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Son of a Gun (2014)
6/10
Australian crime drama
6 May 2021
Teenage inmate JR (Brenton Thwaites) arrives in prison. He uses his chess skills to befriend veteran criminal Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). Once he's released, he joins crime lord Sam Lennox and executes a prison break for Lynch. JR falls for the bosses' girl Tasha (Alicia Vikander). They plan for a daring caper to steal gold bars.

JR is a bit bothersome. Of course, he's a young character but he's too trusting. Thwaites plays the character a bit too much like a puppy. The movie is playing up the central theme of chimpanzees and bonobos. Lynch should have talked about it early in prison. That way, JR could be excused for being a bonobo. I like some of the crime capers. I like McGregor. I like some of this but JR is problematic.
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7/10
death and sex and all the rest
6 May 2021
Daniel Murphy (Michiel Huisman) is flying to Ireland for his mother's funeral. He's the only one left to care for his autistic brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley). He needs to go to NYC for a new job but Louis is unwilling to leave home. Added to the complication, the elderly man sitting next to him on the plane dies. Due to a name mix up, Daniel is assumed to be the dead man's next of kin. The brothers are joined by Mary Sullivan (Niamh Algar) on their road trip as they deliver the body to his burial in Northern Ireland. Situation arises that police Detective Donall Crowley (Colm Meaney) is in pursuit of the trio.

The premise is manufactured. The story would be easier to transport their mother rather than a complete stranger. I'm still not sure about connecting the delivery with moving to New York. At its core, this is a simple quirky road movie and I like these actors. I like these actors and these characters. It has the quirkiness of an Irish dark comedy. It's death and sex and all the rest.
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6/10
Clarke does well
6 May 2021
It's 1988 Pikeville, Kentucky. The town is dying as its mines close down. Susan Smith (Emilia Clarke) survive by welfare fraud and selling drugs with her husband Cash (Johnny Knoxville). When the cops catch them, she turns into a confidential informant for FBI agent Mark Putnam (Jack Huston). She starts having an affair with him despite his wife Kathy (Sophie Lowe) and kids.

This is supposedly a true story. Emilia Clarke is doing her best southern white trash work. This is really a character study of her dealing with a disintegrating obsessive sexual relationship. I would like a different person playing Mark Putnam. The movie plays into the buttoned up FBI agent ideals of the man. I want someone with more edge. I want Knoxville if he could start with a clean-cut look. That pairing would be more interesting. Jack Huston is doing straight-laced too well. He should do more disintegration. The obsessive relationship loses some of its power. This movie is shooting for a crime drama but it misses an opportunity for something more.
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Nanny Cam (2014)
5/10
Lifetime
4 May 2021
Linda (Laura Allen) and Mark Kessler (Cam Gigandet) are a married couple with special needs daughter Chloe. Their elderly babysitter Mrs. Highsmith suddenly shows signs of dementia and burns Chloe's arm. They need a new babysitter but money is tight. Heather (India Eisley) is headed for college. She seems to be a perfect candidate with a good reference. Linda buys a nanny cam and grows suspicious of her young babysitter.

This is a Lifetime movie aimed at the mommy audience. The first problem is the couple's casual dismissal of Mrs. Highsmith. I would have liked to have more with Mrs. Highsmith. It feels a bit like the couple has abandoned the old lady which doesn't look good. Quite frankly, she could have been a good side character to keep around. India Eisley is shockingly skinny and that keeps distracting me. The strip tease is not sexy when I'm worried about her health. The story is really basic. There is no mystery. There isn't much drama. The tension is limited. Mark is annoyingly clueless if I'm being kind. He should have fired her on the spot except he's being creepy. It would work so much better if she was already blackmailing him. One would hope to root for the couple but he makes it hard to do. The movie's greatest sin is its slowness. Honestly, it's hard to watch this without constantly stepping away.
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5/10
bad but not horrible
3 May 2021
Star baseball player Ben McGrath (Chris Klein) was on the verge of the major leagues when he gets nailed in the nuts. It ends his career before it starts. Years later, he is divorced and a disappointment to his son. He graduates from night school to be a lawyer. Nobody is willing to hire him except for Stenhouse (Lochlyn Munro). It turns out that Stenhouse wants him to be the baseball ringer but he is petrified by PTSD. Stenhouse fires him. In a bar, he gets hired by low rent lawyer Mel Carmichael (Jon Lovitz) who wants him to manage the company softball team.

As a comedy, it's not that funny. Its humor is broad but thin. Chris Klein has done worst. The supporting actors are all nobodies. The story actually functions but unimaginative. This is generally weak. It's a bad movie but at least, it's a functioning one.
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Demons (1985)
6/10
not the best but it has plenty
2 May 2021
A masked man hands out free movie tickets in a train station. Those who show up at the movie house sit down for a horror film. The exits are blocked and they become unsuspecting victims of a demonic horror.

This is an Italian horror. The story is really simple. It's a basic B-movie horror. There is lots of blood and gore. The makeup is generally functional which looks interesting sometimes. At the very least, there is a lot of it. There are a few interesting characters but most are just cannon fodders. I like the metal rock soundtrack. There is some action. They literally threw in a helicopter. It's not the best action but there is some. Just like it's not the best gore but there is plenty of it.
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5/10
muddled sequel
2 May 2021
The little dinosaurs live with their parents in the well-protected The Great Valley. They are tired of being treated as little kids. Their adventure to rescue an egg ends up punching a hole in the protective wall. This sequel is straight to video. The story is messy. It's a muddle with this group of characters. At least, they seem to have maintained the animation style. I don't want to be a hater but I can't see little kids liking this.
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7/10
cute sweet sincere
2 May 2021
Candice Phee is an outspoken 13 year old who gets ridiculed by the rest of the class especially mean girl Jen Marshall. Despite her aggressive happiness, her home life is dysfunctional. Her mother is depressed after the death of Candice's baby sister three years earlier. Her father is angry at his rich brother whom he believes to have stolen his great idea. New kid Douglas Benson believes that he's from another dimension and falls for Candice right away. Their wonky-eyed teacher assigns the class project Life as an Alphabet.

This is cute. I don't recognize any of the actors although Emma Booth seems familiar. The kids are newcomers. Daisy Axon has the eagerness even if she's unpolished. The acting is generally fine with good sincerity. The story is a little over-stuffed. It seems every character has a story in this movie. This is cute, sweet, and sincere. The filmmaking is good. With so many things going on, the emotional arc gets a bit muddled but the sweetness is never far away. That has a lot to do with little Daisy.
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6/10
too many characters
2 May 2021
The Scooby gang passes Batman's test and gets invited into the Mystery Analysts of Gotham. There's a new case at Gotham Chemical Storage. Batman lets the kids take the lead. It turns out to be connected to Batman's only unsolved case.

There are a few too many heroes. Honestly, I'm fine with just Aquaman and the Question. Maybe they're trying to get an ongoing team up situation. Apparently, there was one in the comics. All I know is that the movie needs fewer heroes. With all the heroes and villains coming in and out, this feels more like a best-of-clip-show episode of a long running TV series. I do like Aquaman's pathetic neediness and his relationship with the Question. I don't like Martian Manhunter. I do like this old style Batman and his relationship with the kids. I like the campy silly tone. I'm trying to remember if Scooby ever intentionally drove the Mystery Machine before this. I don't like overwhelming the mystery with so many characters. I like the silly.
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7/10
Hawkins shines
2 May 2021
Jane (Sally Hawkins) is struggling with her mental illness. Her family had put her in an institution after her breakdown from being left at the altar. She is presently back living with her family who are all dealing with her in their own ways. She begins a romance with Mike (David Thewlis) who has mental illness of his own.

The different tones clash somewhat. It's quirky and disturbing with a general melancholy over the whole affair. The quirky attempts at humor don't really work due to the sadness of it all. The kid getting knocked out is shocking. Through everything, there is the greatness of Sally Hawkins. She is the shining star above all else.
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Ocean Oasis (2000)
6/10
good educational
1 May 2021
It's Baja California. The ocean is filled with life from the cool rich waters. The coolness limits the evaporation and leaves the land a desert. Despite that, there is life everywhere. It's an earlier generation of nature films. It's educational. It doesn't have the high depth beauty of those David Attenborough nature shows which would come a few years later. It's still pretty good but it's not IMAX level.
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MacGyver (2016–2021)
7/10
like the group
1 May 2021
Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) works for the clandestine US government organization called Department of External Services (DXS) under the cover of a think tank. He uses his vast knowledge to create improvised solutions to any problems. He works with his best friend Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires) and ex-military Jack Dalton (George Eads). After losing his hacker ex-girlfriend Nikki Carpenter, they recruit prisoner Riley Davis (Tristin Mays) to the team. Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) is their leader until she is uncovered as a mole working for a rival criminal organization. Matty Webber (Meredith Eaton) becomes the new director. Ex-CIA agent Samantha Cage is recruited into the team for a short time. Jack leaves and is replaced by his comrade Desi Nguyen (Levy Tran).

I never saw the 80's original. Maybe that's why the spoofs never hit for me. In a way, I'm coming at this with a fresh eye. I do like the group. Despite losing Eads, the group maintains a cheery happiness to their intensity. I guess the original fans are desperate for more of that jerry-rigging solutions to their problems and that is the least interesting aspect of the show. Non of it is ever likely which feels very 80's. I just like the actors, the characters, and the group.
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6/10
quirky black comedy with limited laughs
1 May 2021
Sue Buttons (Allison Janney) is tired of being overlooked. It's her birthday and nobody cares. She catches her banker husband Karl (Matthew Modine) cheating in a motel. He dies from the sex and she buries him. She decides to use it to get the attention she craves. She reports Karl missing to the police and her half-sister reporter Nancy (Mila Kunis). Detective Cam Harris (Regina Hall) is not buying it one bit. Unbeknownst to them, Karl has been forced to launder money for Mina (Awkwafina) and her ruthless daddy. They want their money back. Karl's brother Petey (Jimmi Simpson) assumes that Mina had kidnapped Karl. Petey's boss Rita (Wanda Sykes) is eager to join the crime world.

This is trying to be The Big Lebowski but the filmmakers are nowhere near as capable as the Coen brothers. The premise has that potential and it must be the reason why it attracted so many interesting names. This black comedy needs a better rooting interest from the lead. While I foresaw the ultimate survivor in this, it doesn't make it good and the movie ends with problems. The one-year-after ending leaves some loose threads. Quite frankly, this needs to end at the gunfight. The story doesn't want to keep going. The aftermath is up to the audience. There are also issues with some the side characters. I can't accept that Mina is obsessed with $20k when millions are missing. I don't think Awkwafina is good for that role anyways. All in all, this has some fun but the problems keep it from being that good.
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It's All True (1993)
8/10
fascinating cinematic history
1 May 2021
After Citizen Kane, Orson Welles's next film is supposed to be It's All True, a collection of short documentary stories of real people around the world. He is rehearsing The Magnificent Ambersons when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He is recruited by Rockefeller and others to do a film in Brazil to entice the Nazi-leaning dictatorship. He rushes to finish both the Ambersons and Journey Into Fear simultaneously just in time to get to Rio for Carnival. There he finds two stories to add to his It's All True documentary.

It's a fascinating cinematic history. The Brazil stories are also fascinating on their own. They do get to the section where the unreleased footage is put together. I would like for a narrator to give this section more color but the visual is still fascinating. It's a fascinating documentary and a must for cinephiles.
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Wander Darkly (2020)
6/10
purgatory first half
1 May 2021
Married couple Adrienne (Sienna Miller) and Matteo (Diego Luna) has a car accident. She seems to be dead as she exists in purgatory living out one memory after another.

The first half struggles to find a narrative drive. It needs a mystery, a goal, or a point to the story. In a way, it's stuck in purgatory like the protagonist. There is a mystery to be had if the film doesn't start with her in a morgue drawer. The first half could be her struggling to figure out if she's dead. The second half does find a couple of points and it gets interesting. All in all, there is some fine acting and this is a fine small indie.
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5/10
someone please shoot Chris O'Dowd in the face
30 April 2021
Frank Bartlett (Charlie Hunnam) is constantly being humiliated by his drug addicted douche brother Bruce (Chris O'Dowd). Bruce films all of Frank's humiliation including an especially sorry episode of Frank's failed wedding. Now in rehab, Bruce continues to film Frank's worst moments as his film project. Frank has an embarrassing night with Lassie (Lizzy Caplan) who has her own nightmare alcoholic crazy father Jack (Chris Noth).

Bruce is a douche, and the problem is everybody enables him. It's as if Zach Galifianakis in the Hangover is treated as the hero. I don't understand why Jordan Roberts thinks it would work. And the fact that Frank is so inept makes him look pathetic. He really NEEDS to shoot his brother in the face.

I did like the chemistry between Charlie Hunnam and Lizzy Caplan. The scene in the shed was actually very funny and touching. Sadly, the rom-com was overshadowed by Bruce's awfulness. And Nora Dunn is especially horrible as the mom who sides completely with Bruce. OK don't shoot him, just put a bat to his face. At least in the Hangover, everybody knows Galifianakis is an idiot.
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Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015 Video)
5/10
middling B
30 April 2021
Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) continues to hunt the monsters and videotaping it. Travis B. Welker (Jamie Kennedy) wants to make him an internet star. He is recruited to hunt a new cluster of monsters in South Africa.

The first thing I noticed is that someone is filming Burt on his excursions. I don't like the premise of him being like that anyways. I like the lone wolf hunter but not the self-videoing. If Jamie Kennedy should be Burt video guy, he shouldn't be the douche type. He could be the nerdy assistant. I don't like his douche persona anymore. The African content is a little condescending like the tribal dance. Other than a few safari animals, the African content isn't that great. Tremors started as a great B-movie and has become a small cult B-movie franchise. As always, this has Michael Gross and he's the best remaining part. Jamie Kennedy is not a good addition. This is not good. It's a middling B-movie.
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6/10
ok for Scooby
30 April 2021
The gang is taking a break at the Blowout Beach Bash after solving another mystery. Fred and Velma are determined to prove that they are able to have fun. Once there, they find the vacation spot being abandoned and haunted by a ghost pirate.

This is fine for a Scooby-Doo Lego movie. It would work better if Velma is alone after being accused of not having fun. It works better for Velma than it is for Fred. The hair flipping also works better with Velma than with Fred. Her hair is iconic. Fred is about his ascot. A lone Velma would be a compelling character growth story although that may be asking too much for a simplistic cartoon movie.
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Mystery 101: Killer Timing (2021)
Season 1, Episode 6
8/10
grading on a curve
30 April 2021
Professor Amy Winslow (Jill Wagner) is meeting FBI agent Travis Burke (Kristoffer Polaha) for a restaurant dinner when a bomb hits. 33 hours earlier, Burke is in the Chicago FBI office getting ready to testify in a big case. The killer escapes and possibly out to get Burke. In the process, Amy meets his ex-wife and fellow agent Kate Coulson (Erin Cahill).

I actually really like this one. I like the ex. The pairing actually improves with the addition of the ex. I like the twists and turns of the case. I wouldn't mind if Cahill continues on with the franchise. I'm fully admitting that I'm grading on a curve here with Hallmark Mysteries. My expectation is low and this exceeds it.
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My Mom's Letter from Heaven (2019 TV Movie)
7/10
like the letter
30 April 2021
Connor Johnson (Barry Watson) is devastated by the death of his beloved wife and forced to raise his daughter Zoe by himself. His wife leaves him a letter to be read to their daughter when she needs it. It's 12 years later and Zoe (Jordyn Ashley Olson) has become a rebellious teenager.

This is a Lifetime movie. Quite frankly, it feels more like a Christian film for about two thirds of the way. This is definitely pulling hard on the heart-strings. In fact, it pulls it too hard in many scenes. It threatens to break those heart-strings in various moments. That's why I like the letter. It's the thing that could have derailed the entire movie. Instead, I like that the letter is wrong in the details of her predictions but not in its heart. That saves the movie from being too on the nose. Anyways, I like the simple message. The book search could have been more tense but this movie is strictly on the sappy side. Sometimes, sappy is good.
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Amazonia (2013)
7/10
no narrator
30 April 2021
A pet monkey is being transported on a small plane. The plane crashes and the money has to survive in the wild Amazon jungle.

Narration can be problematic if done badly. A normal Disney movie would give this monkey a human voice. Without that voice, it's left up to the audience. No matter what, the nature photography with all these animals is compelling enough to keep my attention. It's a different experience.
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Mortal Kombat (2021)
6/10
B-movie reboot
30 April 2021
Earth is on the verge of annihilation. After nine victories by Outworld, they are one loss away from the Earth being conquered. Cole Young (Lewis Tan), Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), and Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) must defeat the warriors of ruthless Outworld Emperor Shang Tsung (Chin Han).

This is a violent, hard-R reboot of the video game adaptation from the 90's. It has scraped off the cheese and speckled on some more action. The special effects are mostly up to date. It's very competent like the competent acting, action, and designs. The story is basic and set up to have more movies in the franchise. Josh Lawson is funny as Kano. The others are less charismatic. The missing ingredient is an A-list actor or an old action star doing a side role cameo. It's an old Hollywood trick but it works. It would give this the illusion of an A-list movie. As it stands, this is a well made B-movie and it's probably enough to continue as a B-movie franchise. Sadly, that road is usually downhill but maybe it could be a long ride.
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6/10
war film during war
30 April 2021
The nation is rallying after Pearl Habor. All the girls love the dashing Navy Lt. Gregg Masterman (Robert Taylor). He's an entitled Harvard guy from a privileged well-connected east coast family. He's an aide to Rear Admiral Stephen Thomas (Charles Laughton). Hard working Lieutenant Commander Martin J. Roberts (Brian Donlevy) is desperate to get back out into the seas. Unlike Masterman, he's had to fight all the way up from his humble beginnings. The Admiral assigns him as the new captain to an old destroyer from the first World War.

I expected more war action from this wartime propaganda film. It takes a baby detour in between the explosions. It has fine old-style action but the kids do get into the way. I get the premise of equating convoy duty to safeguarding innocence but it complicates the suicide run. I don't mind the baby rescue but maybe the rescued should be all put on another ship. All in all, it's a fine film for the war effort.
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7/10
Marvel TV
30 April 2021
It's after Avengers: Endgame. Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) turns down the shield but instead of retiring it, the authorities make American hero soldier John Walker (Wyatt Russell) the new Captain America. Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) can't understand why Falcon turned down the job. Meanwhile, the blip returnees are being marginalized by the world due to legalities and resource limitations. Karli Morgenthau leads a group of revolutionaries called Flag Smashers. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) is hiding in the underworld of Madripoor.

This is a six episode Marvel TV show and probably a limited series. It's meant to lead to a new Captain America movie with Sam Wilson. It's also doing a lot of other things and they are a mixed bag. First, this is about a black man taking over the symbol of American exceptionalism. It hits on that present-day issue hard. I do wonder if it could turn off some people who like the color red. I also do wonder if Falcon is walking that line correctly. In the end, the writers are obviously trying very hard with his climatic monologue. That speech goes on too long. It needs a rewrite and cut in half. What really hits home more is the museum exhibit of Isaiah Bradley. The other story lines are just as ripped from the headlines. John Walker is the cop who goes too far. Karli is some sort of Antifa. It's all a maelstrom of modern day politics. I can see this being off-putting but comic books have often tackled the politics of its days.

There are undeniable problems with this show. I don't think Sharon Carter works in this role. There may be some rewriting going on and she struggles to go along the journey. Emily VanCamp is fine as Sharon but not the Sharon doing this premise. She is trying to be Hayley Atwell in Peggy Carter but that's not her. The other problem is Karli and her story. Her character needs help introducing her side and her people. The show simply doesn't have the time to fill out her story. The show is about six hours or about three Marvel movies. Even with that space, this show feels jammed together at times especially when a quarter is filled with cinematic action scenes. I have to think that the COVID disruption also caused some of the problems. At the end of the day, it does the main things well. Falcon and Winter Soldier are a good pairing. Falcon's journey to become Captain America is terrific and is given real world meaning.
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The Virtuoso (2021)
5/10
interesting turn
30 April 2021
Anson Mount plays a nameless assassin who closely follows his own set of rules. Anthony Hopkins plays his boss. His latest kill accidentally catches a bystander. He is haunted by the incident and falls for a diner waitress (Abbie Cornish) while searching for his latest target.

It's a closed-off assassin doing his work. It's not the most original premise but the waitress is a little different. While I appreciate the turn, I'm not sure if it's just something written. It's a little manufactured. There needs to be a bit more development between Anson and Anthony's characters. This is an interesting short story ideal that needs more brainstorming work. It needs some more meat on the bone.
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