4 Stars Movies

Little Women (2019)

Except for the fact that it was a classic book that had been remade numerous times over the decades, my knowledge of Little Women was practically nil. Of course, as a kid, I would rather have been reading Robin Hood, Frankenstein, or Tom Sawyer over a book with a title clearly meant for the female audience. This left me entering the newest adaptation of Louis May Alcott’s beloved book mystified as to what I would experience, though I had some hopes since it was directed (and adapted) by Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig.

The result was, to say the very least, surprisingly heart warming, as Gerwig and the knockout cast deliver to both newbies (like me) as well as fans. While I may be wrong on some of the characters and their relationships, I will do my best (thankfully, there was an older couple two seats down the aisle from me, and I could here the woman explaining things to her husband.) The film is told in two separate times, seven years apart. The earlier days is during the civil war, where we meet the four march sisters. They are Jo (Saoirse Ronan, teaming up again with Gerwig after their 2017 film Lady Bird), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen).

Their father is off serving the North in the Civil War, so they try to make the best of things alongside their mother, Marmee (the wonderful Laura Dern). We also meet their neighbor, Mr. Laurence (the ever reliable Chris Cooper) and his grandson Theodore, aka “Laurie” (Timothee Chalamet, also from Lady Bird). And, of course, let us not forget Aunt March, played by Meryl Streep. There are many actresses who can proclaim they are “not always right, but are never wrong.”, but can you think of any you would want to have say that over Streep?

As is the case with all siblings (not just sisters), there is love, envy, forgiveness, resentment, and mischief. This is mainly shown in the earlier time, since the sisters are younger and less mature. Each sibling has their own unique strength: Meg (who I believe is the eldest) is drawn to the theater. Jo is a writer of stories. Amy is a painter. Beth is musically inclined on the piano. A good chunk of the film is how each sister (especially Jo) realizes that growing up means going down different roads. As Meg states,

“Just because my dreams are different than yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.”

 They also have their different character traits as well (which I can only assume is true to the original material). While Meg and Beth are on the gentler side (especially Beth), it is Jo and Amy who are more head strong, which could explain why both are having feeling for Laurie. Jo herself states how she is amazed she was not born a boy. Even so, she is still prone to show her vulnerability.

One of the best examples of this is toward the end of the film, when Jo is talking to her mother about love (one of countless scenes of nearly impeccable acting). When asked if she loves a certain character, Jo responds,

“I care more to be loved. I want to be loved.”

Marmee responds,

“That’s not the same as loving.”

As humans, we are all looking for love. As children, we look towards our parents (or guardians). As we get older, we enter the stage of wishing for a significant other (once we realize cooties are not actually a thing.) Yet we realize that actual love is not a one way street: relationships don’t work if the love is not reciprocal.

Jo also has a moment of trying to defy God (which is an action that sums her character up in detail). While caring for a sick family member, Jo is told,

“We can’t stop God’s will.”

Jo responds,

“Well, God hasn’t met my will yet. What Jo wills shall be done.”

Regardless of where we are in our walk with God, we have all tried to defy God and/or his will at one point or another. This is one of the most raw forms of pride we possess. Of course, when we have a loved one who is sick, injured, or depressed, we feel bad for them as well as ourselves. It is when we start thinking along the lines of “Well God, if you won’t do anything, then I will!” that we start going down the wrong path.

All the performers make their mark, but the two that stand out are Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. As of this writing, both of their awards buzz has died down a little, but I would still not at all be surprised if they heard their names when the Oscar nominations are announced.

Perhaps the best part of the film, however, is how Gerwig (who clearly has a great film making career ahead of her) adapted the story. She balances the classical nature of the story with the right amount of contemporary energy that makes the film seem almost like a relic, yet still relatable.

Parents, this may be the family holiday movie that you don’t know your family actually needs (though I can see young boys not wanting to see this.) It is rated PG, mainly for the thematic elements. There is no swearing or violence, and only two kisses I can remember. I would guess a girl of any age would heart this film.

Little Women does have moments were it tends to drag on a bit, but very few times: I was basically enthralled the whole time. When you think of it, making this film was very risky. A PG family movie with mainly a female lead cast, no action or songs (basically, a film not steered by the Mouse House). Yet that does not take away from the films morals of life, heartbreak, romance, and all the little things in between. As one character states,

“Morals don’t sell nowadays.”

Little Women is nothing short of a delight.


Rating: 4 out of 5.
3 1/2 Stars Movies

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – Spoiler Free

Since the age of 9 or so, I have always considered myself a moderately strong member of the light side of the force. That said, I would be worse than a Sith Lord if I were to even begin to start spoiling what happens in the final saga of the nine episode epic. Though the film is far from perfect, The Rise of Skywalker is still going to offer satisfaction of some kind to anyone who is related to the force.

If you have seen the trailers (and if you haven’t you should probably stop reading), you know we are getting the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, owner of one cinema’s greatest cackles). All that is left in his way of returning the Sith to power is the remains of rebels in his way. Leading the charge, of course, is Rey (Daisy Ridley), still in search of the mystery of her past, with the tutelage of Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). Also still in rebellion (so to speak) is Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), along with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo, filling in for the late great Peter Mayhew), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and, of course, droids R2-D2, BB-8, and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels, the only actor to appear in all nine films). I would also be remiss if I did not mention Billy Dee Williams returning as Lando Calrissian.

As is always the standard for a Star Wars film, we get a handful of new characters. Again, I won’t try to spoil much, but two come to mind that I was a fan of. The first is a small droid called D-O (voiced by the film’s director, J.J. Abrams). The second is a character played by Richard E. Grant (last seen being nominated for an Oscar for 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?). When you see him, you will see how he fits the role perfectly, and you wish the producers had gotten him earlier on in the series.

Perhaps what lacks in this film is how is does not continue the flow of episodes seven and eight. True, The Last Jedi is the one that is the oddball of the three (and I still defend it), but it seems like there are many elements where the story takes a step back instead of forward. What made the original trilogy so great (probably the best film trilogy there is) is that it not only worked as a trilogy, but as three individual films as well (The Godfather Trilogy would have if part three was up to par). For Star Wars Episodes 7-9, they work as individuals, but lack enough connection as a whole.

Parents, it is a Star Wars film, so it is likely your kids will be begging you to see this. There is mild violence and some swearing (very mild for a PG-13 movie). There is no nudity, and the only sexual content are a couple kisses (1 of them very briefly is between two female pilots and is completely unnecessary to the film; virtual signaling by Abrams).

The Rise of Skywalker indeed has a blissful conclusion, but the road there was rocky at best: Like traveling to Rome via Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway. A colleague of mine also mention how much the film has many similarities towards Avengers: Endgame (mainly in the last act).

Still, it is a satisfying conclusion to the saga that will as the tagline (and the immortal music of John Williams) informs us: No one is ever really gone.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
"Top Tens", and others Movies

50 Worst movies of the 2010s

“The point is not to avoid all Stupid Movies, but to avoid being a Stupid Moviegoer.” – Roger Ebert

I imagine many occupations are ones where you can say you “learn on the job”. As a (potential) movie critic, I can say that you never stop learning.

Still, I am not immune to making mistakes, and the following are the fifty movies of the 2010s that left that taste in your mouth that you are grateful to get rid of, but cannot forget the experience.

In short, I would rather watch the Sharknado films.

4 Stars Movies

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

Update: With The Rise of Skywalker less than a week away, it was inevitable that I would return to watching The Last Jedi. I am confident in saying that no other movie in my life time has ever been this divisive, splitting the opinions of families and friends world wide. I am still sticking to my guns (or blasters, as it were).

No one can overstate the fandom of the Star Wars Universe. Even so, regardless of how many times you have seen the movies, the amount of books you read, the hours of gameplay you have spent on KOTAR (Knights of the Old Republic) and the Lego versions, and even if you know the difference between a fambaa and a Tauntaun (actual creature names in the Star Wars Universe), you are still going to be surprised by Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. The dialogue from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) says it best:

“This is not going to go the way you think!”

Set right after the events of The Force Awakens, this film shows the rebels under attack and virtually cornered by the first order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Despite efforts by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and others, the rebel’s star ships seem to be running low on fuel and are at the end of their rope. Still, hope is still being held onto, mainly by Leia (the late great Carrie Fisher, whose final film performance both melts your heart and warms it at the same time). Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally found Luke Skywalker, but getting him to join the fight is no easy feat.

That is all I will say of the plot, because I would never dream of dropping any spoilers. I can say that this film does seem to be in a class of its own in the Star Wars franchise. It has shown us parts of the force we have not experienced before. Yet where it differs, the similarities are still there (there are vibes you get of The Empire Strikes Back as well as Return of the Jedi). There are twists we do not see coming, and I was shocked many a time during the film. That is a positive thing.

Obviously, the film is a technical marvel. It is so wondrous to see that, even after all these years, the Star Wars films can still give us imagery that we have not yet seen (the same goes for the music, done, once again, by the legend that is John Williams.) The credit of taking a risk with going in a different direction has got to go to director Rian Johnson (who also helped write the screenplay). This even includes some unexpected, yet delightful humorous moments.

The Last Jedi does have some faults that keep it from the likes of Episodes 4 and 5. The movie is long (the longest, in fact, of the franchise, at 2 1/2 hours). There is also a character played by Benecio Del Toro (undoubtedly an amazing actor) who, I feel, was totally redundant to the film. His character, DJ (which really seems a little odd for a Star Wars film, somehow) is in a situation to help the rebels, but that situation alone was awkward writing in the first place. One of the main arguments of the film (and there are too many to count from Star Wars fans) is that the subplot with the Casino does not work, and I agree.

Still, we get some fresh new faces that add to the franchise that are more than welcome. The two stand out characters are Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a rebel fighter helping Poe and Finn (John Boyega), and Vice Admiral Holdo (the always wonderful Laura Dern). All these characters (and others) get at least one moment in the film to shine (some of which will have you applauding). 

The one main scene involving Dern’s character has been debated constantly, with haters of the film saying that her decision would not work at all in the vast scheme of things. My response to that would be to simply ask, “Do we really go to a Star Wars film to be informed or entertained?” Let’s not forget, this is Science Fiction.

Parents, if your kids have seen at least one other film in this franchise (and if they haven’t and are old enough, what are you waiting for?!?!), they will be fine here. There is no nudity or sex, just some mild swearing and (obviously) action.

As of this review, there is a vast difference in opinion between critics and the public (as is normally the case). It is strange, however, that the critics seem to like it a lot more (at the moment, 93% of critics liked it, while only 63% of the audience liked it*). Upon reading the reviews from the latter, I realize a lot of people are upset that certain questions are not answered. Personally, I feel not all questions need to be answered in a movie. It is up for interpretation, meaning The Last Jedi will require many a viewing.

Something I will gladly do.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

*As of 2019, the critics rating is 91%, while the audience is 43%. The ultra Star Wars fanboys/girls have given this film the treatment equivalent to throwing it to the almighty Sarlac.

2 1/2 Stars Movies

Frozen 2 (2019)

Even those of us who are not parents did not have to make much effort to see how much of a cultural impact the original Frozen film made back in 2013. It came out just in time before the beginning of the live action remake wave that Disney is now on, gave a lot of kids (especially girls) life lessons to learn, and songs that were stuck in their heads (as well as their parents’) for so long afterward I feel we may have forgotten how good it was to begin with. The only true negative about the film was that it made Disney produce Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, which would have been fine had it not been played before 2017’s Coco as a “short” (it was 20 minutes long), resulting in a theater experience I still am recovering from.

Still, we now come to Frozen 2, which (thankfully) does not reference anything to Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. As children, Elsa and Anna are told by their parents (who we know died in the first film) that the people of Arendelle were once sent to the forest to make a form of peace with the dwellers of the forest, where the spirits of earth, wind, water, and fire would dwell (kind of like that film The Last Airbender, without the awfulness). In the present, Elsa (Idina Menzel) begins hearing voices, leading her to the forest where an immense fog has made the way completely impassable. She is joined, of course, by her little sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Kristoff’s loyal reindeer Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad), destined to go down as one of the best supporting comic relief characters in Disney’s long history.

As is the case with nearly all animated sequels (Disney or otherwise), the returning characters are accompanied with some fresh new faces, including Sterling K. Brown ( from This is Us) as a long-time loyal guard to Arendel. Other voice talents include Alfred Molina, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jason Ritter. My favorite new addition was that of a speechless and small (yet powerful) small toad that is befriended by Elsa.

The story is (mostly) solid, and kids can walk away learning about how we all play a part in the grand scheme of things, as well as helping out your friends/family. One thing I regret to say adults will not like is that the songs of this film are not as up to par as those from the original. That is not to say they are totally bad, but I for one did not find myself humming hardly any tunes from this film (unlike the first film, which made “Let it Go” one of the most overplayed songs in the history mankind.)

An example of this would be the song “Into the Unknown”, which is being marketed as the sequel’s “Let it Go”, sung by Menzel’s character Elsa. I recall the first feelings I had when I sat in the theater during the first film and got chills (so to speak) when “Let it Go” was performed. Vibes were sent through me that truly reminded me of Menzel’s true iconic song, “Defying Gravity” (from the musical Wicked). I did not get this sense here and would argue it is not even the best song of the film (I was more into Elsa singing “Show yourself” and Kristoff singing “Lost in the Woods”.) Matters are made even worse when the credits role, and “Into the Unknown” is sung by Panic at the Disco.

Even the solo song by Olaf is rather disappointing. In the first film, we truly believed that his character was certain to be having a future life “In Summer”. Here, he sings about how all things will make sense “When I am Older”. All well and good, but the song seems like the makers just said “Quick, we need a song for Olaf!”, and did not stop to realize it is not part of the story at all.

Parents, this is easily one movie you will probably end up taking your kids to, since I am certain many have been begging there parents for ages about it. There are some dark moments, but nothing most kids can’t handle.

Will kids enjoy Frozen 2? More than likely (at least those under the age of 7 or so). The little girl sitting behind me (around five or six years old) surely did, when she said at one point “I want that dress!”. Parents are another story (though Olaf does give all ages plenty to laugh about). The first film enthralled us with stunning animation, catchy songs, and intriguing new characters. No one would have predicted before the first film came out that it would become the entity it is today, which was mainly due to engaging the imaginations of all ages of the audience (something that Disney is arguably the best at doing in any form of entertainment).

For Frozen 2, the movie does try to go into newer territory, but it did not take as many original risks as the first film. It would have been a better film if it truly did venture into the unknown.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.