Movies in the Teepee

In 2008 I began reviewing new movies.  The latest ones are below, before I move them to one of these links (click on genre), graded A to F--best to worst!

Oh the Drama
Oh the Horror
Keep Me in Suspense
Feels like Sci-Fi 
Isn't it Romantic
So-called Comedies
Western Unions
Comic Book Heroes
Kid Stuff
Fact not Fiction
Cinema Fantastico (Subtitles)

The Iron Claw (2023) Zac Efron is REALLY something else as Kevin Von Erich of the “cursed” Von Erichs, 4 brothers who loved each other very much but loved their father even more—a former pro wrestler obsessed with one of his sons winning the World Champion Pro Wrestling belt, no matter the cost.  Wait, even if it winds up killing or maiming them?  Yep.  And this sports biopic, set in the early 1980s is all true.  My grade: B Plus

The Zone of Interest (2023) SS Commandant Rudolf Hoss and his wife Hedwig are delighted with their new home.  They have gardens and a lap pool for their children, gifts of clothes, furs and jewelry… but over their property's wall is Auschwitz, where faint screams can be heard and smoke curls in the sky.  Life is good, ja?  This film doesn’t judge, but it chills greatly. (Polish)  My grade: A

Aniara (2019) After Earth is ravaged by climate change, giant luxury cruise ships ferry hundreds of people to New Mars via 3 week trips with fine dining, shopping, etc.  But when one ship, the Aniara is thrown off course, where will they wind up in a month’s time?  A year?  10 years?  20?  We’ll see… and farther ahead too.  This is sci-fi, and bleak and real as they come.  (Danish)  My grade: B-

What Happens Later (2023) While waiting for his flight to Boston, David Duchovny will bump into Meg Ryan—the woman he once loved and left some 25 years ago.  They’ll do some fun & biting catching up, but as a storm rages outside and their flights are delayed, sadder truths will be revealed.  Boy this had a strong start, and Meg Ryan (who also directed) was wonderful to see again--but this began feeling tiresome halfway thru. My grade: C Plus

Talk to Me (2023) When a group of teens discover they can summon and be possessed by spirits for 90 seconds by holding an embalmed hand and saying “Talk to me”, it’s scary, dangerous fun.  But when Jade’s little brother Riley begs for a turn too, he’ll immediately go mad.  Can anyone help?  Mia's dead mother says yes but someone will have to die.  This is thought provoking horror, but grotesque and bloody too.  You've been warned.  My grade: B

Dream Scenario (2023) When a middle-aged college professor (Nicholas Cage) begins appearing in millions of peoples dreams, he becomes a celebrity of sorts.  Annoyed at first, it will grow on him.  But when he begins appearing as a violent figure.. I wish we knew how & why this was happening, but the news & marketing’s take on poor Nic makes for an interesting look at modern times in this oddball drama. My grade: B-

Raging Grace (2023) Joy is an undocumented Filipino housekeeper who lands the job of a lifetime; the care of a mansion for $1000 a week.  But it comes with a comatose old man and his weird adult niece—and Joy’s own 9 year old daughter Grace, who must stay hidden.  And just when things couldn’t get chillier..  talk about a surprise finish in this thriller.  Really, you’ll be glad you stuck it out.  My grade: A-

Little Wing (2024) It’s one thing when her parents divorce, but when her mom says they have to sell their home, 13 year old Kaitlyn will come up with a crazy plan to steal a valuable pigeon to sell to the Russian Bird Mafia.  She does it—now what?  A lot of growing up, in this above average, sweet-as-it-is-absurd afterschool type movie.  This young lady (Brooklynn Prince) is one to watch.  My grade: B

Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom (2023) While David Kane aka Manta searches for the hidden city of Atlantis (to destroy Aquaman) he’ll find an ancient city instead—with a power source dangerous to Earth and one very evil trident.  Aquaman and his brother Orm (played by Patrick Wilson) to the rescue!  I don’t care what any reviews say, this movie packs a real punch—with wild, giant leaps of the imagination.  It was HUGE fun.  My grade: A

Wonka (2023) Timothee Chalamet does a fun, lively job as a young Willy Wonka setting out in the world with his wooden suitcase and miniature chocolate laboratory.  He’ll meet the required buffoonish characters, a hopeful girl with a heart of gold, sing some hopeful songs—but my God, Hugh Grant as a sly Oompa-Lompa and sneaky chocolate thief steals the show.  He'll give this silly thing just the kick in the pants it needed.  My grade:  B Plus

The Starling Girl (2023) Jem is 14 and devoted to God as one can be.  (When a member of her church points out she can see Gem’s bra strap, she cries with shame.)  But with an alcoholic father who doesn’t practice what he preaches, and a youth pastor who looks at her with hungry eyes, where will Jem turn?  To all the wrong things in this captivating, eye raising drama.  My grade: A
Priscilla (2023) It’s West Germany 1959; and a very demure, very young Priscilla Beaulieu has been invited to Army Elvis’ house by one of his scouts for a party.  They’ll marry of course, and Priscilla will learn (again and again) that her husband is an overgrown man-child who expects to be treated like her King.  Sofia Coppola both wrote and directed this quietly told but visually striking biopic, seen thru Priscilla’s eyes.  My grade: A
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)  When an AI program known as “The Entity” attains so much knowledge it becomes sentient, Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt to locate the 2 keys believed to have the power to stop this force.  This is a first-rate adventure, with heart pounding chases in exotic locales that span the globe.  It’s a big story though, so you’ll have to wait for Part 2.  Now hurry it up!  My grade: A

June (2024) From her antics as a sweet hillbilly on the Grand Old Opry in the 1950s, to her third marriage to Johnny Cash to wanting to produce a solo album in the 1990s (she did, twice, both winning Grammys) this is June Carter Cash’s big life and love story.  (I did not know she wrote Ring of Fire.)  Her death in 2003 broke many hearts, none harder than Johnny Cash.  He died 3 months later.  What a special lady.  My grade: A

You Hurt My Feelings (2024) Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a writer in NYC who’s dealing with an annoying adult son, a mother showing signs of dementia and a therapist husband who she overheard say he couldn’t stand her latest work to her sisters husband.  Everyone will plod along, plod along… eventually they’ll make things right, in this low-key little comedy drama. It’s a bore, but has Julia.  My grade: C

Past Lives (2023)  At 12 years old, Na Young and Hae Sung are inseparable.  But Na is immigrating to America, and she won’t see or talk to Hae again for 12 years, until one night on Facebook.  She’s Nora now, living in New York and he’s in Korea.  They’ll talk and laugh until Nora says no more.  And then another 12 years pass... This is as honest & gentle as they come.  It’s a real love story for what might’ve and should've been.  (Korean-English)  My grade: A

Jules (2023) Ben Kingsley leads a quiet life as an old man & widower in a small Pa town.  And then one night a flying saucer crashes into his backyard.  He calls 911, but they hang up on him—he tells a bored town council, but is ignored.  Hmm, says two old ladies with nothing better to do.  They’re all about to get the experience of a lifetime in this senior-funny, gentle story.  It’s dear & sweet.  My grade: B Plus

Blue Beetle (2023) Jaime Reyes is a young Mexican, fresh out of college and looking for a job when he is chosen by an ancient scarab to be outfitted with a blue ‘Iron Man’ suit of armor, loaded with fantastic CGI weapons.  But Kord Industries (Susan Sarandon) wants to harness its power for her army of robot soldiers.  Jaime’s Latino family to the rescue!  A stamped out superhero movie with real ethnic flavor.  Still…  My grade: B-

Strays (2023) After Doug (Will Forte) abandons his dog in a city 3 hours away, little Reggie (voiced by Will Farrell) will make friends with other strays, who promise to help him find his way home—so he can bite Doug’s d—k off.  Done with real dogs antics, I enjoyed all the ad-libbing.  It’s silly but funny, often gross, always crude—this is NOT for children, you’ve been warned!  My grade: B

aka Mr. Chow (2023) The son of a celebrated Beijing opera singer, his mother sent Michael Chow to London in the 1950s to make a name for himself.  Did he ever.  He was “the Chinese guy” in a long list of action & spy movies in the 1960s-70s, before creating “Mr. Chow”, 2 restaurants on the East & West coasts with A-list clientele.  Now in his 80s, a reknown artist as well in this bigger than life documentary. My grade: A

The Lesson (2023)  An acclaimed writer and his wife hire Liam (Daryl McCormack), a strikingly handsome English major and early novelist to tutor their son Bertie to help get him in an Ivy league school.  But the father has recently completed his latest novel and is trying to pull Liam into his things as well.  Why?  It’s a pretty dry suspense, but told with real elegance and class; you shouldn’t mind sticking things out.  My grade: B

The Inspection (2022) Ellis is a young black man who lives on the streets because he’s gay and has nothing except a mom who despises him.  He’ll join the Marines but if Boot Camp wasn’t torture enough, the guys in his platoon will soon learn who he is too. When you have no one to turn to… stay the course.  That’s what Ellis will do in this proud & riveting drama.  I love A24 films.  My grade: A

JFK: What the Doctors Saw (2023) In 2013, the doctors (still living) who worked on JFK after his shooting in 1963 gathered to compare personal notes in this jarring but critically acclaimed documentary.  According to them, Oswald wasn't the president's assassin.  And trust me, seeing is believing.  WARNING: this doc contains highly graphic photos of JFK immediately after his assassination.  His shocked stare will stay with me for a long time.  My grade: A

Albert Brooks: Defending My Life (2023) Albert Brooks sits with (best friend) Rob Reiner as they discuss Albert’s career, from his 1930s Hollywood parents to his stand-up in high school to comedy clubs, the Tonight Show, movies & Disney voice-overs. Lots of big-name comics like Chris Rock, David Letterman and Larry David cut in to sing his praises.  So how do the rest of us feel aout him?  Meh… My grade: B

Disquiet (2023) After a horrific car accident, Sam awakens in an abandoned hospital, terrorized by a crazed old man.  Soon there are other menacing figures, and patients like himself too.  He’ll bash, smash and crash his way to… what?  We get it, the hospital is a metaphor for life, death… not even it knows.  This was 1 hour and 23 minutes of utter nonsense.  The worst thriller I’ve ever seen.  My grade: F

Milli Vanilli (2023) In 1989, a record producer spotted 2 handsome young men with long braids who were dancers and style setters, and offered them pop stardom.  They became superstars instead, in this eye opening documentary of their rise & fall.  I remember their story but forgot their fame, and didn't know how talented they were.  In the end, what did they do but entertain?  This ends with love and hope, for one at least.  My grade: A

The Day The Music Died (2023) From the tragedy befalling Buddy Holly & Ritchie Valens to the 1960s and Vietnam, Don McLean was inspired to create ‘American Pie’, a rock n’ roll anthem.  And now, 50 years later, giants like Brian Wilson & Garth Brooks pay wonderful tributes to this humble artist, with fascinating trivia and much, much love.  When Ritchie Valens sister approached an elderly McLean and thanked him for immortalizing her brother... whew.  My grade: A Plus

The Fire That Took Her (2023) On Aug 2 2015, a young mother was doused with gasoline and set on fire by her abusive boyfriend.  Even with a lengthy criminal record, a sickened judge could only sentence him to 11 years as Judy lay in severe pain and disfigurement.  Could anything be done to change the law & lengthen his sentence?  Yes.  By who?  By Judy, in this heartbreaking documentary of abuse and the pursuit of real change.  My grade: A

Lamb (2022) Ingvar and Maria are a childless couple, with a mountain top sheep farm.  One day while helping deliver lambs, they’ll stare at one in wonder, then rush it inside their house.  Why?  They’ll raise it as a little girl, while the lambs mother bleats outside their window.  A price will be paid for their actions in this strange, tender yet tragic drama.  I love A24 Films.  (Icelandic)  My grade: B Plus

MEN (2022) After the horrific death of her husband James, Harper will get away to an estate in the English countryside.  She’ll encounter Geoffrey (the owner), a strange boy with a mask, a sadistic vicar and obscene naked man in the forest, culminating in a night of grotesque horrors and a strange, artsy ending.  I don’t like all the metaphors at play here, but I do enjoy suspense & good acting.  And I love A24 films. My grade: B Plus

The Flash (2023) When The Flash learns he can break the time barrier, he’ll go back and prevent his mom’s death.  But doing so doesn't just change history, it warps it--goodbye Superman, hello Superwoman!  Michael Keaton is Batman once more and there's a teenage version of himself with no speed powers.  Anymore surprises?  Oh just wait!  Funny, frantic and filled with drama & razzle dazzle spectacle, I loved every amazing minute of it.  My grade: A

Pearl (2022) It’s 1918, and while WWI rages in Europe, a wistful farm girl sings and dances across the screen, dreaming of a life as a chorus girl in silent pictures. (The giant opening credits & lush score earn this movie an A on their own—it’s magnificent stuff.)  But a vicious mother and a snapped mind stand in Pearl’s way, in this macabre painting of Americana, and vintage, grotesque horror.  Lord!  My grade: A

Red Rocket (2021) “Do you have any work experience?” “Yes I’ve done 2000 films and won 6 awards!”  Mikey Saber is a washed up porn actor who returns to his redneck Texas hometown, looking to start over.  He’s going to learn the real world isn’t some hilariously awful porn movie, but if he can con one young woman… Raunchy, morally offensive & surprisingly good, this is Midnight Cowboy in reverse.  I love A24 Films.  My grade: A Plus

The Whale (2022) Brendan Fraser is morbidly obese; so much so he seems to know he doesn't have long to live.  He’ll try to reconnect to his 16 year old daughter, but she despises him as he walked out of her life when she was 8 years old (for a younger man).  Now he spends his days slobbering down junk food and crying to his visitors how sorry he is, and I believe him—but how much colossal dreariness can one person take?  It's a pretty glum watch.  My grade: B

The Fablemans (2022) Steven Spielberg wrote and directed this thinly veiled glimpse of his childhood, early filmmaking and foray into young adulthood in the 1960s.  Michelle Williams (as his eccentric mother) steals the show, she’s so good; but the rest is a pretty bland slice of suburban Americana.  It’s pleasant and watchable enough, but was Steven’s young life really movie-worthy?  My grade: B Plus

Aftersun (2022) 11 year old Sophie is overjoyed to be on holiday with her young dad Calum at a seaside resort; they’ll spend the week exploring shops, playing pranks on other guests, swimming & dancing.  Sometimes at night Calum will sit on his bed and cry while Sophie’s asleep, why?  20 years later, Soph will stare at treasured things from their week together and wonder, in this sweet, wistful drama.   My grade: B

Renfield (2023) After 100 years as Dracula’s servant, Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) wants to be a good person again.  He’ll get his chance when a cop (Awkafina) tries to take down a crime family on her own and could use some help in this spectacular, comedy horror gore-fest.  My God I loved this—and Nicholas Cage is fiendishly supreme as the evil, toothy vampyre.  He is a genius, truly—and the Dark Master!  My grade: A

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) 13 years after the blockbuster Avatar, Earth’s military returns to the planet Pandora for its resources—and a military general mad with revenge for events in the first movie.  For all it’s gorgeous spectacle, it felt childish and I couldn’t help thinking “been there done that”.  It was astounding in 2009, now it’s more of the same.  It’s still worthy of praise, but.. I don’t need to see it again.  My grade: A-

Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed (2023) Born Roy Fitzgerald in the midwest, he would find huge success in Hollywood.  But he was loved by so many, critics included, everyone turned a blind eye towards his extreme gay lifestyle.  (But seeing the home movies of his swimming pool filled with dozens of naked men—yikes!)  More time capsule than tribute, it’s an astounding look back at the man—and of the AIDS timeline he helped make public.  My grade: A

A Man Called Otto (2022) After he’s forced into retirement, 65 year old widower Otto Anderson (Tom Hanks) fashions some rope into a noose.  He’s had enough.  It won’t be easy to end things though, a young Spanish woman and her family just moved in across the street and plan to make him a member of their family whether he likes it not.  Filmed in my neighborhood, this was sweet, gently funny and low-key as one can get.  A nice story.  My grade: B for Bellevue

Being Mary Tyler Moore (2023) From her days as Holly Hotpoint in the 1950s to being discovered by Carl Reiner for The Dick Van Dyke Show to even wider fame with her own show in the 1970s, this 2 hour documentary is a feast for the senses if you’re a fan of MTM.  From never before seen home movies to lost interviews to more private moments recorded by her husband, what more can I say.  It’s superb.  We love you Mary.  My grade: A Plus

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) Helen Mirren & Lucy Liu were probably paid a small fortune to portray the daughters of Atlas, who come to Earth for the Godlike powers the wizard Shazam took from them—Zachary Levi and his foster sibs (the Marvel Family) to the rescue!  Bursting at the seams with CGI and touchy-feely moments, it doesn’t have the funny charm of the original; but if you’re under 13, you’ll dig it for sure.  My grade: B  (stophere 2/18)

Reality (2023) With a script copied right out of the FBI’s audio recordings, Sydney Sweeney is excellent as Reality Winner, a quiet National Security clerk suspected of something serious.  It’s pretty light on story for something so big on secrets—but for what she’s suspected of doing, guilty or innocent, I couldn’t help admiring her for her convictions.  It leaves much to think about.  My grade: B

The Hole in the Ground (2023) Shortly after Sarah (a young Irish mom) discovers a hole in the ground in the woods behind her house (the size of a football field) she begins noticing changes in her 8 year old son Chris.  Well, it doesn’t help that a crazy lady who lives nearby insists he isn’t her boy.  What will Sarah discover when she begins peeping thru her son’s keyhole?  Horror, in this murky, chilling story.  I love A24 films.  My grade: B Plus

Clock (2023) Ella is happily married, a successful decorator… but she’s 38 and has no children and no desire for one.  But wait--there’s an experimental clinic that claims they can start her biological clock.  And boy do they ever, in this horror tale about women, for women.  It had real promise at the start, before taking a grotesque turn.  Will we ever accept ourselves for who we are?  No.  My grade: C

Inside (2023) Williem DaFoe is an art thief who finds himself trapped when he breaks into a billionaire’s hi-tech penthouse.  Piercing alarms will sound, but no cops.  Instead the water will shut off, tv screens will turn garbled and temps will rise past 100F, or drop to freezing.  As the days pass and DaFoe struggles with his survival and very sanity, the definition of art will take on a whole new meaning.  It’s a tedious, brutal watch.  My grade: B-

Land of Gold (2023) Karin is an Indian long-haul truck driver, who discovers he has a stowaway—a chirpy 10 year old Mexican girl named Elena who pleads for Karin to take her to Boston and her uncle.  They’ll become friends, with Kiran’s wife & mom too via his smartphone and Facetime along the way.  What will Elena find in Boston?  Family, in this gentle story of survival, caring and friendship.    My grade: B

Love to Love You, Donna Summer (2023) Knowing she was meant for great things, Donna moved to NYC in 1968 at the age of 19 and was discovered by the producers for HAIR.  From there she became a pop star in Germany before coming up with her own ‘disco sound’.  She worked hard for the money, but it took her from her family for years, in this doc focusing more on personal reflection than her reign as Queen of Disco.  RIP, Donna.  My grade: B

Resurrection (2023) Margaret (Rebecca Hall) is a successful executive & single mom to an 18 year old daughter.  And then one day she sees Tim Roth in the city.  Gasping, she’ll run away.  Who is he?  A man from her own tortured 18 year old past. Madness will soon take over things, pushing her friends and daughter away, culminating in heaving, sobbing buckets of lunacy.  My God, this is a brilliant but bloody horror show.  Turn away, if you can.  My grade: A

Knock at the Cabin (2023) In M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, a gay couple and their daughter are confronted at their summer cabin by 4 strangers carrying some pretty nasty weapons—and asked to choose which one of them will die.  Why?  Oh, for strange, earth-shattering reasons of course.  Interesting premise, even if that ending was conventional, predictable.  Very talky, it would’ve made a fine tv movie in 1978.  My grade: B-

Bad Therapy (2020) Alicia Silverstone & Rob Corddry have an okay marriage, but decide to visit a therapist anyway to make things even better—a big mistake, like this dud.  Listen, this is a boring, jumbled mess (Rotten Tomatoes gave it 7%.)  But I DID like Alicia’s manic, off-kilter character.  She is funny, and should be doing comedies again, good ones.  My grade: D

Champions (2023) After getting a DUI, Woody Harrelson (an assistant coach for an Iowa basketball team) loses his job and is sentenced to 18 months in jail—or 90 days coaching a local basketball team of intellectually disabled adults.  Okay we’ve all seen this story a dozen times before, but it doesn’t make this any less charming or funny.  Woody’s a natural and so is his team, and even it’s semi-corny ending caught me off guard.  In a good way.  My grade: A

Top Gun: Maverick (2022) Tom Cruise returns as Capt Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in this far superior sequel to the 1986 original.  A test pilot all these years, Tom’s ordered back to Top Gun to train recruits for a deadly mission—including his godson (Miles Teller). With Cruise giving 110%, and real jets in flight (no CGI), this was a real tribute to it’s 1980s predecessor (I watched the night before).  But please Academy… this is not a Best Picture.  My grade: B Plus

M3gan (2023) After 9 year old Cady’s parents die in an auto accident, she goes to live with her Aunt Gemma.  Gemma is cool, she’s a tech-toy inventor who’s built a 4 foot girl robot, Megan.  The two will bond immediately, so what if Megan is built of titanium and has a creepy smirk?  Just don’t upset Cady you bad dog and neighborhood bully… too late!  This was predictable as hell, but the workmanship was first-rate, I'll give it that.  My grade: B