still zoned out, in his yuppie boss' office, listening to the rationalization for his being down-sized five years before he can qualify for his full pension. And when he snaps out of it, he'll go berserk (like those disgruntled postal workers back in the Nineties)."

But, believe it or not...I WAS WRONG!

The Bad Guys definitely proved to be outside his head. Although, despite some halfway decent plot twists involving the other passengers, the identity of their quarry didn't exactly turn out to be a _complete_ surprise. Nor was the _specific_ nature of her stolen mcguffin completely revealed. Was it evidence of money laundering? Illegal gambling? Drug and/or human trafficking?

Infuriatingly, that is never revealed. we only get shown and told that crooked cops are involved.

In short; Liam Neeson does an incredible job with the increasingly stereotypical stories he's given. Yet, I still have to wonder. Is he gradually growing as bored with those stereotypes as we are? Here's a hint.

There were only eight other people in the theater--besides me-- for the 4:15 matinee.
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A mixed blessing that this will be the final trilogy.
18 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
On the plus side, this film had the long-awaited return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Not to mention, the debut appearance of Supreme Leader Snoke in the flesh (so-to-speak, as it's really a CGI version voiced by Andy "Gollum" Cerkis), as well as a further development of the Force-enhanced psychic bond between Ren and Rey. And, of course, the ironic final appearance of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.*

On the minus side, Snoke's first appearance is all too brief as he gets killed off before we finally get to know how he came to power in the first place.** While Adam Driver (as Kylo Ren) sports a hair-do that makes him look more like Severus Snape, Junior! And the cliff-hanging battle scene is a little _too_ reminiscent of the Battle of Hoth from SW: TESB. In short? I'm glad I went to see it. But, I'm even more glad that Episode 9 will end this third and final trilogy (as George Lucas originally envisioned his "Star Wars" consisting of).

* Ironic in that we finally get to see Leia actually use the Force with as much butt-kicking expertise as her brother!

**Was he a souped-clone of Palapatine; a Ragithian Human Darksider; or a renegade elderly Mace Windu?
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With Love, Christmas (2017 TV Movie)
Not one of the better debuts for this Xmas.
7 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
For one thing, the lead characters had no chemistry that I could discern. Aaron O'Connell had much better rapport with Katrina Law in last year's "The 12 Gifts of Christmas." And Emilie Ullerup was much more believable as the already-confident Nurse Jenny Miller in last year's "Hearts of Christmas!"

Unfortunately, the casting of these two, together, to repeat those individual successes is an experiment I'm afraid did not pay off.

Then, there's the plot gimmick.

Secret Santas are mandatory?! Puh-lease! It's bad enough when that custom is voluntary. It's not that I Scroogily _hate_ the giving part. Just the opposite! It's the receiving part I mind. I, personally, have never received anything fun _or_ useful from a "Secret Santa" at any place I've worked. So, I have stopped putting my name in the grab bag.

Christmas Reviewer (and others) will no doubt vote my review as useless. But, that is how I sincerely feel about this particular movie.
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A Gift to Remember (2017 TV Movie)
It's official! This is one of the 2017 debuts that have expanded my Top 40 to Top 50 favorite Xmas movies.
29 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
There are several reasons why.

First of all? It takes place in a big city (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) as opposed to a fictional small town. Which--let's face it-- even Hallmark can turn into a boringly overdone trope!

Secondly? The actors who play Aidan and Darcy are completely unknown to me. But, they bring enough emotional plausibility to their characters that the chemistry between them can only be described as more than good. It's superb!

Thirdly? There's the legwork in trying to solve the mystery of who Aidan really is. It's a little more light-hearted than the one surrounding Miranda Chester's paternity in last year's "Finding Father Christmas!" But, no less riveting, to be sure.

Fourthly (if that's even a real word); there's what might be an uncredited cameo appearance by Melissa Hill, who wrote the book this movie is based on. Don't blink, though, or you might miss her (great legs and all).

Then, there's the relative boldness in what I can only term a historic first for Hallmark Television: the blossoming romance between Luigi the Italian restaurateur and Mrs. Henley; Darcy's widowed African- American landlady. Bravo, Hallmark! It's about time that somebody other than emo(tional) Caucasians got a second chance at depicted happiness in your TV movies.

And, last but not least? Bailey. Who, in their right mind, can resist those big puppy dog eyes?

In short? Nobody should miss any of this movie's encore telecasts, this holiday season. Not even the over-worked Christmas Reviewer!
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The Thanksgiving House (2013 TV Movie)
Not a bad little time-killer! Suitably poignant, too. But...!
22 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
...I do have a bone or two to pick with this film.

No, I'm not talking about other thanksgivings that preceded the famous one held by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags. Like, the one at Jamestown, Virginia, for instance. Or one even earlier (and further south) than that, held by some grateful conquistadors, in Mexico!

My nitpicks are centered around the elements of realism Hallmark tried to interject into the film.

First, there are the documents Everett shows to Mary. To the best of my knowledge, the 17th-century spelling of Plymouth was "P-l-i-m-o-u-t-h." Yet, the modern spelling is clearly visible on at least a couple of those Xeroxes!

Then, there's the climate.

When Everett is swinging Mary on that reproduction of her childhood plank-seat swing, at the conclusion, the shrubs still have an abundant profusion of green leaves on them. There's not one multi-colored tree leaf on the lawn. And Mary, herself, is wearing a glorified sun dress!

As a born-and-bred Connecticut Yankee, I can tell you for a fact that New England was cold and blustery on Thanksgiving Day, 2013. So, either this movie was filmed in the Mediterranean-like climate of Plymouth, California. Or (assuming they shot it on location, in Massachusetts, at all) it was filmed during the summer months.

Yet, in spite of the aforementioned nitpicks, it proved a suitably poignant movie, as I said before. So, anybody with a greater power to suspend disbelief than me...will no doubt enjoy watching it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! :-)
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Hearts of Christmas (2016 TV Movie)
Yet another one Christmas Reviewer seems to have ignored.
21 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If ever you're worried whether or not you have Dry Eye Syndrome, watch this film. I did...and I am proud to say that my eyes are 100% healthy.

Emelie Ullerup and Kris Polaha are completely new names to me. But, as Jenny and Matt (a dedicated pediatric nurse and the seemingly Scrooge- like CFO she gradually falls for, respectively), they are undeniably a charismatic couple. So, I'm more-than-sure that everyone will be seeing them in future Hallmark Xmas movies. Sharon Lawrence, however, steals the show. She is utterly convincing as Alice Shelby, head nurse of NICU (the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit) at a Community General Hospital.

Unfortunately, the hospital is in such dire financial straits that they have to compel the early retirement of twelve senior staff members. Alice included!

Of course, this being a Hallmark Xmas movie, it's practically guaranteed that there will be a happy ending or two. The trick is guessing how Jenny will go about achieving them! And if you want to know whether or not your guesses are right? Well, I guess you'll just have to watch this flick to find out.

I did. And you can bet I'm going to watch every subsequent re-run of it for the remainder of The Holidays.
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This movie hammers the stuffing out of "Thor: Ragnarok!"
17 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know what film the so-called professional critics were bad- mouthing. But, they obviously didn't watch this one. The multiplex auditorium I saw this at was nearly packed to capacity. And that was just for the early evening show!

Ben Affleck returns as Bruce "Batman" Wayne rallying all those super- beings whom Lex Luthor was interested in.

Jason Mamoa as Aquaman: not blond and clean-shaven like the comic book version. But, at least he doesn't have a trident-shaped prosthetic hand or over-exclaim the word "Outrageous!" And, even better? He _does_ wear the orange chain-mail shirt in battle.

Ezra Miller as the Flash: perhaps a little more nerdy than Grant Gustin (his TV-counterpart). Yet, he's just as fast...and just as loyal to his framed-for-murder dad.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman: now in the hundredth year of her exile from Paradise Island. Yet, still the most amazing Amazon mankind has ever seen.

And Ray Fisher as Victor "Cyborg" Stone: hacker supreme with butt- kicking physical moves to boot.

How the Dark Knight of Gotham City brings the rest of them together is half the appeal of this movie. The reason why he brings them together is a trio of mcguffins known as Mother Boxes. Apparently, Steppenwolf of the so-called New Gods needs them to phone home! But, Batman has different plans for them. How those plans ruin Steppenwolf's you'll have to see to believe...and enjoy. Suffice it to say, however, most of you will be delightfully surprised.

Speaking of delightful surprises; there are even a couple of sneaky epilogues, during the ending credits, that are so good they're almost Marvel-ous!

In other words: shell out that six or seven bucks at the box office. I guarantee you that this will be super-worth it.
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Well, I finally got a chance to see this! So, where to begin?
15 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Surtur's dungeon, I guess.

With no montage to back it up, Thor tells this long-dead skeleton how he wound up in chains inside a glorified bird cage. And the back- story is a little vague; referencing a search for something called the "Infinity Stones."

Hearing this, I thought to myself: "Say what?! What installment did I miss in this franchise?"

But, I quickly forgot that in all my excitement over the opening battle! Which, by the way, was fought to the tune of Led Zeppelin's famous Wagnerian pastiche ("ah-ah-ahhhhhh!" and all). But, then came the first of several surprises.

Heimdall; replaced as Bifrost gatekeeper by a low-rent Viking named Skurge?

Loki; posing as a suddenly--and uncharacteristically--hedonistic Odin?

And the real Odin: somehow rendered amnesiac and then marooned on Earth (perhaps as an adviser to stranded Autobots)?

What the heck is going on, here?????

It turns out to be a Machiavellian ploy by Odin to deal with the coming of Hela, "goddess of death." In this film, she is not depicted as Loki's daughter (and, therefore, Thor's niece) as she is in classical Norse mythology. Rather, she is Thor's long-lost older sister!

And, boy, is she p****d off.

Killing Thor's three favorite warrior companions (blond Fandral, redheaded Voltstagg, and Lapp/Sami-like Hogun the Grim) with almost laughably easy speed, she makes Skurge her personal executioner. A deal he soon regrets accepting!

Thor's ultimate show-down with them (including a reprise of Led Zeppelin) is capped off by a desperate gamble that's equal parts Trojan Horse and "Hail, Mary" play. The ploy succeeds, of course. But, at a terrible price.

And, no; it's not the death of Jane Foster! Apparently, she's already dumped the "god of thunder" before the movie even begins. No in- story reason given. The real-life reason was probably casting unavailability on Natalie Portman's part. In any case, I deducted one star for her absence.

I deducted another star for turning the Grandmaster from a blue- skinned, nearly omnipotent Elder of the Universe...into an anorexic-looking version of that Roman fop from GLADIATOR. The one who tried kissing Joaquin Phoenix's butt with that "Battle of Carthage" fiasco?

In short; this is a pleasantly action-packed little time-killer on its own merits (as with the first two Thor films before it). But, with regard to being integral to the cinematic saga of the Avengers, as a whole? Not really. Not unless the opening scenes of their next flick serves as prequel to the opening scene of this one!
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The Christmas Note (2015 TV Movie)
Irrefutable proof that not all sequels are inferior.
14 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Like its predecessor, "The Christmas Secret," this film is based on a book from the "Wilsonville" series by Donna Van Liere. All of them set in a fictional Vermont town of the same name.

In this one, Jamie-Lyn Sigler plays Gretchen Daniels; an army wife and mother of one who moves back to her parents' hometown just in time for the Holidays. She is worried about her husband (ultimately revealed to be convalescing in an overseas military hospital) and her only son, Ethan (who's only written request to Santa is for the whole family to be reunited for Xmas).

It is, therefore, a mixed blessing when she becomes involved in helping her work-aholic neighbor Melissa (Leah Gibson) search for a long- lost older sibling. A child that Melissa's recently deceased mother Ramona confessed to having given up for adoption before Melissa was even born!

The fact-finding mission these ladies go on would be worthy of the Inspector-General of the Army, himself. And the outcome might be somewhat predictable. But, I shamelessly admit that it still brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

P.S.---Lochlyn Munro takes over for Rob Lowe as Attorney Bob Layton.
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Engaging Father Christmas (2017 TV Movie)
A worthy sequel, indeed.
13 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw "Finding Father Christmas," I was immediately hooked. It differed from other Hallmark Xmas movies in that there was a bit of a mystery to it. As in; who was Miranda Chester's biological father? Well, of course, that question was ultimately answered not only to my satisfaction. But, also to millions of other viewers!

Here it is, a year later, and Miranda is now heading back to Carlton Heath with a lot more Xmas spirit than when she first arrived there. Especially after love-struck Ian pops The Question in the most melodramatic fashion in Carlton Heath's history!!

But, all that hard-won joy is almost canceled out by the caller-ID- blocked cellphone calls that Miranda starts to get harassed with...concerning the truth of her paternal heritage.

Who is the self-styled Ghost of Xmas Past? Is it her old flame, Josh, whom she met at Boston's Logan International Airport (and to whom she revealed that secret in strictest confidence)? Or has one of the Whitcombs been paranoid enough to hire some private eye to keep an eye on Miranda (only to now be double-crossed)?

I watched the premiere, last night, so--naturally--I already know the answers. The rest of you will just have to tune in one of the re- runs to find out for yourselves!

OK! I'll be serious, now. This sequel does admittedly spend half its time recapping-in-summary the plot of the first movie. But, that's a necessary evil of _any_ sequel! And, I will also admit that Peter and Margaret's reticence, about James being Miranda's father (at least, while in public with unknowing third parties), does become a little annoying after a while. Making me think, once or twice:

"Why are they acting like selfish snobs? How much more does she have to do to prove herself to them?"

But, in the end, love and good sense prevailed. As it should in _any_ Hallmark Xmas movie.
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The Foreigner (2017)
"Politicans and terrorists are just two different ends of the same snake."
6 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I'm probably one of the few people who read the original Stephen Leather novel when it was first published under its now politically incorrect title. But, I liked it then; and I still do now. I'm just surprised it took somebody so long to turn it into a movie!

That's one of the reasons why there are a few crucial differences between the book and the final draft of the movie. In the twenty- five years since the publication of the former, the majority of the British army of occupation has left Northern Ireland. There is now a somewhat tense ceasefire similar to that between North and South Korea. Ergo; the first bombing in the opening moments of the film is "justified" (to the London newspapers) as a campaign against economic exploitation of Northern Ireland by British banks.

Another change is in the title character. In the novel, he was an ex-Kit Carson (American nickname for VietCong defectors who scouted for the Green Berets during the Vietnam War). In the film, he's apparently a Nung/Zhuang (Chinese sub-culture who also fought on the anti-Communist side during the war) from Guangxi Province in mainland China.

What hasn't changed is the title character's motivation. The death of his only remaining daughter as "collateral damage" from the first bombing.

Jackie Chan departs from his usually lighter-hearted roles in playing Mr. Quon; a sixty-year-old warrior-turned-grieving father. He even simulates the limitations that come with that age! Allowing Quon's pursuers to get in some very painful licks. Although, he still manages to kick their butts, of course.

Pierce Brosnan is similarly almost _too_ convincing as a former IRA unit commander-turned-aging politician whose rivals think he's gotten too soft. Only to learn, too late, how badly they misjudged him. In fact, I think this character of Brosnan's is more ruthless than Taffin (his first post-REMINGTON STEEL role) and The November Man, put together!

All in all, I was most pleased with the final product I saw on screen. And fans of edge-of-the-seat political thrillers will not be disappointed.
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A worthy sequel...almost.
24 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
First off? I initially had doubts about going to see this sequel. From the previews I've been seeing all summer (and the second half of the movie title), I greatly feared that the enemy organization would be loosely based on an actual group of conspirators that existed during the American Civil War. A sort of cross between the Freemasons and the KKK!

Which is why I initially thought to myself: "Oh, great! The hate- mongering church-goers killed off in the first movie were just a front group for more powerful and higher tech xenophobes." A suspicion that Halley Berry (as Agent Ginger Ale) seemed to confirm when her anecdote to Merlin seemed to indicate racism and sexism on Agent Whiskey's part.

But, I'm happy to admit that I was wrong (for the most part).

I love that they started the movie with an almost literal bang. Discourtesy of traitorous Kingsman trainee-turned-cyborg mercenary Charlie Hesketh! I also love that the studio brought back Colin Firth as Harry Hart, the previous Agent Galahad, in such a plausible-for-spy-fi way.

It's too bad, however, that they had to kill off Agent Lancelot so early. I would love to have seen her "interact' with Agent Tequila a lot more successfully than Eggsy and Merlin did. Watching overly macho rednecks get their keesters handed to them, by the so-called "weaker" sex, is one of my favorite movie stereotypes! But, it's almost just as good discovering that Channing Tatum's character evidently gives new meaning to the phrase " whiskey and coke." Thereby providing an excellent in- story reason for his replacement by Pedro Pascal's character.

The culture clash between these representatives of two vastly different organizations is equally predictable. But, I suspect the writers did it that way on purpose, so as to play up the fact that Kingsmen and Statesman have more similarities than differences!

And, of course, I love the happy ending between Eggsy and Princess Tilde.

The only reason I don't give this movie a perfect ten was the graphic way that Poppy had Angel kill his best friend. Thinly-disguised tirade against non-vegetarians, perhaps? Well, news flash! We carnivores are just vegetarians once-removed, and we're here to stay.

So there. :P
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Season Five/Episode 14. Initial Expectations; 10. Hopes Fulfilled; 0.
21 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I don't usually review individual episodes, anymore. As nowadays, most readers seem to react neutrally. Voting neither "useless" nor "useful." But, in this case, I have to let them know before it's too late. WLIIA is getting increasingly unfunny!

And tonight's all-new episode was the worst, yet.

Maybe it's the fact that I've never heard of Marisol Nichols before. But, even her relative anonymity couldn't be blamed for the opening skit, "Weird Newscasters," being the first version of that particular game to utterly fail to make me laugh. So, perhaps, I was hoping too hard that her participation in "Duet" would compensate for that lack of hilarity. But, whatever the reason, that, too, proved unfunny.

Let's not even go into "Living Scenery" and "Song Styles."

Basically, then, the only thing that did make me laugh, during this episode, was the laundry commercial where the guy comes into his bedroom, spots his dungarees being air-dried from the roof-top eaves trough, and freaks out!

Another episode or two like this, and I greatly fear this show won't be granted a sixth season.
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JOHN WICK meets MAN ON FIRE...and God help anybody caught in the middle.
15 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Dylan O'Brien is a relatively new name to me. But, he did a very convincing job portraying Mitch Rapp. A man who trains himself single-mindedly (and almost single-handedly) to track down the terrorist leader responsible for the death of his five-minute fiancé' (along with dozens of other innocent tourists) in Spain eighteen months earlier.

It's a mixed blessing, though, that he tracks down the terrorists posing as an American jihadist sympathizer. Because it makes the CIA aware of his existence. Not to mention, gets him captured--and nearly killed--by his quarry through a bit of overconfidence!

What follows is admittedly pretty predictable. Rescue by counter- terrorist commandos; an offer he can't refuse (train to be an anti- terrorist hit man or go to Federal prison); the training, itself, under ex-Navy SEAL Stan Hurley (enjoyably played by Michael Keaton); and, of course, the literal baptism-by-fire overseas when Team Orion crosses paths with renegade ex-teammate "The Ghost" (almost too-well played by Taylor Kitsch) who has a hidden agenda more shocking than all his accomplices!

I won't spoil the rest of the plot. Suffice it to say that, as end-of-summer blockbusters go (technically, the first day of fall isn't till Sept. 22), this movie is well worth the admission price.
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Home Again (2017)
The one modern comedy that my parents liked just as much as I did!
10 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
First off, let me say that this film was a pure delight. So, all three of us were kind of shocked and amazed that WE WERE THE ONLY THREE PEOPLE at the matinée performance!

What is up with the movie-going public, today? Are we getting so jaded with gritty crime thrillers (over-reliant on swearing) and horror films (over-reliant on computer-generated gore) that we consider ourselves too sophisticated for a nice, old-fashioned romantic comedy?

Well, for those who answered "yes" to both questions, then I say "Shame on you!"

The relative newcomers who played Harry, George, and Ted really shined as naive-but-determined independent filmmakers. The two girls who played Isabella and Rosie were suitably cute and precocious. Candice Bergen was just plain great at playing the liberated Baby Boomer who's now a grandmother. And Reese Witherspoon was hilariously convincing as a maritally separated single mom who is unexpectedly put in charge of this three-ring domestic circus.

But, who (of course) successfully rises to meet the challenge.

In short? This was like "Brady Bunch" meets "The 3 Stooges." And I defy anybody to give higher praise than that. Especially, if they're wise enough to see it with the whole family.
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The only movie I've seen twice in a row, this summer. And it ain't bad!
20 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
There's been a lot of publicity stating how the Stephen King novel series was inspired partly by an old poem (called "Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came") and partly by the spaghetti-Westerns of Sergio Leone back in the 1960's. Me? I would've called the resulting movie adaptation a cross between MAD MAX and the original STAR WARS (aka "Episode 4: A New Hope").

But, no matter how you describe the inherent similarities, the fact remains that this is a great action-adventure flick with fantasy swashbuckler elements that just manage to rise above the stereotypical. For starters, there's the poignancy of Jake Chambers' dysfunctional home life (biological dad died a hero; mom remarried a self-centered jerk). Which, of course, is nicely balanced by the comedy relief of Roland's culture shock at the so-called "civilization" still extant on Keystone Earth. Case in point?

Roland: "Are bullets as rare on your world as they are here?"

Jake: "You're going to like Earth. A lot!"

My one and only complaint with this film, however, is that its trailers use outtakes for previews (a practice aggravatingly all too common in Hollywood)! I refer specifically to the scene where Jake tries to gauge the depths of Walter the MIB's inherent evil through a comparison to Christianity's greatest enemy.

And Roland replies "He's worse."

Why was that bit of dialogue edited out? Time and money constraints? Or too much potential controversy from religious fundamentalist groups? Well, whatever the reason, it still should have been left in. So, I am leaving one point out of my final score.
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Mr. Besson might finally be out of "Luc."
23 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I went to see VALERIAN, this past Sunday afternoon, because of the advance hype I saw in the trailers. Namely, that part of the creative team responsible for the success of THE FIFTH ELEMENT had worked on this. But, I ended up feeling let down for a variety of reasons.

In terms of 3-D CGI, this looks like a rip-off of AVATAR.

In terms of story, it sounds like a plagiaristic cross between THE FIFTH ELEMENT and STAR WARS.

In terms of mixing drama with comedy? Cara Delevigne had more chemistry with her co-star in PAPER TOWNS. And the only part I laughed at was when Rihanna's character accidentally dropped that crown on Laureline's head!

With regard to Dane Dehaan in the title role? He looks like Jason Behr and tries to act like Harrison Ford. But, the resemblance to the former in no way gives him the acting ability of the latter.

Add all that to the fact that I was only one of _half a dozen_ people who were in the theater for the 3-D showing...and you've got an ambitious big budget film that is most likely going to be one of this summer's biggest box office flops.
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Ape-ocalypse, Now!
15 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry! I just had to get that out of my system. Now, to be serious.

In terms of bringing a trilogy full circle, in a good way, this film delivered. The CGI motion capturing and voice-over dubbing were, once again, superb (especially in Andy Cirkis' case). And the writing worthy of Rod Serling's first draft script for the 1968 classic!

By that, I mean the screenplay for this movie does a credible job filling in the back story gaps left behind by the original quintet of films from Apjac and 20th Century Fox. Like, for instance; how could just one thousand years of "barbarity," alone, reduce Linda-- the original Nova--Harrison's people to mute hunter-gatherers? Could it have been a slower-acting, undiagnosed side-effect of the same space germ that killed off all the cats and dogs on Earth (as mentioned in CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES)?

Speaking of Nova: young Amiah Miller was suitably tender to watch in her interactions with Luca and Maurice. I hope she does at least a couple more films before heading off to college in six years. And Steve Zahn provides hilarious (and occasionally much-needed) comic relief as the Ben Gunn-esque Bad Ape.

Last, but not least? Let's talk about Woody Harrelson. He's come a long way since his days as the relatively unknown replacement for Nicholas Colasanto on CHEERS. And his spot-on homage, to Marlon Brando's second-most famous character, proves once and for all that this guy is just plain versatile!

In short; don't waste your money on WISH UPON. Go see this flick, instead.
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I don't know if continuing to amalgamate Ultimate Marvel-verse with the mainstream is a good thing.
9 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Yeah, I admit Tom Holland does a good job recreating the Everyboy role of Peter Parker with the same convincing plausibility that he demonstrated in "Capt. America: Civil War." But, I'm not sure Latinizing the character of Eugene "Flash" Thomson is such a good idea. As his bullying of Peter makes him seem like an anti-Caucasian racist jerk!

Then, there's Michael Keaton as Adrian "The Vulture" Toomes. He does a pretty good job recreating the comic book version's origin (re: being an unfairly cheated small-time businessman). And making Phineas "The Tinkerer" Mason his techno-whiz second-in-command was an equally clever touch. But, I still didn't feel as sorry for him as I felt towards the dysfunctional Osborne family (Norman's not Ozzie's) in the Toby Maguire flicks! So, I have to rule the director's attempt to make The Vulture a slightly more sympathetic character an undeniable failure.

Last, but not least: who the heck is Zendaya?! And is Michelle "MJ" Jones going to turn out to be related to Rick, Jessica, and Angelica?

Combine all that with the increased swearing (only the absence of f- bombs making this PG-13 rather than R) and you have a Spidey film not even half-way as close to being family-friendly as the Raimi trilogy.

So, stick to WONDER WOMAN.
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