Category: movie reviews

Movie Review: The Adam Project

A few nights ago I found out at the last minute that the older kids wanted to watch a movie with Denisa and me. Yay for that, but when I know I need to pick something quickly, I can go into a bit of a decision lock. So many choices, and it feels like it’s up to me to find something everyone will like, despite all their different tastes. I dithered for a while, and finally just picked the first thing that came up that looked remotely good. The Adam Project is a Netflix movie by Shawn Levy (of Stranger Things fame). It had a 6.7 on IMDB, so I hit play.

The premise starts out pretty solid. A man from 2050 travels back in time to try and prevent a catastrophe. Plenty of room for cool in that, right? His spaceship is somehow “DNA locked,” which means it will only fly if he’s in it and he has “healthy DNA.” And since he got shot in his escape from the future, somehow that makes it so his DNA isn’t healthy. (Yes, this is strange. They could have just gone with “you need to be totally healthy and not going to die anytime soon to be able to fly,” but I guess DNA sounded cooler?) In any case, he finds his younger 12 year old self, who has the same DNA and is (you guessed it) healthy, and he ropes him into coming with him so he can fly his ship.

And to save the future, they have to make sure their dad’s research in the even-further-past gets messed up, since their dad invented time travel. Granted, the premise of the plot is getting thinner and thinner the farther along we go, but hey! Time travel! This could still be cool, right?

Unfortunately not. My biggest complaint with the movie is that it played so loose with the science when it was convenient, only to use it as the “deus ex wrench” when it needed problems to come up for plot reasons. Characters kept talking about how dangerous it was to have people travel back in time and interact with their past selves, except we see zero evidence of that at all, and they keep doing it again and again and again, except when they decide they can’t, because reasons. Case in point? Toward the end, we’re supposed to believe that even with all of the shenanigans that have gone on, a character is still going to die in the future because of a car accident. That makes absolutely no sense. The amount of circumstances that have to come together to have someone be in a car accident are astronomical. Even if they’re five seconds late or early, they miss that accident.

Ugh.

Beyond the loosey goosey science is the plot, which felt very paint by number. It’s got the time travel stuff, and then it jams in the heart warming father/son/past self vibes. You could almost see the Mad Libs they were working with in the script. The characters are by and large cookie cutter as well. Look! Ryan Reynolds playing . . . Ryan Reynolds. (Is he just the same character all the time now? Because that’s what it feels like. Daniela says he’s always cast as Buddy the Elf, and she’s not really wrong.) 12 year old kid playing . . . 12 year old Ryan Reynolds! Mark Ruffalo playing . . . Bruce Bannister! Except no Hulk.

In the end, I was quite disappointed by the movie. It was one way to spend two hours of my life, but it wasn’t a particularly engrossing way. It’s a big let down, because with the budget and the premise, they could have done much more. But instead, they have this. 3/10 Feel free to miss it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Free Guy

During my blog hiatus, I came across a new-to-me movie on Disney+. Free Guy came out last year, but somehow it sailed under the radar for me completely. Directed by Shawn Levy, it’s a movie that takes place inside a video game. Ryan Reynolds stars as an NPC : a background character that only exists to fill out the scenes for the players. He has only the barest of backstories: he works in a bank, and he likes coffee. Each day, he wakes up and makes the exact same decisions as he did the day before, just like everyone else he knows. True, there are always these bizarre people running through his world, doing crazy things like stealing cars or shooting guns just for fun, but that’s just part of his normal.

Until it isn’t.

He begins to break out of his pre-determined role, and the movie develops from there. Honestly, it’s a film I thought I would just sort of see and then forget about. With that sort of premise, I was expecting something in the vein of other video game movies: perhaps some cool special effects, and it would be diverting enough for an hour or two, but nothing to write home about.

Instead, I got a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. Ryan Reynolds is his usual talkative, funny self. Think Deadpool, but much (much) tamer. It’s PG-13, mainly for a whole slew of video game violence, but nothing that really pushed the edge. The plot wasn’t predictable, the pacing was snappy, the special effects were great.

Now, I’m sure some of the reason I loved it so much was that I had non-existent expectations. A movie that can really come out of nowhere to surprise me like that is often one of my favorite sort of movies. But more than that, it was a film that took its premise seriously. I don’t mean that it’s a serious movie, but rather that it treated its fantasy world consistently, putting in thought as to how it would all play out, and how a character like Guy might view the world. That’s refreshing.

In any case, I gave it a 9/10. It’s definitely worth your while if it sounds even remotely up your alley. Already seen it? I’d love to know what you thought!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Turning Red

Another movie I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. This one, I’d heard conflicting things. Some people said they loved it, and some people said it was way too heavy handed and just another case of movie studios trying to be too preachy. (Of course, most of the sources for the latter came from the same folks who said Frozen was bad because it was way too preachy about pushing the “gay agenda.” So I wasn’t really taking the warnings too seriously.)

I had a chance to watch the movie over the weekend with the family, and I really enjoyed it.

If you’re not aware, it’s about a 13 year-old girl named Mei, who discovers when she hits puberty that the women in her family magically start turning into giant red pandas when they get too emotional, starting at that age. This is sprung on her with no warning, and she is naturally more than a little concerned. It’s all about how she learns to deal with this trait, and the family troubles the secret dragged to light.

First off, yes: puberty plays a significant role in the movie. And yes, that means the mom actually mentions pads as something she’s got for her daughter. Gasp! And yes, you can easily read into the movie about how it also relates to a child setting out on their own for the first time, and becoming who they want to be, and not who their parents want them to be. Perhaps if my children were all younger than 12, this would be alarming to me. It’s easy when they’re that young to assume (like Mei’s mom) that they’re always going to be the same as they’ve been so far growing up.

But then your kids start actually growing up and becoming who they want to be, and not necessarily who you want them to be, and you realize this movie is spot on in many ways. I won’t say it’s spot on for everyone, because what story is, but it definitely resonated with me.

(On a side note, one of the critiques of the film was that since it was about the Chinese/Canadian scene in Toronto, it was catering to too small a slice of the world, and not many people would relate to it. That’s utter hogwash. I am neither Chinese, nor Canadian, nor a woman, a mother, a 13 year-old, or a red panda. (That I’m aware. Maybe there’s a latent trait in my family for men who hit 45. I still have a few more years to go.) I still really connected to the movie and the characters, the same way I connected to UP, despite not being an aged widower, a cub scout, or a golden retriever.))

Talking it over with my kids, MC liked it a lot because it had a big red panda in it that did funny things. Tomas and Daniela both related to the story of Mei growing up and being more of an individual. So it had pretty wide ranging appeal, and it managed to do all of that in a way that was engaging.

Your mileage may vary, and I’m sure there are some who will feel like the puberty angle is either too much or inappropriate in a children’s movie, but I gave it a 9/10.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: West Side Story

I had some time over the weekend to catch up on some of the movies I’ve been wanting to see. I’d heard great things about Spielberg’s take on West Side Story, but I was still just a tad suspicious.

Going into it, I really doubted the need for the movie. The 1961 original won 10 Oscars, including Picture, Director, and Supporting Actor and Actress. Why in the world remake something that was done so well? It’s just asking for trouble. But it was Stephen Spielberg, and I had a hard time thinking he’d do something just for some sort of money grab. And it’s been over 50 years since the original came out. Maybe he’d set it in a different time period? Or do something to the movie to make it his own?

Nope. He stuck with the original setting. The original numbers. The original story. Almost all of the original characters. The one real difference? Realism. He made the characters seem much more fleshed out, and so the events of the film had much more of an impact.

I’d always felt the original was a musical first and a movie second. Meaning, I had to give the film a bit more leeway when it came to willing suspension of disbelief. The gangs didn’t really seem that intimidating. The song numbers were just that: song numbers. Asides that paused the action, where we got more information about the characters: their dreams, their fears, etc. But the singing and dancing contrasted with the violence of the movie, in a way that felt artistic to me. I didn’t dislike it; it was just part of a movie musical being a movie musical, and it never occurred to me that it was something that needed to be “fixed.”

Except Spielberg managed to do just that. Right from the beginning, the whole film felt much more real. The gangs were most definitely threatening. Yes, there’s still the singing and dancing that don’t necessarily line up with gang violence, but the movie puts the characters and the acting first, and the music second. This isn’t to say the music is bad by any stretch. It’s fantastic. But where the original felt like a musical first and a film second, the remake feels like it flipped that.

Was it perfect? Not quite. There were a couple of minor issues I had with the movie, and the only significant one was giving Somewhere to Rita Moreno to sing instead of leaving it with Tony and Maria. This isn’t because I thought Moreno did a bad job with it (quite the contrary), but it left Maria reprising a song that wasn’t nearly as powerful to me when she’s holding Tony as he dies.

But that’s really minor, and there’s so much to love about this movie. Take Spielberg’s approach to Spanish. There’s a ton of un-subtitled Spanish throughout the film. Spielberg explained in an interview that he felt subtitling the language would give English too much of an upper hand, and it was important to him that the Puerto Ricans be properly, equally represented. I think he did a much better job with that than the original. (Though honestly, that wouldn’t have been hard.)

In the end, I gave it a 9.5/10, and heartily recommend it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: Don’t Look Up

I’d heard a fair bit about Don’t Look Up over the last while. A Netflix movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence (along with Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, and others). It’s directed by Adam McKay, who did the Excellent The Big Short, and all that was intriguing enough to catch my interest. The fact that it was being described as a modern-day Dr. Strangelove? That seemed like an awfully big claim to be making.

The movie’s premise is pretty straightforward: a couple of astronomers discover a comet that’s on a head-on course for a direct impact with Earth in six months. It’s big enough that when it hits, it will destroy all life on the planet, ala the dinosaurs going extinct. Naturally, they bring this to the authorities, and the authorities . . . just don’t care.

Oh, they care. They just only care insofar as it will affect their chances to win the next election, or to potentially profit off the comet. And the public gets wind of it, and the public also . . . “cares.” Some of them start looting. Some of them give up hope. Many (many) of them think it’s just a hoax, and plenty of people show up to discount the “science.”

On the one hand, it’s depressingly relatable. Prior to COVID, I probably would have scoffed at a lot of what goes on in the movie. Now? I kind of just took it all in stride and accepted that much or most of it would be pretty spot on. It’s like a more realistic version of Armageddon (the movie, not the world-ending apocalypse.) Instead of coming together as a planet, the planet just pretty much self just self destructs.

But I did find the movie to be pretty one note. It’s a fine concept, but it just kept hammering that theme over and over and over, to the point of frustration. Yes. I get that people will be stupid. But it never failed to rub my nose in it again and again. And mind you, it’s 138 minutes long, so it has plenty of time to keep jamming on that key ad nauseum.

In the end, the movie comes around, and I generally liked the movie (enough to give it a 7/10), but with some good editing (and maybe some streamlining of the script), it could have been so much better. In the end, much of it felt like a dot-to-dot, where I know which way the dots are going to be connected, and so I didn’t need to see literally every connection made. And the heavy-handedness didn’t do too much for it either. (The audience seems clearly “people who are mad at the way COVID has been treated, which is fine, but seems sort of self-congratulatory. It might have been nice to have it made in a way that some people who actually are COVID-skeptics could watch it and reevaluate their opinions. I have a hard time anyone in that category would come anywhere close to that with this.)

Which all ends up with a film that I can’t really endorse for most people. It’s good. It’s well made. But it’s not great, and it’s not enjoyable. Once you know the premise, you know the plot. And so is it really worth watching a movie (even a good one), when you don’t really need to?

That sounds kind of like a strange description, but it’s as close as I can come to describing my interaction with the film. Anyone else out there watch it? What did you think?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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