A MAN CALLED OTTO (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

A Man Called Otto poster.jpg

A Man Called Otto is a comedy-drama directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by David Magee. It is the second film adaptation of the 2012 novel A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and an American remake of the 2015 Swedish film of the same name written and directed by Hannes Holm. I thought the trailers were interesting and suggested a pleasant entertainment experience, plus I love Tom Hanks.  I also loved the film as it was cute and refreshing.

Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks), is a 63-year-old widower who lives in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After retiring from a steel company, Otto contemplates suicide, having lost his wife Sonya (Rachel Keller), a schoolteacher, six months earlier.

During one of his suicide attempts, he is interrupted by his new neighbors: Marisol (Mariana Treviño), Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two daughters, Abby (Alessandra Perez), and Luna (Christiana Montoya).  This is pretty much how Otto’s life sizes up after the new neighbors move into the community. Otto’s past is shown through a series of flashbacks every time he tries to move forward with his plans. The story tells of how he met his wife and all the events that led up to her death.  Otto’s annoying but refreshing new neighbors were a GOD send. My many thought-provoking emotions were in overdrive as Otto tried to stick to his plans.  The new family’s ups and downs actually gave Otto a new reason to be. I might add, Otto was heavily lacking in the department of socializing and the last person you would want to try to befriend.

Otto was also inspired by a situation confronting Anita (Juanita Jennings) and Reuben (Peter Lawson Jones), an older couple Otto had a long-lasting and endearing relationship with over the years. This movie comes with all the modern problems of today’s world. Otto is able to confront most of these problems but is unable to resolve them all.  There are quite a few characters and situations that all made A Man Called Otto an enjoyable film, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend this film to all.

As of January 22, 2023, A Man Called Otto has grossed $35.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $20 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $55.3 million. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 69% of 182 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Check all cynicism at the door and allow A Man Called Otto to tug at your heartstrings with its tried-and-true tune—it just might sing.”  Check It Out!

 

THE WHALE (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

TheWhalePoster.jpgThe Whale is a drama directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Samuel D. Hunter, based on his 2012 play of the same name. Brendan Fraser received universal acclaim for his performance, which was widely seen as his career comeback. The Whale is about a reclusive English teacher who is severely obese and tries to restore his relationship with his teenage daughter.  I love Brendan Fraser and was happy to see him in such a brilliant film, which I absolutely loved.  Well done!

Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a morbidly obese and reclusive English professor who teaches online college writing courses but keeps his webcam switched off, afraid to show his appearance to the students. Charlie is cared for by his nurse and only friend Liz (Hong Chau) who urges him to visit a hospital as he is at severe risk of congestive heart failure. He is also visited by Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a New Life Church missionary who tries to evangelize him. Charlie frequently orders pizza to which he and his delivery driver Dan (Sathya Sridharan) performs a repetitive routine of leaving the pizza on his porch, collecting the money from the mailbox, and leaving without ever interacting with Charlie.

The Whale is mostly about Charlie’s attempt to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Jacey Sink) whom he has not seen in eight years. Charlie offers her all the money in his bank account to persuade Ellie to spend time with him without her mother’s knowledge. Ellie agrees, but only if Charlie helps her rewrite an essay for school. Charlie agrees.

It’s apparent that Charlie is going through a host of emotions that have caused him to succumb to his present situation. He has feelings of guilt, along with depression, and is living in a serious situation for which he has no interest in changing.  He wants to make things right with his daughter who offers no mercy for his declining health.  It is painful to watch what obsessive weight can do to one’s body.  Every move is a struggle.  Despite Brenden’s outstanding acting abilities, the film received criticism for its portrayal of its morbidly obese main character. TIME Magazine explained the controversy stating, “Some of the film’s critics believe it perpetuates tired tropes of fat people as suffering, chronically depressed and binge eating”. On the podcast Don’t Let This Flop, EJ Dickson said the film was met with criticism for its use of a prosthetic suit instead of casting an obese actor, with accusations that it “stigmatizes and mocks fat people”. On NPR’s culture section, Jaclyn Diaz reported that this criticism extends to detractors calling the film’s premise “inherently dehumanizing”.

I think obesity has become more controversial than it should be due to bad feelings about the subject instead of looking at what it doing to you healthwise. The movie was excellent and brought up mixed emotions about Charlie, his daughter, his nurse, and his x wife.  The Whale grossed $13,191,971 domestically and worldwide. Rotten Tomatoes reported that critics found The Whale an empathetic film held together by a killer Brendan Fraser, The Whale sings a song of empathy that will leave most viewers blubbering. On the site, 66% of 254 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.7/10.  The audience says with a heartbreaking story brought powerfully to life by Brendan Fraser’s starring performance, The Whale‘s as hard to watch as it is to look away from. The Whale is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

BABYLON (2022) – My rating: 7.5/10

A blonde woman in a red dress crowdsurfs at a party.

Babylon is an epic period comedy-drama written and directed by Damien Chazelle. The film features an ensemble cast. Its plot chronicles the rise and fall of multiple characters during Hollywood’s transition from silent to sound films in the late 1920s. OMG, the Hollywood scene was insane back in the day. I hope they have cooled down by now — I didn’t know what to expect and I surely didn’t expect what I saw. Before seeing Babylon, make sure you’re prepared for this “FOR ADULTS ONLY “ film. Despite the Solom & Garmorra-purlieu, Chazelle did an excellent job.

In 1926 Los Angeles, Mexican immigrant Manuel “Manny” Torres (Diego Calva) helps transport a loose-bowled elephant to a debauched bacchanal party featuring an abundance of orgies, cocaine, and a little person on a phallic-shaped pogo stick, just to name a few of the activities) at Kinoscope Studios executive Don Wallach’s (Jeff Garlin) mansion. An uninvited guest appears, going by the name Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie). She gives the bouncer a hard time but meets Manny who becomes quickly smitten with her. She is defined as a brash, ambitious self-declared “star” from New Jersey. Manny confides to Nelle his wish to be part of something bigger. While the elephant walks through, distracting partygoers while Manny helps carry away young actress Jane Thornton, who overdosed on drugs during a perverse urolagniac act (aka, Golden Rain) with obese actor Orville Pickwick (Troy Metcalf). Also attending are Chinese-American lesbian artiste Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li), and African-American jazz trumpeter Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo). The flamboyantly-dancing Nellie is spotted and swiftly recruited to replace Jane in a Kinoscope film; during filming, she crudely upstages the star. Manny meets and befriends Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), a benevolent but troubled, oft-married film star, and drives a drunken Jack home. Jack helps Manny secure assistant jobs at Kinoscope, such as finding a new camera to film an outdoors love scene with Jack before nightfall, and Manny climbs the studio system’s ranks. Nellie quickly becomes an “it girl” covered by gossip columnist Elinor St. John (Jean Smart), who also follows Jack’s career.

Babylon is a 3 hr 9 min film that tells an incredible story of Hollywood stars and wannabes who are caught up in all the ups and downs of stardom.  The story mostly exists in the age of silent films. The transition to talking films was devastating for some and a blessing for those who had the right stuff, particularly a pleasing voice, and the ability to read and remember lines. Usually, when there are many A-listed stars in a movie, the movie turns out to be substandard.  Babylon was well done, the actors were brilliant and the length of the film was put to good use.  Once you get over the shock of how these people lived, partied, and, drugged, you are able to focus on a very good storyline. I think Damien Chazelle (director) really captured the ambiance of the 20’s era and the mood and aura of the times.  The story allowed the audience to see how one could get caught up in the demanding and trying times, due to changes.  I liked Babylon very much, there are many twists and changes that make it quite interesting.

Babylon only made $1.5 million on its first day (including Thursday-night previews) and went on to debut to just $3.5 million in its opening weekend (and a total of $5.3 million over the four days), finishing fourth at the box office. As of January 19, 2023, Babylon has grossed $14,343,438 worldwide.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Babylon holds a rating of 54% based on 256 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The site’s critic’s consensus reads: “Babylon’s overwhelming muchness is exhausting, but much like the industry it honors, its well-acted, well-crafted glitz and glamour can often be an effective distraction.” Babylon is not for everyone and is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER (2022) – My rating 8.5/10

Avatar The Way of Water poster.jpgAvatar: The Way of Water is an epic science fiction film directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the screenplay with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver from a story the trio wrote with Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno. Produced by Lightstorm Entertainment and TSG Entertainment and distributed by 20th Century Studios, it is the sequel to Avatar (2009) and the second installment in the Avatar film series. The original Avatar was one of the most beautifully filmed movies of its time using Real 3D technology and had a great plot, which for me, made the sequel to be anticipated with bated breath.  Way of Water lives up to the hype.

Twelve years after the Na’vi repelled the human invasion of Pandora by the Resources Development Administration (RDA), Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) lives as chief of the Omaticaya clan and raises a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), which includes sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) who was born from Grace Augustine’s inert avatar, and a human boy named Miles Quaritch “Spider” Socorro (Jack Champion), the son of Colonel Miles Quaritch, who was born on Pandora and was unable to be transported to Earth in cryostasis due to his infancy. To the Na’vi’s dismay, the RDA returns to prepare Pandora for human colonization, as Earth is dying. Among the new arrivals are ‘recombinants’—Na’vi avatars implanted with the minds and memories of deceased human soldiers—with Quaritch’s recombinant serving as their leader. One year later, Jake is leading a guerilla campaign against the RDA. During a counterinsurgency mission, Quaritch and his subordinates capture Jake’s children.

The plot gets more complex as a new species of avatars is introduced. There are humans, who are referred to as “the Sky People” but are from the RDA organization, the original Na’vi people/avatars from Omaticaya (Led by Chief Jake and his family), the Metkayina Reef People Clan (who live on Pandora’s eastern seaboard, led by Chief Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet), are highly skilled at the way of water), and the hybrid humans that have been made into avatars (led by Quaritch) with their original memories. The humans and the hybrid avatars, both representing the RDA, are hellbent on revenge and colonizing the avatars. All the avatars want is to be left alone in peace to live their lives. This film was quite the adventure as I watched Jake and his family learn from the Reef People.  The sea creatures were magnificent and a big part of their survival.  The special effects were next level and the cinematography was breathtaking.  The story was well told however, I thought the movie was too long, 3hrs and 12min. I was fully into Avatar: The Way of Water, therefore the time was less painful but there wasn’t an intermission.  I enjoyed the movie and recommend it to all age groups.

As of January 3, 2023, Avatar: The Way of Water has grossed $457.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $1.025 billion in other territories, for a worldwide total of $1.482 billion. With an estimated budget of $350–460 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 77% of 395 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Narratively, it might be fairly standard stuff—but visually speaking, Avatar: The Way of Water is a stunningly immersive experience.” Avatar: The Way of Water is currently in theaters – Check It Out!

FYI:  Avatar: The Way of Water was nominated for five Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. It was named one of the ten best films of 2022 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute.

 

THE FABELMANS (2022) – My rating: 8/10

Fabelmansposter.jpegThe Fabelmans is a coming-of-age drama directed by Steven Spielberg and written and produced by Tony Kushner and Spielberg. The film was produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, in association with Reliance Entertainment. It is a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Spielberg’s adolescence and first years as a filmmaker told through an original story of the fictional Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker himself who explores how the power of films can help him see the truth about his dysfunctional family and those around him.  There is a lot of Oscar buzz around The Fabelmans, so I thought I’d get a jump on all the movies that might be nominated.  I really didn’t find the trailers very interesting but after seeing the movie, I think it was definitely a worthwhile watch.

In 1952 Haddon Township, New Jersey, a Jewish couple Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman (Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) take their young son Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) to see his first film: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Dazzled by a scene involving a train crash, Sammy asks for a model set for Hanukkah. Sammy begins learning how to use his father’s 8mm camera (secretly given to him by his mother). He soon begins filming regularly, sometimes involving his younger sisters, Reggie Fabelman (Birdie Borria), Natalie Fabelman (Alina Brace), and Lisa Fabelman (Sophia Kopera) in his shoots. After Burt receives a new job, he and the family, along with his best friend and business partner, Bennie Loewy (Seth Rogen) move to Phoenix, Arizona in early 1957. Years later, a now-teenage Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) continues making films with his friends in a Boy Scout troop, which earns him a badge in photography. At this point, Burt sees Sammy’s passion for film as nothing more than a hobby. The Fabelmans get a surprise visit from Sammy’s granduncle Boris Schildkraut (Judd Hirsch),  a former lion tamer, and film worker. That night, uncle Boris speaks with Sammy about compromising his family with his art, telling him that both aspects will continue to be at odds with one another. Currently, Sammy’s only support comes from his mother who believes in his passion.

There is so much to say about The Fabelmans. Firstly, if you didn’t know, the film is based on the true story of Steven Spielberg’s family as he grew up.  Sammy Fabelman represents Steven Spielberg from seven years old through his teen years.  Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman represents Leah Adler, Spielberg’s mother who is also a skilled concert pianist and painter. Burt Fabelman represents Spielberg’s father, Arnold Spielberg who was an accomplished electrical computer engineer. Reggie Fabelman portrays Spielberg’s first younger sister Anne, who has a bitter relationship with him. Natalie Fabelman is based on Spielberg’s second younger sister Nancy, and Lisa Fabelman is based on Spielberg’s third younger sister, Sue. Bennie Loewy represents Bennie Adler, Arnold’s best friend and colleague. FYI: Mitzi really adopts a monkey and brings it home to live with the family.  Mitzi, Spielberg’s mother,  turns out to be an interesting character to whom Spielberg had to give much thought before revealing so much about her in the film.  Almost everything about her in the movie is true.  The Fabelmans was dedicated to Spielberg’s parents. Arnold died in 2020 at the age of 103. Mitzi died in 2017 at the age of 97, and Bernie died in 1995 at the age of 75.  It is also true that Sammy stopped pursuing filmmaking before he even really got started after seeing Lawrence of Arabia because he felt the bar was set too high.

Despite the positive reviews, the film was a box office disappointment, grossing $9.1 million on a $40 million budget, becoming the lowest-grossing film of Spielberg’s career. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of 261 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Part memoir, part ode to the power of the movies, The Fabelmans finds Steven Spielberg digging at the family roots that helped make him a beloved filmmaker — and proves he hasn’t lost his magic touch.” While The Fabelmans was not filled with action, nor did it inspire a lot of emotion, it was a decent autobiographical film that gave us more insight into one of the best filmmakers of all time.  It’s definitely worth the watch — The Fabelmans is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

EMANCIPATION (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

Emancipation Release Poster.jpgEmancipation is a historical action film directed by Antoine Fuqua and produced by Joey McFarland. The film, written by William N. Collage, is loosely based on the real-life story of Gordon (named “Peter” in the film), a former slave, and the photographs of his bare back, heavily scourged from an overseer’s whippings, that were published worldwide in 1863, giving the abolitionist movement proof of the cruelty of slavery. Apple paid $130 million to acquire the rights to the film, outbidding several other studios. While I’m not always willing to endure the pain of watching movies that depict slavery, I wanted to see Emancipation because I wanted to support the star.

In the 1860s, an African-American enslaved man called, Peter (Will Smith) escapes from the Louisiana plantation where he was enslaved in search of freedom.  Peter escaped with several other men who were also slaves but despite the Emancipation, were still performing “work as usual”. Peter has a wife and children and was determined to come back and release them using  papers to show that they were free.  

I thought the film was befitting of the time, situation, and horrific conditions that existed during slavery.  The White hands on the plantation seemed particulary angry and hateful.  This film really didn’t present anything new except that it exposed, once again, the back of a slave that was first presented in 1863.  Emancipation is streaming on Apple TV+ after a short release in theaters. The film received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, who liked the cinematography and action scenes but criticized the screenplay, plot, and the handling of real-life events. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 44% of 139 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Emancipation works as an action movie – albeit one that’s uncomfortably at odds with its awkward handling of the real-life events that inspired its stirring story.” 

FYIOn making the film, Fuqua said:

“It’s almost two years now from when I first read the script. It hit my heart and my soul in so many ways that are impossible to convey but I think you understand. We’re watching some of the feeling that I had, in the streets right now. There’s sadness, there’s anger, there’s love, faith and hope … That’s important to see, and the most hopeful thing that I’m seeing, that they’re not going to stand for it anymore.”

Additionally, principal photography was expected to begin in Los Angeles, then was later set to begin on June 21, 2021, in Georgia, but on April 12, it was announced that the film would be shot elsewhere due to the recently-enacted Election Integrity Act of 2021. Smith and Fuqua said in a joint statement: “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.” To change the location was reported to cost approximately $15 million. Finally filming took place in New Orleans from July 12 to August 21, 2021. Emancipation was further delayed due to several positive COVID-19 tests.  I’m not sure about the events of that time but I do know the back of the slave named Gordon was true. Emancipation is streaming on Apple TV+ and is free if you have a subscription — Check It Out!

 

VIOLENT NIGHT (2022) – My rating: 4/10


Violent Night is a Christmas action-comedy directed by Tommy Wirkolal and written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller. The story is about a magical Santa Claus who finds himself fighting off mercenaries that have taken a wealthy family hostage in their home. Violent Night is one of the worse movies I’ve seen since the likes of “The Menu” and “Bros”.

On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus (David Harbour), who appears to have tied on one too many, continues to pour down the drinks at a Bristol pub while lamenting that children have become increasingly materialistic, in a world unaware he actually exists. Determined to resume delivering gifts, Santa emerges to the roof and flies off in his reindeer-driven sleigh. In Greenwich, Connecticut, Jason Lightstone (Alex Hassell), his estranged wife Linda (Alexis Louder), and their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) visit his mother Gertrude’s (Beverly D’Angelo) mansion to celebrate Christmas with his alcoholic sister Alva (Edi Patterson), her new boyfriend and wannabe-action star Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet), and Alva’s son Bertrude (Alexander Elliot),  BTW: the name Bertrude is not a typo and is explained in the movie. Thanks to gifting Trudy with an old walkie-talkie so she could “talk to Santa”, Jason and Linda overhear her only wish: to become a family again. Drunkenly delivering gifts, Santa arrives at the Lightstone estate, where the caterers reveal themselves to be mercenaries with Christmas-themed codenames. Led by “Mr. Scrooge”/Jimmy Martinez (John Leguizamo), they slaughter the staff and take the family hostage. Santa is discovered by one of the henchmen, whose gunfire scares away the reindeer along with his sled, and they fight until Santa knocks him out of a window to his death. Stranded, Santa decides to save Trudy and her family from Scrooge, who demands the $300 million in cash from the mansion’s vault.

Violent Night is one of the most violent movies I’ve ever seen. Santa becomes a killing machine that slaughters in ways that make you cringe.  Everything from decapitation to empaling to burning up victims alive is how this film defines a rescue using Santa Claus.  I suspect Violent Night was meant to mimic “Home Alone” with an upgrade to adult situations with a touch of comedy.  Some of the scenes were so violent, I had to look away.  I would rather see a bloody surgery.  Fowl language was also in abundance as children being present was not a deterrent or problem.  The situation was surreal and the motive was greed. Santa and Mr. Scrooge seem to be in a contest for the bloodiest and most gruesome kills.  There’s no way I could make any of this materialize as a feasible chain of events that could be believed.  While Santa was magical, no amount of magic could have helped this scenario.  In the end, it boiled down to good vs evil.  The problem is the good was not much better than the evil.  I guess, “all’s well that ends well” would be an appropriate cliche to wrap up this horrific movie.  Don’t bring your children to see Violent Night, it might suggest serial killing as an exceptable way of life.

The film has grossed $29 million worldwide. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes said critics did not find the film “as wildly entertaining as its concept might suggest” but that it may be enjoyable “for those seeking harder-edged holiday fare”. The website assessed that 71% of 168 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.3/10. I would define Violent Night as a dark comedy horror film instead of an action comedy.  Also, the suggestion of Christmas would never be associated with this movie. Violent Night is currently airing in theaters — Check It Out!

DEVOTION (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

Devotion (2022 film).jpgDevotion is a biographical war film based on the 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos, which retells the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner during the Korean War. It is directed by J. D. Dillard and written by Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart. Another historic movie based on a true story that depicts one of many important roles African American’s played in developing the United States of America. Despite needing a box of tissues, I thought Devotion was well done.

In early 1950, Lieutenant Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) transfers to Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. There he meets Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), the only African American member of the unit. Hudner integrates well into the squadron, which is assigned F4U-4 Corsairs – powerful planes with a reputation for fatal accidents if not handled properly. After Brown’s car breaks down, Hudner starts giving him rides to and from the base. He eventually meets Jesse’s wife Daisy (Christina Jackson) and their young daughter Pam. The Browns are doing well, but struggle with racist neighbors, and Brown, when alone, has resorted to shouting racist abuses at himself in the mirror to motivate himself before missions.

VF-32 passes carrier tests with the Corsair and transfers to the USS Leyte, which is deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to deter Soviet aggression. Before they leave, Daisy has Hudner promise that he will be there for Jesse in the event there is trouble. On the voyage, squadron member Mohring is killed in a crash while attempting to land a Corsair. Hudner questions why Mohring didn’t follow instructions, but Brown explains that one cannot always follow directions – if Brown had solely done what he was told, he would have been stopped early in his career by the many racist superior officers who wanted him to fail. Due to one of the lowest-grossing Thanksgiving weekends in box-office history, as of November 23, 2022, the film only grossed $16.1 million worldwide. 

Devotion is based on a sole Black Aviator who earned the title of one of the best pilots in the Navy.  I suspect if Jesse were not a Black man his story may not have been documented and made into a movie.  I liked Devotion because it honestly showed that Blacks are human beings just like everybody else, capable of great things just like everybody else.  I often wonder why there is so much hate for people who are of color.  Devotion shows why and how Jesse Brown became famous and why he continues to be celebrated after more than 70+ years. There are many solemn moments that will surely cause the tears to flow, so bring some tissues if you intend to see the movie. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 81% of 94 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads, “Honoring real-life history while delivering impactful drama, Devotion is a straightforward biopic elevated by standout performances from a talented cast.” Devotion is a very insightful movie — Check It Out!

 

THE MENU (2022) – My rating: 5.5/10

The Menu (2022 film).jpg

The Menu is a black comedy horror film directed by Mark Mylod, written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, and produced by Adam McKay, Betsy Koch, and Will Ferrell. Since I don’t like horror films, I had no desire to see The Menu. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I found myself in a situation where I had to make a decision; should I or shouldn’t I.  As it turns out, I should have stuck to my guns as this film has racked up my worst movie experience of 2022, in my opinion.

Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his companion Margot Mills / Erin (Anya Taylor-Joy) travel by boat to Hawthorne, an exclusive restaurant owned and operated by celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), located on a private island. The other guests attending the dinner are (Janet McTeer) Lilian Bloom, a food critic; her editor Ted (Paul Adelstein); wealthy couple Richard (Reed Birney) and Anne Liebbrandt (Judith Light); George Diaz (John Leguizamo), a post-prime movie star and his personal assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero); and business partners Soren (Arturo Castro), Dave (Mark St. Cyr), and Bryce (Rob Yang). The group is given a tour of the island by the restaurant maitre d’, Elsa (Hong Chau), who notes that Margot was not Tyler’s designated guest for the evening. Slowik is a celebrity chef and the owner of the Hawthorne restaurant, who has a ritualistic mentality and has lost his passion for his craft. This became the sole point of The Menu and I don’t think it was worth the watch.  The courses and Slowik’s accompanying monologues gradually become more disquieting and violent, which in many ways became the beginning of the end.

The Menu focuses on the above twelve characters plus the staff.  If you are planning to see The Menu, any further information will definitely spoil it for you.  The menu choices were spectacular and the food was prepared with the expertise of a master chef.  The evening evolved into a fearful, crazy series of events that would send the best of us into a serious meltdown.  Murder, mayhem, and suspense are plentiful.  The message was ambiguous and the ending was just plain awful. Keep in mind, the trailers did a fabulous job of selling this movie as a horror story that seemed scary and thrilling. As of November 26, 2022, The Menu has grossed $15.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $6.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $21.7 million. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 89% of 214 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website’s consensus reads, “While its social commentary relies on basic ingredients, The Menu serves up black comedy with plenty of flavors.” Obviously, I don’t understand or agree with Rotten Tomatoes but my thoughts jive with my entertainment value.  The Menu is currently showing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER: (2022) – My rating: 9/10

Black Panther Wakanda Forever poster.jpg

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Black Panther. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the sequel to Black Panther 2018 and the 30th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Wakanda Forever is directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole. The leaders of Wakanda fight to protect their nation in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. This most anticipated sequel was well done with a fitting tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Wakanda Forever was well worth the wait.

T’Challa, king of Wakanda (Chadwick Boseman), is suffering from an illness that his sister, Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), believes can be cured by the “heart-shaped herb”. Princess Shuri attempts to synthetically recreate the herb after it was destroyed by Killmonger. The Princess was unable to save King T’Challa before he is ravaged by the disease and passed on.

**** SLIGHT SPOILERS ****

One year later, Queen Ramonda of Wakanda (Angela Bassette) attends a conference and is under pressure from the attendees from other nations to share Wakanda’s [vibranium]. As the queen spoke, other parties were attempting to steal [vibranium] back in Wakanda, by force. Upon her return to Wakanda, Queen Ramonda implores Princess Shuri to continue her research on the heart-shaped herb, hoping to create a new Black Panther that will defend Wakanda. Princess Shuri refuses due to her belief that the Black Panther is a figure of the past. In the Atlantic Ocean, the CIA and U.S. Navy SEALs utilize a [vibranium]-detecting machine to locate a potential [vibranium] deposit underwater. The expedition is attacked and killed by a group of blue-skinned water-breathing superhumans led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta), with the CIA believing Wakanda to be responsible. Namor confronts Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri, easily bypassing Wakanda’s advanced security. Blaming Wakanda for the [vibranium] race, he gives them an ultimatum: deliver to him, the scientist responsible for the [vibranium]-detecting machine, or he will attack Wakanda.

There is so much going on in this sequel of Wakanda, you don’t have time to think about the absence of King T’Challa but you’re aware that Wakanda is in need of leadership.  It is my personal opinion that Michael B. Jordan should somehow be resurrected as N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens and given the lead role as “The New Black Panther” or let’s be audacious enough to call him “The African Panther of Wakanda”. While Shauri is impressionable in the role I can’t stop thinking of her as a slightly emotional tech and sort of a geek of Wakanda.  I think her size is too small for the role, just compare the muscles of her brother or Jordan against her small frame. The addition of the Talokan people was a real surprise and added much-needed action to the film.  CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) returned as an asset to Wakanda. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of him in future sequels. Last but not least, Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) an MIT student and genius inventor from Chicago has arrived. She takes Wakanda on a technological journey like you wouldn’t believe. Just when I thought we were done with surprises, Everett’s ex-wife Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) appears as the Director of the CIA causing all sorts of havoc.  The plot, which contains many twists and turns is plentiful and keeps us guessing.  Overall, I really liked this sequel and highly recommend it to all.  As of November 15, 2022, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has grossed $205.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $150.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $355.4 million. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 84% with an average rating of 7.2/10, based on 333 reviews. The site’s critic’s consensus reads: “A poignant tribute that satisfyingly moves the franchise forward, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever marks an ambitious and emotionally rewarding triumph for the MCU.” Be sure to watch beyond the credits for a mind-blowing revelation.  Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is currently in theaters — Check It Out!