Category Archives: STREAMING

This topic/movie is streaming on one of the streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.

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!

 

RAISING DION (2021-2022) – My rating: 8/10

Raising Dion is a superhero drama television series. It was created for television by Carol Barbee and based on the 2015 comic book and a short film of the same name by Dennis Liu. So far, there are two seasons streaming on Netflix. I was referred to this series by my daughter.  It took a couple of tries to get into it but once I did, Wow, what a great series.

Raising Dion follows the story of a woman named Nicole Warren (Alisha Wainwright) who raises her son Dion Warren (Ja’Siah Young) after the death of her husband Mark Warren (Michael B. Jordan). The normal dramas of raising a son as a single mom are amplified when Dion starts to manifest several magical, superhero-like abilities. Nicole must now keep her son’s gifts secret with the help of Mark’s best friend Pat Rollins (Jason Ritter), and protect Dion from people out to exploit him while figuring out the origin of his abilities.

Raising Dion features a host of characters that help make this an exciting, interesting, and enjoyable superhero series.  The special effects are outstanding and the story is believable.  Mark and Pat, who are scientists and best friends, work for the BIONA company. They travel to Iceland to see a rare aurora event.  Mark is outside while Pat stays inside monitoring the events of lights.  When something goes wrong, everyone there is hit by radiated sparks, which turned some of them into unexplainable creatures.  Pat gets caught up when he goes outside to investigate.  No one knows they have been affected right away.  Mark gets married, impregnates Nicole and she gives birth to Dion, who she noticed had superpowers by the age of 10.  Mark is killed by something called the crooked man, and Nicole is left as a single mom.  Dion befriends Esperanza Jimenez (Sammi Haney), who is wheelchair-bound with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), and Jonathan King (Gavin Munn) an erstwhile bully, forming their own private vigilante team. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 83% approval rating for the series, based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website’s critic’s consensus reads, “While its family drama and superhero aspirations don’t quite come together, compelling performances and a sense of wonder keep Raising Dion afloat and suggest that with a little more guidance it could become something great”. The second season was watched for over 108.75 million hours in its first 26 days on the platform according to Netflix’s top 10s. Check It Out!

 

THE GILDED AGE (2022) – My rating: 9/10

The Gilded Age is a historical drama television series created by Julian Fellowes for HBO that is set in the United States during the Gilded Age, the boom years of the 1880s in New York City.

Because I have a passion for period pieces, I couldn’t wait to watch this series. I thought Downton Abby was snobbish, The Gilded Age is even worse but the series is excellent, and I love it!

Beginning in 1882, the old money van Rhijn-Brook family and the new money Russell family are living across the street from one another in the city of New York. Their niece, who is a Brook is a naïve young woman who is about to enter the rigid social scene and learn about life’s harsh realities. The series follows characters in the upper class and the servant class.

The Gilded Age opens with NYC Industrialist, George Russell (Morgan Spector), his wife Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon), son Larry Russell (Harry Richardson), and daughter Gladys Russell (Taissa Farmiga) moving into their elaborate new Stanford White-designed mansion on 61st Street and 5th Avenue.

Peggy Scott (Denée Benton) a young ambitious African-American writer returning home after finishing her education at the Institute for Colored Youth encounters Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) at the train station. Someone steals Marian’s purse containing her train ticket and the $30 her deceased father left her, leaving her penniless. Peggy takes pity on her and buys her another ticket but in the Colored section where they talk and both end up at the home of Marian’s aunts, Agnas Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon). Peggy is offered a job as Agnas’ secretary and a place to stay despite having middle-class parents living in Brooklyn, with a maid and a family business.

High Society: New and old money do not mix, new money, old rules. Old money has the upper hand and new money must bend over backwards to enter into the snobbish society, mostly to no avail. The Russell’s apparently have more money than any family of old money but it doesn’t help them achieve their goal of opening any society doors. This series is about how The Russell’s were able to penetrate this tight knit society which covers a new railroad, Union Station, the establishment of the Red Cross, and the most snobbish of the snobbish society that rather die than let in new money. The servants are a whole other story. The Gilded Age delves into the lives of the servants in each house whole. No one is exempt down to the chefs. There is lots of gossip and firing and hiring of the staff as they get caught-up due to a shady past or shady present deeds. One ambitious maid was determine to have a better life by demanding that her boss sleep with her. When he turned her down, she went after him for revenge. She was caught for something else and let go. The series is intense, exciting, suspenseful and entertaining. At review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a “Certified Fresh” 78% approval rating based on 65 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site’s critical consensus reads: “Julian Fellowes’ brand of upstairs, downstairs intrigue makes a seamless transatlantic transition in The Gilded Age, with an outstanding cast making the travails of the rich a compelling watch”.The Gilded Age is streaming on HBO MAX and airs new episodes on Mondays — Check It Out!

THE 355 (2022) – My rating: 6.9/10

A poster featuring five women standing in front of a wall covered with country flags of the world. Below them is the following text: "From the producers that brought you Jason Bourne", "The 355", "Work Together or Die Alone", "In theaters January 7".

The 355 is a spy film directed by Simon Kinberg from a screenplay by Theresa Rebeck and Kinberg, and a story by Rebeck. The 355 follows a group of international spies who must work together to stop a terrorist organization from starting World War III. The title is derived from Agent 355, the codename of a female spy for the Patriots during the American Revolution. The 355 is about five women who save the world using their skills and training to keep the criminals from gaining access to a crucial device that would change everything. I enjoyed The 355 but found it unbelievable and a bit over the top.

****  SOME SPOILERS BELOW  ****

At a location 150 miles south of Bogotá, Colombia, a drug lord, and his son present criminal mastermind Elijah Clarke (Jason Flemyng) with a special decryption program drive that can access any digital system on Earth. Clarke double-crosses and kills him just as the authorities raid the mansion. Amid the chaos, Colombian DNI agent Luis Rojas (Édgar Ramírez) obtains the device. CIA operative Mason “Mace” Brown (Jessica Chastain) is assigned to purchase the drive from Rojas. She heads to Paris with longtime partner Nick Fowler (Sebastian Stan), with whom she is also in a relationship. The deal goes south when German undercover BND agent Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) swipes the bag holding the money. Mace chases Marie, who escapes via the subway while Nick is confronted in an alley by Clarke.

At CIA headquarters, Mace learns that Nick was found dead in the alley. Her superior, Larry Marks (John Douglas Thompson), gives her his blessing to retrieve the drive by any means. Mace travels to London to recruit a longtime friend, retired British MI6 operative Khadijah Adiyeme (Lupita Nyong’o). Rojas arranges to hand the drive over to Graciela Rivera (Penélope Cruz), a DNI psychologist with no field experience. Marie is pushed to go after the device by her boss, Jonas Muller (Sylvester Groth), who brings up how Marie’s father was a senior BND agent whom she personally turned in after discovering he was a Russian mole.

The 355 has lots of action and is quite clever, but old school and predictable.  Joining together for one common goal is well-intentioned by the five women who made the decision to share the booty.  The only problem is that is not reality but for the purpose of the film, I guess it is.  They go about things, using their respective skills to get the job done, which made The 355 entertaining and exciting.  Despite the negative publicity, I can still see a sequel coming down the road.  There are lots of twists and lots of deceit and lots of humor. As of March 2, 2022, The 355 has grossed $14.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $12.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $26.9 million.  The 355 garnered unfavorable reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 25% of 197 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 4.5/10. The website’s consensus reads, “It has a stellar cast and it’s conceptually progressive, but The 355 squanders it all on a forgettable story, unremarkably told.” The 355 is streaming on Prime Video — Check It Out!

 

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON (2021) – My rating: 9.5/10

Promotional release poster of Raya and the Last Dragon depicting Raya and Sisu along with other people in Kumandra

Raya and the Last Dragon (/ˈr.ə/ RYE-ə) is a computer-animated fantasy adventure produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. The 59th film produced by the studio, it is directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada and is based on traditional Southeast Asian cultures. It was written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim. Raya and the Last Dragon follows a warrior princess who is in search of the fabled last dragon, with hopes of restoring the land of Kumandra and the dragons that use to watch over them.

Five hundred years ago, the peaceful and prosperous sub-continent of Kumandra is ravaged by the Druun, evil, dark-colored spirits that petrify, turning every living thing in its path to stone. Sisu (voice: Awkwafina), the last surviving dragon, concentrates her magic into a gem and blasts the Druun away, reviving Kumandra’s people but not the dragons, who remained stone. A power struggle for the gem divides Kumandra’s people into five separate kingdoms called Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon, and Tail, corresponding to their placement along a gigantic dragon-shaped river.

Five hundred years later, Chief Benja (voice: Daniel Dae Kim) of the Heart tribe, which ends up retaining possession of the dragon gem, trains his daughter, young warrior Princess Raya (voice:  Kelly Marie Tran) to protect the gem. Firmly believing Kumandra can be reunited, Benja holds a feast for the leadership of all five tribes. During the feast, Raya befriends Namaari (Gemma Chan), daughter of Chief Virana (Sandra Oh) of the Fang tribe and Fang’s princess, who gives Raya a dragon pendant and tells her of a legend that says the dragon Sisu still exists and can be summoned. Trusting Namaari, Raya shows her the chamber where the gem is kept. Namaari betrays Raya as part of a plot to help the Fang tribe steal the gem. Alerted to the attack, Chief Benja and the other tribes arrive and start fighting over the gem, breaking it into five pieces in the scuffle. The gem’s destruction creates a fissure that releases the Druun once again, quickly overtaking the Land of Heart. As every tribe member steals a piece of the gem and flees, Chief Benja notices that the Druun are repelled by water and sacrifices himself to save Raya’s life by throwing her in the river before getting petrified/turned to stone by the Druun. Six years later, Raya treks across Kumandra searching for Sisu to have her create another gem and banish the Druun once more. She manages to summon her at a shipwreck in Tail where Sisu admits that she did not create the gem, but wielded it on behalf of her four siblings, who each contributed their magic to the gem. Raya and Sisu resolve to take back the four stolen pieces of the gem, reassemble it and use it to banish the Druun and restore Raya’s father and others who were petrified/turned to stone.

This is where I must stop because this story is so profound and the journey is so exciting, I wouldn’t want to spoil a second of it for anyone.  Out of all the animated features, Raya and the Last Dragon is my favorite.  It is suspenseful, mysterious, and it has Awkwafina, who brings character, humor, and fun to the film.  I felt as though I was right there with them, fighting and searching for the pieces of the gem needed to assemble it back together.  From this point on, Raya and Sisu and many other characters (old and new) join the adventure as they learn, love, hate, fight, resolve and restore their land.  This film is truly worth seeing for the whole family. Raya and the Last Dragon grossed $54.7 million in the United States and Canada and $75.7 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $130.4 million. Raya and the Last Dragon received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports 94% of 289 critics have given the film, a positive review with an average rating of 7.60/10. The website’s consensus reads: “Another gorgeously animated, skillfully voiced entry in the Disney canon, Raya and the Last Dragon continue the studio’s increased representation while reaffirming that its classic formula is just as reliable as ever”. Raya and the Last Dragon is streaming on Disney + — Check It Out!

[RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film— Totaling 1 Oscar Nomination]

 

LUCA (2021) – My rating 8.5/10

Two boys on the water (Luca and Alberto), with half of their bodies in their aquatic forms with sea monsters hiding under a dock. Above the water, various characters with an village as a backdrop.

Luca is a computer-animated coming-of-age fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film was directed by Enrico Casarosa (in his feature-length directorial debut), written by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, from a story by Casarosa, Andrews, and Simon Stephenson, produced by Andrea Warren. Luca follows a family of sea “monsters” that change into human form when they emerge from the water.  This film was real family fun from beginning to end with a profound message about judging people and making assumptions without reason.

In the summer of 1959, young, timid sea monster Luca Paguro (voice: Jacob Tremblay) herds goatfish off the coast of the Italian town of Portorosso. His parents Daniela  (voice: Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo (voice: Jim Gaffigan), fearing that humans might hunt him for food, forbid him to approach the surface. One day, Luca meets Alberto Scorfano (voice: Jack Dylan Grazer), a fellow sea monster child who lives alone above the surface, claiming that his father simply is not around much. Alberto encourages Luca to venture out of the ocean, showing him that sea monsters turn into humans when dry, but return to their true forms when wet. Luca follows Alberto to his hideout on Isola del Mare, where the boys connect while making and riding a makeshift, fragile Vespa.

Once Luca’s parents discovered what he was up to, they made a decision to send Luca to live in the deep sea with his uncle Ugo (voice: Sacha Baron Cohen). In retaliation, Luca runs away with Alberto to Portorosso to find a real Vespa and travel the world. The boys mistakenly run into Ercole Visconti (voice: Saverio Raimondo), the local bully and five-time champion of the Portorosso Cup, a local children’s triathlon. Ercole tries to soak Luca in a fountain, but Giulia Marcovaldo (voice: (Emma Berman), a young girl, helps the boys escape. In hopes of winning the money needed for a Vespa, the boys and Giulia form a team for the triathlon, which involves swimming, pasta-eating, and biking. Unable to swim without revealing themselves, Luca and Alberto take on the biking and pasta-eating portions of the race, respectively, while Giulia takes the swimming race. Upon learning this, Ercole vows to beat them and continue his winning streak. While the boys train for the race and befriend Giulia’s fisherman father Massimo Marcovaldo (voice: Marco Barricelli), who was born with only one arm, Luca’s parents head to the surface to find their son. Giulia teaches Luca about her school, and the two bond over a love of learning, especially about astronomy, and Alberto becomes jealous of Luca and Giulia’s growing friendship. When Luca starts ignoring Alberto’s advice and tries changing their plans so he could go to school instead of traveling the world, Luca and Alberto quarrel.

Luca is one of the better animated features because the message it sends, in this day and age, about bullying and racism is spot on.  Luca is a sea monster/human and all of the other characters are just human.  We tend to fear what we don’t know or what is different.  Most of the time, we are wrong however, we teach our children and convince ourselves if it is not like us, it’s bad.  Luca negates that myth and is a great teaching tool for young children. The story is adventurous, exciting, and fun.  I enjoyed Luca very much. By December 2021, the film grossed $49.8 million worldwide. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 290 reviews, with an average rating of 7.30/10. The website’s critics consensus reads, “Slight but suffused with infectious joy, the beguiling Luca proves Pixar can play it safe while still charming audiences of all ages.” score and the story.  Disney + is streaming Luca and is free if you have a subscription — Check It Out!

[LUCA is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film — Totaling 1 Oscar Nomination]

SUMMER OF SOUL (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021) – My rating: 8.5/10

Summer of Soul 2021.jpgSummer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a documentary film directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem and lasted for six weeks. Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Blinky Williams, Sly and the Family Stone, and The Chambers Brothers, the festival was seen as obscure in pop culture, something that the documentarians investigate. This six-day Cultural Festival was historical and is unforgettable. This post is being brought to you, compliments of Wikipedia.

At the request of the festival organizer and host Tony Lawrence, television producer Hal Tulchin recorded about forty hours of footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival on videotape, excerpts from which were originally broadcast on two one-hour TV specials in July and September 1969 by CBS and ABC. The tapes were later placed in a basement, where they are said to have sat for about 50 years unpublished. For several years, Tulchin attempted to interest broadcasters in the recordings with little success, though some of the footage of Nina Simone was eventually used in documentaries about the singer.

In 2004, Joe Lauro, a film archivist of Historic Films Archive, discovered the existence of the footage and contacted Hal Tulchin. He digitized and cataloged the footage, in the hope of working on a film about the event. In 2006, Lauro entered a deal with Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville to tell the story of the festival, but the deal never saw the light of day, due to Tulchin, who died in 2017, changing his requests and later refusing access to the footage. Producer Robert Fyvolent eventually acquired film and television rights to the footage from its original producer. Director Ahmir Thompson expressed surprise that the footage sat for so long, as music had a large impact on his life and development, stating “What would have happened if this was allowed a seat at the table? How much of a difference would that have made in my life? That was the moment that extinguished any doubt I had that I could do this.

Summer of Soul premiered on January 28, 2021, at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the US Documentary Competition. The film was acquired by Searchlight Pictures and Hulu. It was released in the United States at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles and the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 multiplex in New York City on June 25, 2021, before expanding nationwide a week later while also being released on Hulu, with the film also set to be distributed internationally in theaters and through Disney+ Hotstar on July 30, 2021, and Disney+ under the Star content hub and Star+ on November 19, 2021. It was made available on the US version of Disney+ on February 8, 2022, in time for Black History Month. It made its broadcast television premiere on ABC on February 20, 2022.

On April 22, 2021, it was announced that Questlove would introduce the first trailer for the film during the 93rd Academy Awards, for which he served as music director. The trailer debuted on April 25, 2021. In the United States, the film was made available on Disney+ on February 8, 2022.  On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 206 reviews, with an average rating of 9.1/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Deftly interweaving incredible live footage with a series of revealing interviews, Summer of Soul captures the spirit and context of a watershed moment while tying it firmly to the present.”  I loved it!  Summer of Soul is streaming on Hulu, and Disney +. Check It Out!

An official soundtrack album was released on January 28, 2022, by Legacy Records. In an interview, Questlove said they considered including songs that weren’t in the original film they decided to stick with the music which was already cleared for release. The physical release contains 16 songs, while the digital release includes an extra song, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach’s “Africa”.

Digital Tracklisting

  1. The Chambers Brothers – “Uptown”
  2. B.B. King – “Why I Sing The Blues”
  3. The 5th Dimension – “Don’t Cha Hear Me Callin’ To Ya”
  4. The 5th Dimension – “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)”
  5. David Ruffin – “My Girl”
  6. The Edwin Hawkins Singers – “Oh Happy Day”
  7. The Staple Singers – “It’s Been A Change”
  8. The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra & Choir Featuring Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples – “Precious Lord Take My Hand”
  9. Gladys Knight & The Pips – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
  10. Mongo Santamaria – “Watermelon Man”
  11. Ray Barretto – “Together”
  12. Herbie Mann – “Hold On, I’m Comin’”
  13. Sly & The Family Stone – “Sing a Simple Song”
  14. Sly & The Family Stone – “Everyday People”
  15. Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach – “Africa”
  16. Nina Simone – “Backlash Blues”
  17. Nina Simone – “Are You Ready”
[SUMMER OF SOUL is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature — Totaling 1 Oscar Nomination]

FLEE (2021) – My rating: 9/10

A group of animated people.

Flee (Danish: Flugt) is a Danish animated docudrama directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. It follows the story of a man called Amin Nawabi (not his real name), who shares his hidden past of fleeing his country for the first time. Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau serve as executive producers. An animated documentary telling the true story about a man’s need to confront his past in order to truly have a future. Amin arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Denmark from Afghanistan.  I have never seen an animated film like Flee.  Despite the sad and rough subject, I loved the storytelling and the outcome.

The film follows Adult Amin Nawabi (Amin Nawabi), Young Amin Nawabi (Daniel Karimyar), and Teenage Amin Nawabi (Fardin Mijdzadeh), who, on the verge of marrying his husband, shares his story for the first time about his hidden past fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. The experiences he went through were frightening, at best.  Man can be and often is our worst enemy!

Flee is so intimate and so moving, I cannot justify revealing any of Amin’s story.  I applaud him for his heroics and the principles that got him through the toughest times of his life.  Fleeing a war-torn country for anyone is not easy.  Amin left behind precious family and friends and harbors guilt for leaving them behind.  Mostly, he had a secret that would have gotten him killed if anyone knew.  Kudos to Amin for having the guts to see his escape through.  Having Amin tell his story via animation is a brilliant idea that worked well for such a private affair.

Flee received critical acclaim, with Sundance juror Kim Longinotto calling it “an instant classic” at the festival’s awards ceremony. It holds a 98% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 172 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.50/10. The critic’s consensus reads “Depicting the refugee experience through vivid animation, Flee pushes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking to present a moving memoir of self-discovery.”  Parasite director, Bong Joon-ho, listed Flee as one of his favorite films of 2021 and wrote a letter dedicated to the movie calling it “The most moving piece of cinema I saw this year.”  Flee is streaming on Hulu — Check It Out!

[FLEE is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for BEST: Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, and International Feature Film — Totaling 3 Oscar Nominations]

 

THE MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES (2021) – My rating: 7.5/10

MitchellsMachinesPoster.jpg

The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a computer-animated science-fiction comedy produced by Sony Pictures Animation. The film was directed by Mike Rianda (in his feature directorial debut), co-directed by Jeff Rowe, and written by Rianda and Rowe, with Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Kurt Albrecht serving as producers. The film follows the dysfunctional Mitchell family that winds up having to save Earth from a global robot uprising while on a road trip. Since animated isn’t really my thing, I would not have seen The Mitchells vs. the Machines if it were not for its Oscar nomination.  I thought the film was decent and fun.

Katie Mitchell (voice: Abbi Jacobson) is a quirky aspiring filmmaker in Kentwood, Michigan, who often clashes with her nature-obsessed and technophobic father Rick (voice: Danny McBride), and has recently been accepted into film school in California. The evening before Katie leaves, Rick accidentally breaks her laptop after a fight over one of Katie’s previous short films, leading the family to fear their relationship will be strained forever. To try to prevent this, Rick decides to cancel Katie’s flight and instead drive Katie, her mother Linda (voice: Maya Rudolph), younger brother Aaron and their talking family dog Monchi (voice: Mike Rianda),  on a cross-country road trip to her college as one last bonding experience. Meanwhile, technology entrepreneur Dr. Mark Bowman (voice: Eric André) declares his highly intelligent AI PAL obsolete as he discards her into the garbage and unveils a new line of home robots to replace her. In revenge, PAL orders all the robots to capture humans worldwide and launch them into space. The Mitchells manage to avoid capture at a road stop café in Kansas. Rick decides that his family should stay put in the café for their own safety, but Katie convinces him to help save the world instead. They meet two defective robots, Eric (Beck Bennett) and Deborahbot 5000 (Fred Armisen), who tell the family they can use a kill code to shut down PAL and all the robots. The Mitchells make it to a mall in eastern Colorado to upload the kill code, but PAL chip-enabled appliances attempt to stop them. Katie tries to upload the kill code but is stopped when a giant Furby pursues the family.

As much as technology is my thing, I think The Mitchells vs. the Machines moves a little too fast and is a little too complicated for most folks.  The Mitchells have so many moving parts it starts to border on being silly, kind of like slap-stick.  I loved the message of family and the solutions Rick comes up with to try and hold his family together but the quickness and the multiple topics were a bit of a drawback.  I’m sure a lot of youngsters will get something out of the film however, I thought it was a bit much yet fun for the whole family.  On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 186 reviews with an average rating of 8.20/10. The site’s critic’s consensus reads: “Eye-catching and energetic, The Mitchells vs. the Machines delivers a funny, feel-good story that the whole family can enjoy.” The Mitchells vs. the Machines is streaming on Netflix — Check It Out!

[THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film — Totaling 1 Oscar Nomination]

 

 

NO TIME TO DIE (2021) – My rating 8/10

No Time to Die is a spy film and the twenty-fifth in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions. This is Daniel Craig’s fifth and final portrayal of a fictional British MI6 agent, James Bond. No Time to Die is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga from a screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service with MI6 and is recruited by the CIA to find a kidnapped scientist, which leads to a showdown with a powerful adversary. I thought the movie was great, I just didn’t understand the reason for the ending.

No Time to Die opens with a young Madeleine Swann (Coline Defaud), who witnesses the murder of her mother by terrorist Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) in a failed attempt to murder her father Mr. White. Madeleine shoots Safin, but he survives. She flees onto a nearby frozen lake and falls through the ice, but he rescues her.

****  SOME SPOILERS BELOW  ****

In the present, after the capture of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), Bonds arch enemy and foster brother, Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) is in Matera, Italy with James Bond (Daniel Craig). “Spectre” assassins ambush Bond when he visits Vesper Lynd’s (who was the love of his life) tomb. Though Bond and Madeleine escape the assassins, he believes she has betrayed him and forces her to board a train out of Matera, ending their relationship.

Five years later, MI6 scientist, Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) is kidnapped by Spectre. With the approval of M (Ralph Fiennes), Obruchev had developed Project Heracles, a bioweapon containing nanobots that infect like a virus upon touch and are coded to an individual’s DNA, rendering it lethal to the target and their relatives but harmless to others. Bond has retired to Jamaica, where he is contacted by Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and his CIA colleague Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), who ask for Bond’s help finding Obruchev. Bond initially declines, but after Nomi (Lashana Lynch), an MI6 agent and his successor as 007, tells Bond what Project Heracles is, he agrees to help.

Bond goes to Cuba and meets Paloma (Ana de Armas), a CIA agent working with Leiter. They infiltrate a Spectre meeting to retrieve Obruchev. Still imprisoned in Belmarsh, Blofeld uses a disembodied “bionic eye” to view the meeting and release a nanobot mist to kill Bond, but it kills all the Spectre members instead, as Obruchev had reprogrammed the nanobots to infect them on Safin’s orders. Bond captures Obruchev and rendezvouses with Leiter and Ash, who is discovered as a double agent working for Safin. Ash kills Leiter and escapes with Obruchev.

Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), M’s secretary and Bond’s ally, and Q (Ben Whishaw), MI6’s Quartermaster who outfits “00” agents with equipment for use in the field, arrange a meeting between Bond and Blofeld to find Obruchev. Safin coerces Madeleine to infect herself with a nanobot dose to kill Blofeld, with whom she has been in contact since his imprisonment. When Bond encounters Madeleine at Blofeld’s prison cell, he touches her and unknowingly infects himself with nanobots before she leaves. Blofeld tells Bond that he staged the ambush at Vesper’s tomb to make it appear as if Madeleine had betrayed him, continuing his vendetta against his former foster brother.

The above is just an introduction to the continuing story of No Time to Die. There are many surprises as well as unpredictable events right down to the end.  The special effects were spot-on, as it usually is in James Bond films.  There are plenty of fight scenes, car chases, deaths, betrayals, and plot twist. This is Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie and it runs for almost three hours.  I found No Time To Die entertaining and a very well done action packed drama.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this critique, I really don’t understand the reason for the ending, however, it is what it is!  I did hear that there will be a new James Bond (TBA) sometime in the near future.  We won’t know who will be playing him but several candidates are being considered.  As of 27 January 2022, No Time to Die has grossed $160.9 million in the United States and Canada and $613.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $774.2 million. It was the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2021. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes sampled 402 critics and judged 83% of the reviews to be positive, with an average rating of 7.30/10. The site states “It isn’t the sleekest or most daring 007 adventure, but No Time to Die concludes Daniel Craig’s franchise tenure in satisfying style.”  No Time to Die is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, or Google Play for $6. Billie Eilish performed the theme song –Check It Out!

[NO TIME TO DIE is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for BEST: Sound, Video Editingand Original Song — Totaling 3 Oscar Nominations]