BULLET TRAIN (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

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Bullet Train is an action comedy about an assassin who has to deal with many enemies while riding a Japanese bullet train. The film is directed by David Leitch and based on a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz that adapts the Japanese novel Maria Beetle (published in English as Bullet Train) by Kōtarō Isaka. The trailers for Bullet Train definitely encouraged you to dig in and dig in I did. I really liked the movie but thought it was one of the wildest I’ve seen in a long time. Well done David Leitch — see below, some of the controversies that plague this movie.

A former professional assassin, codenamed Ladybug (Brad Pitt), returns to work with a newly positive attitude. Because the usual contact, Carver (Ryan Reynolds), is forced to call out due to illness, Ladybug is tasked by his handler, Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), to collect a briefcase aboard a bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto.  Unbeknownst to Ladybug, three other killers are onboard: hitmen brothers Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and a deceptively innocent schoolgirl The Prince (Joey King). Tangerine and Lemon have been hired by White Death (Michael Shannon), head of the world’s largest crime syndicate, who seized control of the Japanese underworld years before.

Having completed their task to recover the White Death’s kidnapped son (Logan Lerman) and the briefcase containing his $10 million ransom, the brothers prepare to deliver both in Kyoto. The Prince summons another assassin, Yuichi Kimura (Andrew Koji), to the train, having pushed his young son off a building to motivate him. With an associate at the hospital ready to finish the boy off, the Prince forces Kimura to cooperate with her plan. Yet, another assassin The Wolf (Benito A. Martínez Ocasio), arrives seeking revenge for the deaths of his wife and cartel organization, who were all poisoned at his wedding. Ladybug runs into the Wolf’s intended target, The Hornet (Zazie Beetz) — the poisoner who massacred his wedding. Kimura’s father, The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), boards the train and reveals himself as a former Yakuza lieutenant whose wife and clan were killed in White Death’s rise to power.

Are there enough assassins for you?  I am Stopping here, and believe me there are lots more craziness and action.  I don’t know how they were able to keep this story together but I must confess, it was professionally and well done.  The action was wild and the story was, of course, unbelievable.  Brad Pitt and the rest of the cast were brilliant and made this comedy of errors funny with a bit of slapstick.  I enjoyed the movie, which was a refreshing escape from all the goings on that’s going on in the US. Of course, bullet Train is not for kids but adults will probably enjoy the fun.  As of August 7, 2022, Bullet Train has grossed $30.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $32.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $62.5 million. On Rotten Tomatoes, 54% of 232 critics gave the film a positive review with an average rating of 5.6/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads: “Bullet Trains colorful cast and high-speed action are almost enough to keep things going after the story runs out of track.” Bullet Train is currently in theaters — Check It Out!

NOTE:
The castings of several non-Asian actors, including Brad Pitt and Joey King, prompted accusations of whitewashing as their characters were Japanese in Kōtarō Isaka’s novel. David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League, criticized the castings, explaining that while the American adaptation would have been appropriate if the setting took place in the United States, the filmmakers chose to keep the novel’s Japanese setting while keeping the Japanese characters in the film’s background, strengthening charges of whitewashing. Inoue also questioned the actors’ allyship to the Asian community for knowingly accepting whitewashed roles and further criticized the film for pushing the “belief that Asian actors in the leading roles cannot carry a blockbuster” despite the recent successes of Asian-led films such as Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Despite being cast in the film, King previously said, “I do not believe a white woman should play a character of color. Not me or any other white woman for that matter.”

 

 

 

 

NOPE (2022) – My rating: 8/10

A poster featuring a horse being pulled into the air.

Nope is a science fiction horror film written, directed, and produced by Jordan Peele under his Monkeypaw Productions banner. Nope follows two ranch-owning siblings who attempt to capture evidence of an unnatural occurrence. The trailers are as mysterious as the film and don’t reveal much.  Peele hoped the title would elicit a reaction from audiences.  I was hoping for a good sci-fi movie and I got it. The film was a little slow and left much to the imagination but overall, it was pretty decent.

The film opens with the Bible verse, “I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile and make you a spectacle.” – Nahum 3:6In 1998, on the soundstage for the sitcom “Gordy’s Home”, the titular chimpanzee animal actor (Terry Notary) attacks and maims three of its co-stars after being startled by the pop of a helium balloon. The show’s youngest actor, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Jacob Kim), hides under a table unharmed but is traumatized by the experience. The chimp finds Jupe and extends his hand for a fist bump just before being shot dead by authorities.

In the present day, ranch owner Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David). trains and handles horses for film and television productions. When he is killed by a nickel through the eye that falls inexplicably from the sky, his children, Otis “OJ” Haywood Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer) inherit the ranch. OJ tries to keep the business afloat and maintain his father’s legacy, while Em plans to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood.

Six months later, while filming a commercial with prominent cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), one of the horses reacts violently when the crew startles it. The Haywoods are fired from the project and the ranch’s financial woes force OJ to sell horses to the now grown-up Jupe (Steven Yeun), who has moved nearby and set up Jupiter’s Claim, a small Western theme park where he exploits his story of the Gordy’s Home massacre for profit.

From this point on, Nope takes us through a series of mysterious events.  We are unsure of what’s happening but we want answers.  First dad gets mysteriously killed, a horse is frightened and disappears, the electricity fluctuates causing the lights to dim, go out, then come back on, plus thunder, lightning, and rain happen each time a horse and even people vanish.  Despite the Haywoods buying a security system with surveillance cameras that are strategically placed to film their surroundings, nothing is revealed. Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) a tech salesman at Fry’s Electronics installs the equipment and gets deeply involved with the Haywoods endeavor to expose what they believe is really happening.  I’ve tried to be vague in explaining Nope because I don’t want to give away anything.  I was definitely in the dark and thought anyone reading this review should also not know what is really going on.  As I said, the film is slow as it took ages to get to discoveries and explanations but it was a decent movie.  There’s much to this story which was well acted by all. As of July 24, 2022, Nope has grossed World Wide, $126,220,717. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 82% of 292 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.4/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Admirable for its originality and ambition even when its reach exceeds its grasp, Nope adds Spielbergian spectacle to Jordan Peele’s growing arsenal.”  NOTE: There is talk of a sequel. Nope is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

ELVIS (2022) – My rating: 9/10

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Elvis is a biographical musical film directed by Baz Luhrmann, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Doner. The film follows the life of rock and roll icon, singer/ actor Elvis Presley told from the perspective of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Out of all the Elvis movies I’ve seen advertised, this version sparked my eye because the person playing Elvis is a dead ringer and of course, a believable, well know actor is co-starring. I thought the movie was entertaining and extremely well done.

The film opens in 1997 with Elvis Presley’s (Austin Butler) former manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), on his deathbed. Nursing a gambling addiction that has left him destitute, he looks back on how he first met the future King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis was very close to his parents, Vernon (Richard Roxburgh) and Gladys (Helen Thomson) Presley.  The family was dirt poor and when Vernon experienced an 8-month jail term for doctoring a check, they moved to one of the poorest parts of Mississippi. There Elvis finds an escape in comic books and especially in ethnic songs since he attended the local African-American church. Once he moves with his parents to Memphis, he is urged by his friends to pursue his fascination with the African-American music of Memphis’ Beale Street. At this time, Parker is a carnival “huckster” who fancies himself a modern-day P.T. Barnum. Although Parker is already managing country singer Hank Snow (David Wenham), Parker immediately realizes Elvis’ crossover potential when he hears the white artist “singing black” on a low-quality single. He tracks Elvis to a Louisiana Hayride performance, finding that he is a talented musician with a strong sexual appeal.

Parker persuades Elvis to let him take exclusive control of his career, beginning a meteoric ascent that sees the Presley family lifted out of poverty. Here begins a riveting history of Elvis Presley, his music, family, and his manager. In my opinion, I think a good job was done by all.  I grew up with Elvis Presley, buying his records, listening to his music, and watching his movies.  I even marched down the aisle to “Blue Hawaii” at my wedding.  You might say I’m a little biased but I wouldn’t approve of an Elvis biopic if it were not fact-checked.  This Elvis film dismissed the many rumors I grew up with about what Elvis Presley had to say about Black people.  I really never believed the rumors but always wondered.  After seeing Elvis, all rumors are finally debunked.

As of July 17, 2022, Elvis has grossed $106.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $79.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $186.2 million. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 78% of 334 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website’s consensus reads, “The standard rock biopic formula gets all shook up in Elvis, with Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling energy and style perfectly complemented by Austin Butler’s outstanding lead performance.” Elvis is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

FYI:  Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley, ex-wife Priscilla Presley, and granddaughter Riley Keough all praised the film, particularly Butler’s performance and Luhrmann’s direction. Prior to its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Lisa Marie also praised the film in an Instagram post after seeing it twice, calling it “nothing short of spectacular and in my humble opinion, Butler’s performance is unprecedented and FINALLY done accurately and respectfully”.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022) – My rating: 7/10

Thor Love and Thunder poster.jpegThor: Love and Thunder is a superhero film based on Marvel Comics featuring the character Thor. The film was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and the 29th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). “Love and Thunder” is directed by Taika Waititi, who co-wrote the script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. In this sequel, Thor attempts to find inner peace but must return to action and recruit a team to stop Gorr the God Butcher from eliminating all gods. I was a big fan of the Thor series but after seeing Love and Thunder, I’m not sure I’ll be seeing any future Thor sequels. Big disappointment jumping off!

Gorr / The God Butcher (Christian Bale) and his daughter, Love (India Rose Hemsworth), struggle in a barren desert. Despite their prayers to their god Rapu (Jonny Brugh), Love dies. The god-killing Necrosword weapon calls to Gorr, leading him to Rapu’s lush realm. After Rapu cruelly dismisses Gorr’s plight and proceeds to strangle him, the Necrosword offers itself to Gorr, who kills Rapu with it and vows to kill all gods. Gorr is granted the ability to manipulate shadows and produce monsters but is cursed with impending death and corrupted by the sword’s influence.

With the above introduction, you might sympathize with Garr. He was absolutely wronged and losing a child is enough to set off the best of us.  Of course, the adventure becomes bigger and bigger after Garr kills several gods.  Thor is summoned with a distress signal sent by SIF (Jamie Alexander) who is Thor’s childhood friend.  Dr. Jane Foster / Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) miraculously becomes Mighty Thor and joins the adventure along with Thor and Valkyrie (Tesa Thompson) to approach Zeus (Russell Crowe) for help on their quest.  Special effects were good, not great as Zeus’ thunderbolt looked cheap and unstable. Garr looked scary and portrayed his character as quite monstrous.  On the other hand, I just couldn’t fathom Natalie Portman as a Mjolnir (Hammer) toting, fighting superhero while undergoing serious treatment for a substantial illness. The whole movie appeared childish with Thor taking on a silly acting Thor who lost more battles than he won.

As of July 17, 2022, Thor: Love and Thunder have grossed $233.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $479.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $713 million. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 68%, with an average rating of 6.6/10, based on 369 reviews; this rating marks the film as the fourth lowest-rated of all 29 MCU films. The site’s critics’ consensus reads: “In some ways, Thor: Love and Thunder feels like Ragnarok redux – but overall, it offers enough fast-paced fun to make this a worthy addition to the MCU.”  Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Christian Bale are among some of the actors whose children appeared in the movie.  Maybe that attributed to the silliness.  Thor: Love and Thunder is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION (2022) – My rating: 8/10

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Jurassic World Dominion is a science fiction action film directed by Colin Trevorrow. The film was written by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael, and based on a story by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. It is a sequel to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), which is the sixth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise. It serves as the third and final film of the Jurassic World trilogy. As with its predecessors, Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley produced the film with Trevorrow and Jurassic Park (1993) director Steven Spielberg, acting as executive producers. In this sequel, dinosaurs are now living alongside humans around the world. I was quite entertained.

Four years after the cataclysmic volcanic eruption on Isla Nublar and the Lockwood Estate incident, de-extinct dinosaurs freely roam the earth. Their existence is causing ecological disasters and animal attacks by these invasive species. With government approval, Biosyn Genetics has established a dinosaur sanctuary in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains where they conduct genomics research, ostensibly seeking groundbreaking pharmacological and agronomic applications.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who is an ethologist, Navy vet, and former Jurassic World employee who was responsible for training Velociraptors, and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who formerly worked as the Jurassic World park manager and is the founder of the Dinosaur Protection Group, live in a remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, while secretly raising 14-year-old Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), who is Benjamin Lockwood’s cloned granddaughter, while protecting her from genetic research corporations like Biosyn, who would study her DNA for various nefarious schemes.

 Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) a paleo-veterinarian as well as a dinosaur rights activist, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), along with Claire are investigating illegal dinosaur breeding sites. Owen also works as a wrangler, helping to relocate stray dinosaurs.  Having grown increasingly frustrated living in seclusion, Maisie sneaks away from Claire and Owen, unaware that Biosyn operatives have located her.

Elsewhere, formerly extinct giant locusts have inexplicably reappeared, with massive swarms wiping out crops. Paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), a paleobotanist and one of the consultants who traveled to John Hammond’s original Jurassic Park observes that corporate-grown crops using Biosyn seeds are left uneaten, raising suspicions they created the locusts. Believing the locust may date to the Cretaceous period, Ellie approaches former partner and paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill),  a paleontologist who was consulted for Jurassic Park and is a survivor of the Isla Sorna expedition depicted in Jurassic Park III (2001), for help. Chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a mathematician in chaos theory and former consultant for Jurassic Park as well as a key figure involved in the San Diego incident depicted in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), is now working for Biosyn.

The special effects are outstanding and feel, “all so real”.  The story was not so believable but the adventure is nonetheless, exciting and well-acted.  FYIChris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, and Omar Sy are appearing together for the first time since the 1993 film. As of June 26, 2022, Jurassic World Dominion has grossed $302.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $443.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $746.7 million. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 30% of 365 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Jurassic World Dominion might be a bit of an improvement over its immediate predecessors in some respects, but this franchise has lumbered a long way down from its classic start.”  I enjoyed Jurrasic World Dominion and recommend it to all, Check It Out!

 

TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2022) – My rating: 10/10

Top Gun Maverick Poster.jpgTop Gun: Maverick is an action drama directed by Joseph Kosinski and written by Ehren KrugerEric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie. The movie is from a story by Peter Craig and  Justin Marks. 10 years in the making, Maverick is the sequel to the 1986 original film, Top Gun. The film concentrates on the current life of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell who is some 30 years older.  I had heard Top Gun: Maverick is the film to see so I did and it was absolutely the best. The sequel has actually turned out to be, in my humble opinion, better than the original Top Gun (1986).

Over three decades after the events of the first film, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is serving as a U.S. Navy test pilot who has avoided promotion to continue flying. As Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris) approaches the base with the intentions of shutting down the hypersonic “Darkstar” scramjet program and redirecting the funds to drone programs, Maverick flies the prototype to its speed objective, then pushes further into high-hypersonic speed, destroying it. Cain wants to ground Maverick for his recklessness but instead sends him to NAS North Island as a TOPGUN instructor, as ordered by Maverick’s friend and former rival, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Maverick is ordered to train an elite group of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aviators assembled by Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm) and Rear Admiral Solomon “Warlock” Bates (Charles Parnell) for an urgent mission: to bomb a foreign country’s unsanctioned uranium enrichment plant. The assignment is possibly a one-way mission. Because of Maverick’s attitude, advanced training, and experience, he doesn’t see the mission in the same way as his superiors.  His style of training will be to bring the troops home.  Maverick’s return to the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (also known as U.S. Navy-Fighter Weapons School-“TOPGUN”)  places him in a position to meet up with old friends, as well as rekindle a former love relationship with Penelope “Penny” Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly).  Among the trainees is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), who is the son of Maverick’s late best friend, RIO Nick “Goose” Bradshaw.

Top Gun: Maverick is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.  Aside from the special effects, which were outstanding, the acting was brilliant.  The stares, the attitudes, egos, and cockiness were totally believable.  The story was great and the directing was top-notch. I so enjoyed this sequel that I didn’t want it to end. I also learned some new jargon as well as a newfound respect for military involvement in keeping America free and protected.  FYITo create the illusion that the actors were actually piloting the jets during flying scenes, the producers paid the Navy $11,374 per flight hour for F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and pilots to fly them. As of June 9, 2022, Top Gun: Maverick has grossed $343.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $278 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $623.3 million.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 97% of 395 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Top Gun: Maverick pulls off a feat even trickier than a 4G inverted dive, delivering a long-belated sequel that surpasses its predecessor in a wildly entertaining style.” Tom Cruise’s work in the film was widely acclaimed, with some critics calling it the best in his career.  Top Gun: Maverick is currently showing in theaters — Check It Out!

 

DOWNTON ABBEY: A New Era (2022) – My rating 10/10

Downton Abbey A New Era.jpgDownton Abbey: A New Era is a historical drama and the sequel to the 2019 film Downton Abbey. Both films were written by Julian Fellowes, the creator, and writer of the television series of the same name, with the sequel being directed by Simon Curtis, replacing Michael Engler who directed the first film.  Like the first film, Downton Abbey: A New Era received generally positive reviews from critics. As one of my favorite movies, A New Era didn’t disappoint.  I loved this movie!

Downton Abbey begins in 1928 with Earl of Grantham’s widowed son-in-law, Tom Branson (Allen Leech), marrying Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), Lady Bagshaw’s secret illegitimate daughter, and sole heir to the Bagshaw estate. Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), the Dowager Countess of Grantham, reveals that long ago, the recently deceased Marquis de Montmirail gave her a villa that she intends to bequeath to her great-granddaughter, Sybbie (Fifi Hart), who is Tom’s daughter with the late Lady Sybil Crawley.

Meanwhile, a film production company requests the use of the Downton estate for a silent film called The Gambler. (Robert Crawley) Hugh Bonneville, who is the  7th Earl of Grantham, and his former now retired butler (Jim Carter) Mr. Charles Carson disapprove, but Robert’s eldest daughter and estate manager, (Michelle Dockery) Lady Mary Talbot, notes the income would sufficiently cover replacing Downton’s leaking roof. Also, most members of the household staff are eager to see, as well as meet, the film stars. Marquis de Montmirail (Jonathan Zaccaï), son of the late Marquis de Montmirail invites the Branson family to visit France. The ailing Violet is unable to travel, but Tom and Lucy, Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), Robert Crawley (Lord Grantham), and his wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and their daughter Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and her husband, Herbert “Bertie” Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), Marquess of Hexham), accept the invitation. Lady Mary decides to remain at Downton to oversee the filming.

This version of Downton Abbey was well written and brilliantly acted.  There was much humor which was relevant given Maggie Smith’s condition.  For me, the story was one of love and charity with a wonderful ending.  I’m not sure if there will be any sequels to Downton Abbey but I do know if there are not, the series went out with a bang.  Mystery, suspense, romance, accusations, and adventure were not in short supply.  The story tied up all loose ends.  I truly loved the film.  As of 31 May 2022, Downton Abbey: A New Era has grossed $31 million in the United States and Canada and $41.2 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $72.2 million.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 85% of 168 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The website’s consensus reads, “While Downton Abbeys frothiness comes close to curdling into outright suds, A New Eras familiar comforts will please longtime fans.” All the old cast was featured in this sequel along with some new faces.  The film director and film cast of The Gambler were exciting and brought a humorous facelift to Downton.  I recommend Downton Abbey: A New Era to all, as this film is a refreshing antidote to the current events of today.  Downton Abbey: A New Era is currently in theaters — Check It Out!

 

FIRESTARTER (2022) – My rating: 6.5/10

A young girl stares forward with an angered expression, as fire rages behind her.

Firestarter is a science fiction thriller directed by Keith Thomas, from a screenplay by Scott Teems, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King and serving as a remake of the 1984 film adaptation. It is produced by Jason Blum and Akiva Goldsman under their Blumhouse Productions and Weed Road Pictures banners, respectively, alongside BoulderLight Pictures and Angry Adam Pictures.  I was amazed to find Firestarter in theaters as well as on Peacock.  Of course, I had to see it since it’s about a superhero.

The film begins with a flashback of an emotional baby in her crib, who spontaneously sets the room on fire with her superpowers, which sends her father (Zac Efron) Andrew “Andy” McGee into a panic.

Firestarter profiles the life of 11-year-old Charline “Charlie” McGee (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who was born with special abilities.  She had no idea how to control her powers or how powerful she actually was.  Apparently, her father Andy, and mother Victoria “Vicky” (Sydney Lemmon) also have powers but Charlie appears to have more advanced powers than both of her parents since she also inherited their abilities.  Because Andy and Vicky allowed themselves to be injected with an experimental drug called Lot-6, many years ago, they obtained superpowers. Andy gained telepathy and Vicky, telekinesis. As Charlie grew older, she became more and more powerful.  It was feared she could crack the universe in two with a mere emotion of anger.  Despite being taught morals, like not stealing or killing people, she constantly set people, places, and, things on fire.  The entire family was hunted by an organization called DSI, led by Captain Jane Hollister (Gloria Reuben), which mostly put Charlie in jeopardy.

I found Firestarter to be dark and somewhat slow.  The story was nothing we haven’t heard before.  However, these actors were totally believable. After seeing Firestarter, I’m not a big fan.  The story became complicated when a superhuman bounty hunter named John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) was assigned by DSI to track Charlie down. John seemed obsessed with capturing Charlie and despite all the damage he caused, no harm came to him.  I was never sure of his story. As of May 29, 2022, Firestarter has grossed $8.1 million in the United States and Canada and $3.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $11.9 million. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 11% of 141 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 3.7/10. The website’s consensus reads, “There was plenty of room to improve on the original, but Firestarter trips over that low bar and tumbles toward the bottom of the long list of Stephen King adaptations.” In May 2022, Thomas stated that there are ongoing discussions to possibly expand the film into a franchise, acknowledging that this may be in the form of a sequel, prequel, or spin-off media. Firestarter is playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock — Check It Out!

 

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness poster.jpgDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a superhero film based on the Marvel Comic character, Doctor Strange. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the sequel to Doctor Strange (2016) and the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Sam Raimi and written by Michael Waldron. In this version, Dr. Strange protects a teenager capable of traveling the multiverse. Being a fan of all DC and Marvel films, I was anxious to see this new version of Dr. Strange. I thought the film was very well done.

While attending the wedding of his longtime ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) a giant octopus demon is attacking people just outside the reception. Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) investigates only to find a young teenager, who goes by the name America Chavezbeing (Xochitl Gomez), being targeted by the octopus demon. Dr. Strange with help from the Sorcerer Supreme, Wong (Benedict Wong) rescues America. Later he finds out the young girl can travel the multiverse as easily as he can. Together they set out to find who is targeting her and why. The answer comes soon when they discover not only is America being attacked for what she can do but because the perpetrator is trying to steal her powers in order to transport into a multiverse where conditions exist that don’t exist in this present one.

Usually, I find the multiverse films to be faster and more complex than other films that only involved the current universe. Doctor Strange explained and defined each multiverse as they progressed through them. The theme of the film was never in jeopardy so the only takeaway I found was if you are not completely familiar with the preceding Marvel films, you could get a little lost. Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who this version of Doctor Strange focuses on definitely has a one-track mind. You can even say she has complete tunnel vision. The story gets adventurous and the special effects (as you would expect) are outstanding.  Wanda’s persistence was brilliantly acted and how the movie all came together was fantastic.  Wait for the credits to air, you will see more closure and a teaser for a future movie.  I think Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was worth the watch.  As of May 12, 2022, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has grossed $230.5 million in the United States and Canada and $321.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $551.7 million.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 75% of 369 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.50/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness labors under the weight of the sprawling MCU, but Sam Raimi’s distinctive direction casts an entertaining spell.”  Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters — Check It Out!

BELOW IS A LIST OF THE CAST OF CHARACTERS AND SOME OF THEIR MARVEL HISTORY AS RELATED TO THIS FILM:

 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange:
A neurosurgeon who became a Master of the Mystic Arts following a career-ending car accident. Writer Michael Waldron said Strange was “at the height of his powers” in the film, and compared the character to Indiana Jones as a hero who can “take a punch”, but with the intellect of chef Anthony Bourdain. He saw Strange as a “great adventure hero you just like to watch kick-ass”.  Director Sam Raimi explained that Strange begins the film believing that he should be making all decisions, and must learn to “let go a little bit” and trust in others. Cumberbatch also portrays three alternate versions of the character:  a version who dies at the beginning of the film and wears a costume inspired by Matt Fraction’s 2011 Defenders comic book series; the former Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-838 who founded the Illuminati; and a version who has been corrupted by the Darkhold.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch:
A former Avenger gone rogue under the influence of the Darkhold who can harness chaos magic, engage in telepathy and telekinesis, and alter reality. The film continues Maximoff’s “ownership of what makes her unique and the accountability of her life experience” that began in the series WandaVision (2021), including using an accent that is more true to her Sokovian heritage after some of the previous MCU films had moved to an Americanized version. Olsen wanted to ensure Maximoff’s role in the film honored the events of the series, requesting some adjustments to the film to ensure that it evolved the character rather than repeating moments from WandaVision. She felt the film’s portrayal showed new confidence for the character that was “really empowering”, and said it was “okay to play characters that people get frustrated with sometimes”. Olsen also portrays the character’s Earth-838 counterpart.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo:
The Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-838 and a member of the Illuminati. He is an alternate version of Strange’s former mentor-turned-enemy.

Benedict Wong as Wong:
The Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-616 and Strange’s mentor and friend.

Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez:
A teenager who has the ability to travel between dimensions by punching open doorways. She originates from another universe known as the Utopian Parallel. Gomez wanted to remain faithful to the source material despite playing a younger version of the character than is seen in the comics, and said her journey in the film begins with the character having been alone for a long time and “running away from her uniqueness”. Chavez has to embrace her abilities and learn to trust others by the end of the film. Marvel Studios had been looking for the right film to introduce the character in for a long time before settling on Multiverse of Madness.

Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West:
A surgeon and former colleague of Strange.

Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer:
An emergency surgeon who was a colleague and lover of Strange. The film explores Strange’s decision at the end of Doctor Strange (2016) to protect the New York Sanctum and not be with Palmer, despite still having feelings for her and possibly regretting that decision, with Palmer getting married to someone else in this film. McAdams also portrays the character’s Earth-838 counterpart, who is an employee of the Baxter Foundation and the former lover of that reality’s Strange. This version of the character helps resolve Strange’s love story with his own version of Palmer, allowing him to move on to a potential new relationship in the future.

The Illuminati of Earth-838 also includes Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier / Professor X, portraying a different version of the character that he previously played in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men film series;

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter / Captain Carter:
after voicing another version in the animated series What If…? (2021);

Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau / Captain Marvel:
an alternate version of her character from Captain Marvel (2019);

Anson Mount as Blackagar Boltagon / Black Bolt:
an alternate version of his role from Marvel’s ABC television series Inhumans (2017);

John Krasinski as Reed Richards / Mister Fantastic:
a member of the Fantastic Four;

Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne:
The Earth-838 versions of Maximoff’s sons Billy and Tommy, their respective roles from WandaVision;

Topo Wresniwiro:
reprises his role from the first film as Hamir, a Master of the Mystic Arts;

Sheila Atim as Sara:
a Master of the Mystic Arts;

 

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE (2022) – My rating: 8.5/10

Fantastic Beasts- The Secrets of Dumbledore.pngFantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a fantasy film directed by David Yates from a screenplay by J. K. Rowling and Steve Kloves. It is the sequel to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), the third installment in the Fantastic Beasts film series, and the eleventh overall in the Wizarding World franchise. Set several years after the events of its predecessor, the film sees Albus Dumbledore tasking Newt Scamander and his allies with a mission that takes them into the heart of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald’s army. While I find Dumbledore films sometimes a little hard to follow, I think Secrets of Dumbledore was well done and a little less complex.

It was 1932 in Kweilin, China, when Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) helped a Qilin, which is a magical creature that can see into one’s soul as well as the future, give birth. Gellert Grindelwald’s acolytes, led by Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), attacked and killed the mother and kidnaped her newborn. Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) subsequently killed the creature to harness its ability of precognition. However, unbeknownst to them, the Qilin had twins, the younger of which Newt was able to save.

Unable to battle Grindelwald due to their blood pact, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits Newt, his brother Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), Ilvermorny Charms teacher Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), Senegalese-French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), American No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Newt’s assistant Bunty Broadacre (Victoria Yeates) to thwart Grindelwald’s plan for world domination. Yusuf Kama is tagged to be a spy in Grindelwald’s inner circle while the others are sent to Berlin, Germany. Once there, the group witnesses Grindelwald being acquitted of all criminal charges by the International Confederation of Wizards (ICW) and subsequently running for the office of Supreme Mugwump. The ICW believes arresting Grindelwald could gain him more support, but his being defeated in a legitimate election will erode his strength.

At this point, the story is beginning to take shape.  It’s all about Grindelwald working feverously to take over the world.  He is undermining the German Ministry of Magic and planning to get rid of key candidates who are running against him.  Newth tries his best to stop Grindswald but was unable to even large a simple complaint against him.  The story and special effects start to get very exciting and the plot, as they say, thickens.  I found this version of the Dumbledore story to be one of the best.  It’s a showdown between good and evil, for sure.  The special effects are outstanding and the acting was done in true Harry Potter style.  Always intended to be “at least” a trilogy, the third Fantastic Beasts film was slated for release in November 2020. It was eventually pushed back to a July 2022 release, and much of the main cast from the first two films confirmed their involvement in March 2020. Principal photography was set to begin in early 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eventually commencing in September 2020. FYI: Johnny Depp, who portrayed Grindelwald in previous films, initially was set to return and filmed one scene for the movie, but in November 2020 was asked to resign following a court case finding against him regarding allegations he committed domestic violence; Mikkelsen replaced him later that month.

As of 1 May 2022, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has grossed $79.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $250 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $329.6 million. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 47% based on 201 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The website’s critic’s consensus states: “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore avoids some of the pitfalls that plagued its predecessor, but lacks much of the magic that drew audiences into the Wizarding World many movies ago.” While I disagree with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, I think Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. which is currently in theaters, is a worthwhile film and has plenty of special effects —  Check It Out!

Below is a list of cast members and a definition of the characters each played

  • Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander:
    A British Ministry of Magic employee in the Beasts Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, as well as a self-proclaimed magizoologist. He played a part in remedying the events of a violent attack in New York City in December 1926 involving dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. He is a confidant of Albus Dumbledore, despite being an outcast from certain circles of the British Wizarding Community due to his checkered past.
  • Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore:
    An extremely powerful and influential wizard in the British Wizarding Community, known in the British Ministry of Magic and throughout the wider wizarding world for his academic brilliance, and teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He holds a blood pact with Grindelwald, with whom he was in love and had a close relationship as a young adult, preventing them from dueling each other.
  • Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone / Aurelius Dumbledore:
    The disturbed adopted child of Mary-Lou Barebone who was severely abused and downtrodden and named “Credence Barebone”. Enraged by people’s treatment of him, during the incident of 1926 he set his Obscurus parasite loose in New York City, causing widespread destruction. He survived in a tiny Obscurus fragment and was sought out by Grindelwald. He initially believed that he was Corvus Lestrange, Leta Lestrange’s deceased half-brother. However, at the end of the second film, Grindelwald claimed that his real name is Aurelius Dumbledore and that his brother, Albus, would seek to kill him. In the third film, he is identified as being Albus’s nephew rather than his brother, as he is actually the illegitimate son of Albus’s brother Aberforth.
  • Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski:
    An American No-Maj veteran of the First World War, owner of a bakery, friend of Newt, and lover of Queenie. When she returns he later marries her and Newt serves as his best man.
  • Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein:
    The pretty and vivacious renegade younger sister of Tina, who worked alongside her in the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). She is a powerful natural Legilimens. After being convinced that Grindelwald will make her dream of marrying Jacob come true, she went rogue and joined his side, eventually abandoning her lover and sister. She later returns to Jacob and they marry at his bakery. Her sister serves as maid of honor.
  • Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander:
    Newt Scamander’s older brother is a dedicated and loyal Auror, as well as the Head of the Auror Office in the British Ministry of Magic. He is famous for the title “war hero” for his excellent show of bravery and generosity in the First World War. He constantly tries to tame Newt into more elegance so that he is better accepted in society. He lost his fiancée Leta Lestrange in September 1927, after she sacrificed herself in Grindelwald’s rally in Pere Lachaise, Paris to save the Scamander brothers.
  • Jessica Williams as Lally Hicks:
    A respected Charms teacher at America’s Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
  • Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald:
    An infamous powerful dark wizard who caused mass violence, terror, and chaos around the globe, seeking to lead a new Wizarding World Order based on his strong belief in wizarding superiority. He had a close relationship with Dumbledore as a teenager. Mikkelsen replaces Johnny Depp, who played Grindelwald in the first two films, due to the latter’s libel case with News Group Newspapers Ltd. over his alleged domestic abuse of his ex-wife, Amber Heard. [9][10]
  • Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein:
    An American MACUSA Auror and currently Head of the Auror Office in MACUSA. She is Queenie Goldstein’s sister and Newt’s love interest. She played a role in thwarting Gellert Grindelwald during the Obscurus incident of 1926, for which she and Newt were initially blamed.
  • William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama:
    A French wizard of Senegalese descent from an old Wizarding family and an ally of Newt, who previously attempted to kill Credence while falsely believing him to be his former stepfather’s son, Corvus Lestrange V.
  • Victoria Yeates as Bunty :
    Newt Scamander’s indispensable Magizoology assistant.
  • Poppy Corby-Tuech as Vinda Rosier:
    Grindelwald’s loyal right-hand follower.
  • Richard Coyle as Aberforth Dumbledore:
    Albus Dumbledore’s younger brother and owner of the Hog’s Head Inn. He is also Credence’s biological father.
  • Oliver Masucci as Anton Vogel:
    The current Supreme Head of the International Confederation of Wizards (ICW) and Minister of Magic for Germany.
  • Maria Fernanda Cândido as Vicência Santos:
    Candidate for the post of Supreme Head of the ICW and Minister of Magic for Brazil.
  • Dave Wong as Liu Tao:
    Candidate for the post of Supreme Head of the ICW and Minister of Magic for China.
  • Fiona Glascott as Minerva McGonagall:
    A teacher at Hogwarts and Albus Dumbledore’s colleague.