Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Our reviews and thoughts on the latest releases, classics, and nostalgic favourites. Things we loved, things we hated, and worst of all, things we were ambivalent about.

Wrath of Man

Jason Statham.

Need I say more? I know for many of you, that’s enough. If so, proceed. This movie is pretty darn Jason Stathamy. If not, read on.

The Premise: H (Jason Statham) is the new guy at a cash truck company, but suspiciously, his skills don’t exactly match his resume. H, as you may have guessed, has an ulterior motive.

The Verdict: Since Guy Ritchie directs, so you know what you’re in for. Violence and revenge, basically. Lots of both. Nothing surprising from Ritchie’s corner, nor anything too outside of his wheelhouse for Statham – but then again, isn’t that why you’re watching? To see Statham, still in peak tough guy shape, do what he does best: coldly and methodically avenge fictional deaths by creating yet more havoc and death. He tears through action scenes like a man on a mission. A certain type of man, a type-cast kind of man, but Statham knows his niche and he fills it with such precision and panache that we aren’t tired of watching yet. Wrath of Man is too long; the conclusion takes forever to actually conclude. The pay-off is small, and predictable; you won’t have to look too hard to find flaws in this film. But if you’re looking for some action and you don’t mind taking some stylistic detours to get there, Statham and Ritchie are a pretty effective pairing.

Jungle Cruise

The Premise: Based on a beloved ride at Disney that’s 20% water ride and 80% dad jokes (now with less racism!), the film adaptation introduces us to Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), thwarted at every turn because of her gender, but dedicated enough to scientific pursuit to follow it all the way to the Amazon where she engages irascible skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to deliver her to the jungle.

The Verdict: While it achieves no great heights, it’s a decent action-adventure the whole family can enjoy. It relies heavily on the charm and chemistry between Blunt and Johnson, who are quite apparently enjoying themselves on screen. Emily Blunt is gorgeous, even in pants, Johnson is formidable wrestling a cheetah, Jack Whiteall stuns in a series of dinner jackets, Paul Giamatti looks like he was born to sport a gold tooth, and Jesse Plemons delivers a memorably villainous accent. A cross between Disney’s successful ride-based franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the more recent Dora the Explorer effort, Jungle Cruise is just fun enough, funny enough, interesting enough, and exciting enough, but with the excessive charisma oozing from our two leads, this is a worthwhile watch – in theatres, or on Disney Plus.

Jolt

The Premise: Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) suffers from Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which causes her anger, and indeed even mild annoyance, to turn into deadly violence. When provoked, she snaps, and good luck surviving her wrath as the extra cortisol makes her stronger and faster than any mere human. After a childhood spent as a lab rat, Lindy strives to live as normally as possible, experimenting with extreme shock therapy to keep her anger from detonating. But when the only man she’s ever cared for is taken from her, she’s going to embrace her inner demons in the pursuit of vengeance.

The Verdict: Jolt isn’t exactly a gem, but as an action-comedy, it’s surprisingly watchable. It depends a lot on Kate Beckinsale’s charms, but as they are indeed considerable, I didn’t mind this. The writing is sloppy but occasionally satisfactorily sardonic, and Beckinsale proves she can land a punch as well as a punchline. Yeah, it’s a little sexist (why are the shock pads stuck to her boobs?), and sure it pats itself a little too smugly on the back for being gender-bending, but the action’s there, if a little uninspired, and the character’s a lot of fun, and it’s sitting on Amazon Prime just waiting for you to give it a watch when there’s literally nothing else.

F9 The Fast Saga

The Fast and Furious franchise has now entered its meta-parody stage.

The Premise: Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew, who were mere street racers when this whole thing began in 2001, are now somehow responsible for taking down an international terrorist who just happens to be Dom’s estranged brother, Jakob (John Cena). Jakob’s really angry – angry enough to align himself with the group’s former nemesis Cipher (Charlize Theron), who revives a horrendous haircut if not the same level of threat.

The Verdict: F9 will not be winning any new fans to the franchise. It has finally gone balls-to-the-wall bat-shit bananas. Fans knew this was coming. The franchise hasn’t been shy about amping up the stakes in previously thought to be impossible increments from film to film. It was only a matter of time before they drove their cars in space. F9 continues to evolve Dom’s concept of family, leaving less time for driving and street stunts. Not to despair: what they do manage to fit in is larger than life. It wasn’t even the trip to space that had me complaining “I’m not sure who’s more offended, me, or physics.” John Cena can’t act, making him a perfect match for Vin Diesel, who has managed not to improve one iota in the past two decades of the film’s franchise, despite acting alongside such Oscar winners as Theron and Helen Mirren. From its inception, Fast and Furious has made diverse casting look easy; Dom is surrounded by a bunch of colourful characters that we have come to know and love over the past 9 films, most of whom have stayed the course, including founding member Brian, even though Paul Walker has been dead since F7 (his character lives, always on the periphery, just out of sight, just a little late to the party). Fans will undoubtedly find something of merit in F9, even if it’s just an appreciation for the franchise’s willingness to push the boundaries of incredulity. They are shameless, which makes their antics all the more fun.

Broken Diamonds

The Premise: Scott (Ben Platt) is finally following his dreams all the way to Paris to become a writer. But the universe is a bitch, and by way of obstacles, Ben’s got a newly dead dad, a mother lost to dementia, and a sister, Cindy (Lola Kirke), who is normally hospitalized with schizophrenia is about to become unhospitalized, unmedicated, and very much Scott’s problem. Is he his sister’s keeper?

The Verdict: Movies about mental illness often flirt with exploitation, and while Cindy’s character, and her plight, do serve her brother’s growth and character arc, Broken Diamonds tries to paint a full picture of an illness that is disruptive and damaging and sometimes just part of the package. Platt and Kirke are both very good, very watchable, and the story benefits from its small scope. Schizophrenia is a family disease. Their family has suffered together, and apart. It has left its members battered. It has demanded sacrifice. Platt is of course very good at showing us the inner turmoil of deciding when enough is enough, but it is Kirke who has the heavy load, allowing Cindy to be a woman who is more than just sick. Emotional but undemonstrative, Broken Diamonds is character-driven and intimate, an interesting exploration of the complicated equation between siblings.

Directed by: Peter Sattler, starring Ben Platt, Lola Kirk, Yvette Nicole Brown; find it July 23rd in theatres and on demand.

Pig

John Wick’s wrath was incited by the slaughter of his beloved dog. For hermit Rob (Nicolas Cage), it’s his bunny rabbit. Just kidding. It’s his PIG!

The Premise: Rob the Recluse has been living the shack life for 15 years, his only companion a pig with whom he gathers truffles, trading them for supplies with Amir (Alex Wolff) on a weekly basis, his only contact with the outside world. But when Rob is attacked and his pig stolen, he’s forced to re-enter society to track down his esteemed swine and bring her home. In the city, we come to understand what caused Rob to leave it behind in the first place, and we get to know the man he was before the trauma.

The Verdict: Surprisingly, a win. Although Cage has had some cult favourites over the past decade, this is his true return to acting as opposed to Nic Cage impression he’s been doing on camera for years. A tale of love and loss, Cage is toned down, identifiably human, quietly emotive, broken in humbling ways. We’ve been accustomed to “Cage Rage” and maniacal acting from him for so long, it’s a nice reminder that he can, indeed, turn in a moving performance. Rob is a man desperately holding on to the one thing in his life that still has meaning, and Cage is strangely enough the perfect delivery guy.

Gunpowder Milkshake

Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure the milkshake’s actually just vanilla.

Public safety notice: Don’t eat gunpowder. It’s not delicious and it also might set your toots on fire.

Friendly piece of advice: Chocolate beats vanilla. Peanut-butter-brownie’s even better. Salted-caramel-pretzel is the best.

Movie premise: Sam (Karen Gillan) is abandoned as a child by her assassin mom after a bloody diner gun-battle. Sam grows up to be a hitman herself, working for The Firm, led by a greasy guy named Nathan (Paul Giamatti). Sam’s last hit has gotten her into some hot oil: despite merely doing her job, she happens to have killed the son of a very important, and very vindictive man, who has sworn revenge. Even The Firm is upset with her, sending her on a mea culpa mission to recover stolen money, which she learned belatedly (ie after shooting the guy) is intended for ransom to save the dude’s young daughter. Sam takes it upon herself to rush the guy to the hitman hospital, and herself to the rendez vous point to try to save the kid, but at every turn Sam’s only making more enemies, and it’s increasingly unlikely she’ll get out of this thing alive.

My verdict: Derivative. The best parts of the movie are copied directly from other movies. Parts not directly plagiarized flag a bit. Director Navot Papushado is not a needle drop savant; I’ve seen some directors brilliantly and subversively pair an unexpected song with an action sequence, but Papushado is never going to be one of them. The action sequences are actually pretty fun (especially when “librarians” Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett get in on the action), but the terrible music trips them up and tempers our enjoyment. Not really worth the watch unless you’re desperate for some action – or unless you’re trying to convince a producer that a librarian spinoff would be a much more intriguing idea.

A Few Quick Reviews

The Tomorrow War

The Premise: Time travelers from just 30 years in the future arrive in present day to plead for soldiers for their potentially world-ending war, and those sent to battle the blood-thirsty aliens are unlikely to return.

The Verdict: Nothing special, but a decent popcorn flick and plenty of action.

Directed by Chris McKay, starring Chris Pratt, JK Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson; find it on Amazon Prime

Black Widow

The Premise: In this Marvel prequel, Black Widow is confronted by her past as a spy and the people she once considered family.

The Verdict: Sean thought it was good, I thought it was convoluted and boring. Certainly not Marvel’s best but an okay stand-alone if you’re desperate for some super hero action.

Directed by Cate Shortland, starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz; find it on Disney Plus (for an additional fee) and in theatres

A Quiet Place II

The Premise: Immediately following the events of the first film, mom Evelyn leads her daughter, son, and newborn baby away, exposing them to the dangers of the outside world, in an attempt to bring their solution to any remaining survivors.

The Verdict: A surprisingly satisfying sequel, the film manages to recapture some of what made the first one so special while expanding its universe.

Directed by John Krasinski, starring Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy; find it on Amazon Prime

In The Heights

The Premise: Bodega owner Usnavi dreams about a better life outside of Washington Heights in the middle of a sweaty summer blackout.

The verdict: Culturally rich and exceptionally vibrant, this is a modern musical rooted in hope.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, starring Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera; find it in theatres and on VOD

Cruella

The Premise: Disney’s Dalmatian-obsessed villain gets an origin story.

The Verdict: Visually stunning and loaded with great performances from Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, I’d have no problem recommending this if it was a stand-alone film, but as a prequel to 101 Dalmatians, it doesn’t quite get to where it’s going.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson; find it on Disney Plus (for an additional fee)

Godzilla vs. Kong

If nothing else, Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures have been surprisingly persistent in trying to make their MonsterVerse into a successful franchise. This is the fourth film they’ve released since 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and as the title boldly announces, this is the one where the new version of Godzilla meets the new version of King Kong. Of course, by “meets”, I mean “fights to the death in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers”.

Like the previous films in the MonsterVerse, Godzilla vs. Kong is exactly as advertised. It is essentially plot-free, because that would get mean less time for the monsters to try to murder each other. And monster fights are why this film exists. In between fights there is a small amount of filler in the form of serious science-talk about the origins of these monsters and the “hollow earth”, but feel free to ignore it as I did. Because all the science-talk in the world won’t explain why these giant monsters are saving the environment through killing each other, or why the hollow earth is as bright as day when it is literally the centre of the earth. And the next monster fight is just around the corner anyway.

No one will ever mistake Godzilla vs. Kong for a good movie, but it is a movie that you have to respect if only for its self-confidence. This movie is just so damn sure of itself. So damn sure that you have paid to see monster fights and so damn sure that you do not care about plot or character development or anything else that a normal movie contains. And at least in my case, it was right. I did not miss that other stuff one bit. If you have read this far and still want to see this movie, it will not disappoint. Just pick your favourite monster, sit back, and enjoy the show!

Thunder Force

Okay, I’ll say it: I liked it.

I don’t typically think Melissa McCarthy is at her best when her husband Ben Falcone writes for and directs her and this movie hasn’t exactly changed my mind about that, but it was just good enough to make me smile.

McCarthy’s charm is her saving grace; even when she’s not exercising the full spectrum of her talent, she’s still extremely watchable. Joined in Thunder Force by Octavia Spencer, these two ladies have fun chemistry and an even funner premise. A mutation has rendered a handful of lucky sociopaths into supervillains, but unfortunately for the world, no heroic counterparts exist. Thankfully Emily (Spencer) is a real brain, and she’s developed a special treatment that would grant the kind of powers so people could really fight back. It’s possibly that Emily and her childhood friend Lydia (McCarthy) are not the best choices to receive this treatment, but let’s not dwell. It’s happening. Lydia’s getting super strong and Emily’s going invisible and you better believe Lydia’s pretty pissed that Emily’s training is so much easier than hers. Of course, the training’s going to pale in comparison to fighting Chicago’s worst villain lineup, including The Crab (Jason Bateman), The King (Bobby Canavale), and Laser (Pom Klementieff).

Thunder Force is 100% stupid of course, but also like 55% funny. My laughter was often out of sheer confusion, but the kind of confusion that’s curious and maybe even a little awed. It’s still not a great equation but I’ll take it. I may even watch it twice.