5 Stars Movies

Psycho (1960)

It was a spine tingling time as a 13 year old on a Tuesday in June of 2001.

The American Film Institute was revealing their annual Top 100 list that they would do every year. That year’s was entitled 100 Years, 100 Thrills. As the countdown was concluding, I had made a $5 bet with my dad (the most I could afford at that time) over which would be number one. He was going with Jaws, while I was rooting for Psycho. By the end, Jaws was number 2, and I had won five dollars, bragging for some time afterwards.

5 Stars Movies

The 400 Blows (1959)

In the 1938 film biographical drama Boys Town, we learned how Father Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) set up an orphanage for young boys, living by the code that there was “no such thing as a bad boy”. 

If only he had met young Antoine Doinel, the subject of The 400 Blows.

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.

5 Stars Movies

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

It goes without saying that the title of a film is rather crucial to reeling in an audience. Awkward examples include 1991’s Highlander 2: The Quickening (though I have heard the title is far from the only problem with the film), 1995’s To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, and 1996’s Don’t be a menace to South Central while drinking your juice in the hood (a title that wowed me in my youth, though, like the other mentioned films, I have not seen it). There can be some that work (no other title is more everlasting than the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop worrying and love the bomb from 1964), but it is up to the audience member to decide if they will let the title make or break the film going experience, which leads us to The Peanut Butter Falcon, one of the year’s best films. I won’t spoil what the title implies, for the less you know about the film, the better (I would not blame you at all if you stopped reading and came back after you saw the film).

Directed by Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, the film takes place in modern day as we meet Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with down syndrome who has been living at a nursing home because he has no immediate family. He dreams of attending a school to learn professional wrestling as taught by his hero, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), but is unable to despite many escape attempts. Eventually, he is able to get away, only to come across a fisherman/outlaw named Tyler (Shia Lebeouf), on the run from rival fisherman Duncan (John Hawkes). Meanwhile, one of the nursing home staff Eleanore (Dakota Johnson) has been tasked to find Zak.

For a small movie (which is not a bad thing), there are a sizable amount of talented actors. Aside from those formentioned, small parts are filled by the always adept Bruce Dern as one of Zak’s nursing home friends, Jon Bernthal as Tyler’s deceased brother (shown in flashback), and minor roles from former wrestling stars Mick Foley (“Mankind”) and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The mention of the last two gives me promise that some who are in the WWE will be able to see the film.

Despite all the star power of the film, the core of the film’s energy belongs to the relationship of Tyler and Zak. As they set off on a modern day Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn type of journey, the unlikely bond becomes humorous, heartfelt, potent, and true. There is a moment where Zak states that, when he reaches the pro circuit of wrestling, he will be a “bad guy”. Tyler then explains Zak does not need to be the bad guy, and….well, the movie explains it better than I can, but expect to be floored with a lot of positive emotion.

About ten or so minutes of screentime made me realize I have been too hard on Shia Lebeouf over the years (I know I am not alone). Despite what goes on in his personal life, he proves here he is one rather talented individual, giving one of his better performances of his career. The same can also be said for Dakota Johnson. Though she had a small part in The Social Network (2010), I have not seen her in any other film until this one (I have not seen any of the Fifty Shades films, and never plan on it). She is proof that actors are best able to shine when given the right material. Still, it is Zack Gottsagen (who does have down syndrome in real life) who steals the scenes he is in.

Parents, the film is rated PG-13, mainly for swearing and some violence (though there is no sexuality, there are scenes where Zak is in nothing but his underwear at the beginning). Still, I would think middle schoolers and above would be okay seeing the film, and would argue they should.

Of all the things The Peanut Butter Falcon exudes the most is a spry charm that I have not felt for some time at the theater. I will put it simply: Give the movie a chance, or you are no longer invited to my birthday party.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

4 Stars Movies

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

For those who are suffering from film fatigue of the superhero genre, you can at least rest a little easy knowing that Spider-Man: Far from Home (the ending of Phase Three of the MCU) is the last we will see for at least a year. For those who are fans (such as yours truly), it is another (somewhat) solid entry into the MCU, and an even deeper dive into the world of Spider-Man.

Taking place just months after Avengers: Endgame (meaning if you have not seen it, stop reading now, because it is impossible to review this film without talking about the fall out of Endgame), Peter Parker (Tom Holland, proving again he is the best Spidey to date) returns to high school after the reverse of Thanos’s snap (called the “blip”) from five years ago. While Peter and many of his classmates did return, those that stayed still aged five years older. He still tries to be the “friendly neighborhood” webslinger, but is soon thrown into the position of having to fill the shoes of his late mentor (and father figure) Tony Stark/Iron Man. This is apparent as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to call Parker, only to be ghosted (“You don’t ghost Nick Fury!”) It also does not help that his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is starting a budding romance with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). In short, Peter is in desperate need of a vacation.

 He is on his way for a class trip to Venice, where he looks forward to hanging out with his buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon), and may even get to spend time with his crush M.J. (Zendaya), who has a bit of a slightly darker/awkward side than her past cinema portrayals. This of course is put on the side when big water and fire monsters (called Elementals) are terrorizing the locals, meaning Peter will have to join in with Fury, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and the one fighting the monsters from the start, Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), who becomes known as Mysterio.

All the actors are top notch. Gyllenhaal (who I still think is underrated as an actor) works off of the younger Holland, and there are times it is hard to tell who is the veteran thespian. As for Zendaya, I admit I was very worried when I heard she would take on the role of M.J. (though not entirely Mary Jane, she may as well be). The chemistry between her and Holland is so palpable that I admit to being totally wrong. While they are not teenagers in real life (both are in their early twenties), they look, sound, and act like actual teenagers that we don’t care.

As is always the case, the film has enough of those nicely seasoned comedic moments that will have you in smiles and giggles (such as the acronym for the gift that Stark has given Parker). It is also rather amusing to know that, at the start, Peter is somewhat almost oblivious to the fact that he can’t get out of helping Fury. It some ways in reminded me of Proverbs 16:9: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

(Note: The following paragraph contains a spoiler for the film). [bg_collapse view=”button-blue” color=”#ebebeb” icon=”eye” expand_text=”Show Me the Spoiler” collapse_text=”Close the Spoiler” ] The movie also reminds us how we as humans can sometimes trust the wrong person. When we are vulnerable (especially if we have just lost someone close to us as Peter has lost Tony), we can look for nearly anyone who can fill that void, or for someone to share our burden with. While God would certainly be able to provide that person for us, Satan will do all he can to make us follow the wrong person, making our situation end in chaos. (End Spoiler)[/bg_collapse]

Parents, the film does have a little violence and some good amount of swearing (including one use of the middle finger), but nothing else to worry you. If your kids have seen any other MCU movie, they will be okay with this PG-13 rating.

While this is not the best of the Spider-Man films (2004’s Spider-Man 2 was always the best until 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse came along), it still does service for fans and non-fans alike. While watching it, the theater was sold out (unsurprising), meaning I had to sit in the front row (not to mention next to young teen girls, and if you are sitting next to teen girls when the movie has Tom Holland, you can be sure to hear their reactions). The special effects were so uncanny I actually was happy to sit as close as I did. The film will satisfy everyone’s inner spider- sense.

Or, to be more accurate, “Peter tingle”.


Rating: 4 out of 5.
2 Stars Movies

Yesterday (2019)

From what I remember, I was about 9 or 10 when my dad introduced me to the Beatles, easily his favorite band (though I think Bread was a close second). The first song I remember hearing was “I want to hold your hand”, and then my world of music was never the same again. This is what would start me out on listening to other “oldies” of the 1960s and 1970s. Even those who don’t like The Beatles cannot deny the influence they have had on music, putting them right on the list of names like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Elvis. The love of the fab four from Liverpool is clearly evident in the movie Yesterday, but its brain is not.

The premise is well known by now: Struggling solo musician Jack Malik (relative newcomer Himesh Patel), once a former teacher and now working part time at a local factory, is about to hang up his guitar strings for good, having only his manager/life long friend Ellie (the always charming Lily James) as his main supporter (even his parents seem hesitant on his musical career). All this changes one night when, as he is riding his bike home, there is a mysterious power surge all over the world that lasts for twelve seconds. This also happens right at the time Jack is hit by a bus, knocking out his two front teeth in the process.

Eventually, he realizes he is the only person left alive who remembers any songs from John, Paul, George, and Ringo (his google searches lead him straight to Beetles and Pope John Paul). While he has some struggle remembering certain song lyrics (mainly Eleanor Rigby), he finds he can become famous by passing the songs as his own (and does a good job of singing them in the process). He becomes so well respected that Ed Sheeran (as himself) says that Jack is Mozart and he is Salieri.

One of the things of the film I was not expecting was that the Beatles would not be the only thing that people have forgotten about. I won’t spoil what they are, but they seemed really superfluous to the film other than some laughs and a product placement (one of the absences would be even more impactful than the absence of The Beatles, without question). Another flaw is the character of Debra, Jack’s new manager. She is played by Kate McKinnon. This is a character that felt totally out of place and even somewhat annoying, going for total schtick. This is in no way a negative take on McKinnon (who has done wonderful work on SNL.)

Parents, the movie is a very soft PG-13. There is swearing, but very little violence (just the aftermath of Jack’s accident). There is also mild suggestive material, but it does not get past lots of kissing. I would think that mature middle schoolers and up are okay.

One thing the movie does get right is the zeal that Jack has for the Beatles (such as his reaction to Ed trying to change the name of “Hey Jude”). Sure, he can use the money, but at the core of it all he is trying to make sure people here songs from the most influential band of all time. This got me thinking: What if I got up one day, and somehow found myself to be the only person alive who has heard about Jesus Christ? While I would assume my first reaction would be utter shock, how would I get his message across? How much fervor would be behind it? Even now, when not alone in knowing the name of Christ (who the Beatles did say they were more popular than at one point), how much joy do I have in proclaiming his name to all?

Yesterday was written by Richard Curtis (who wrote 2003’s wonderful all star cast rom-com Love Actually), and was directed by the very talented Danny Boyle (who won an Oscar for his 2008 capraesque like Slumdog Millionaire). Their work on Yesterday, though well intended, falls short of their previous works, as well as other films revolving around The Beatles such as the underrated Across the Universe (2007) and (perhaps the best of the fab four flicks) A Hard Day’s Night (1964). As a relatively loyal fan of the band, I will stick with those films and the original tracks.

Ob-La-di, Ob-La-Da. Life still goes on.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

3 Stars Movies

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

The book of Revelation crossed my mind a good amount while watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. One verse I did not expect to think of was in chapter 3, when Jesus is talking to the church in Laodicia.

“So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” _ Revelation 3:16.

The reason for this is simple: I have not been this “lukewarm” about how I feel over a movie in sometime. In the end, I have to choose a side, and that side is on the positive…barely.

Set five years after the previous movie, we meet Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who has been trying to find out how to make the titans less vicious (I think, I admit I am not sure) after losing her son Andrew in the events five years ago.. Along with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, aka Eleven from Stranger Things), she is soon kidnapped by the (over the top) evil Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who is dead set on being eco friendly. Her ex husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) teams up with a team of doctors from the first film (played again by Oscar nominees Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) as well as new faces such as Bradley Whitford and Ziyi Zhang. There is conflict over which of the titans are here to help us (such as Godzilla) or destroy us (newcomers such as Rodan, Mothra, and Monster Zero, better known as King Ghidorah).

The human drama does tend to take away from the film, though none of the actors can be at fault. Grizzled faced vets don’t get played much better than Kyle Chandler, and if you need a girl who is quick witted, smart, and capable of emotion in the blink of an eye, then look no further then MMB. The drama involves whether or not to let the titans battle it out, or have humans put an end to it (with help from the military, of course).

All of that is sheer background to the real reason we see these movies: all out monster mashing. Since the 1998 version of Godzilla (a film some friends of mine still like for reasons I may never understand), the battle sequences have always seemed to be in the dark rain, obscuring the visuals. That is a shame, because the 2014 version showed some rather impressive visuals (regardless of the weather situations), and this film is just as fun to look at.

Parents, the film is fine for anyone who has seen a modern monster movie before. The only thing to mention is there is some good amount of swearing, but nothing worse than the PG-13 rating allows. Middle school and up is totally fine.

Going back to the book of Revelation, it is clear that the return of Jesus will come. It will be an event that will be like no other. We humans can either try to prevent it (which would be foolish to say the least), or just leave it up to God to fix it all. The same goes with Godzilla, as his movies have shown that they tend to work the best when pesky humans are not in the spotlight.

Note: The next matchup scheduled for Godzilla is King Kong. As someone who watched the 1960s version of the matchup many times as a kid. I am stoked for the remake, and have my choice picked out regardless of the odds.


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

Dumbo (2019)

Even though it is one of the shortest of Disney’s animated films, the original Dumbo from 1941 is still an ideal choice as a beginner Disney film for children, when we all are still very close to our mothers. The same cannot be said for the remake of Dumbo, which, while I am sure is well-intended, is nothing short of a disappointing failure.

Directed by Tim Burton, we start off the film in Sarasota Florida (not sure why we need to know the exact location) in 1919. A year after many of the circus performers have died due to the influenza outbreak, we see Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), returning from the war (after having lost his arm) to his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins). He is not the best at knowing how to talk to his children like his wife was (she was one of the influenza victims). Despite being with only one arm, he is eager to be back as the circus horse rider, but finds out that his boss Max Medici (Danny Devito, who is pitch perfect) has sold the horses due to money issues. He assigns Holt to taking care of his newest investment, a female elephant named Jumbo, soon to be having a baby.

The first half of the film is basically the story from the original film, as Jumbo Jr. (soon to be called Dumbo) is separated from his mother after a mishap, then later discovers his ears are the perfect set of wings. The second half introduces us to V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), the owner of a more futuristic theme park called Dreamland, along with his somewhat flame and muse Colette (Eva Green), who is set to fly atop Dumbo.

The second half is filled with the visuals we would expect in a Burton film. Yes, some are fun to look at (there is a segment dedicated to the Pink Elephants that I am happy to say was not one of the film’s many down points), but it was the parts of the story that seemed too much for the audience to handle (regardless of age). The second half also provides a cameo from a pop culture figure (whom I have always admired) that makes you want to just shout out “Wait,…WHAT?!”, and not in a good way.

The film does have plenty of nods to the original (though the controversial crows are not present), but (aside from the aforementioned Pink Elephants), very few succeed. The original Dumbo (if you think I have said that word too often, wait till you hear how many times they do in the film) had one of the more tender, heartbreaking moments in Disney history with the song “Baby Mine.” Here, the song seems like it was tacked on with very little thought or heart to it.

Parents, your kids would be fine seeing this, though I would highly encourage they see the far superior original first.

As always, this is a Disney film that has lessons for kids (as well as adults), most notably how our weakness can also be our strength (Psalm 18:28, 2 Corinthians 12:10). The issue (at least for me) is that this was already told nearly eight decades ago in the animated film. Dumbo is the first of three live action remakes to be released in 2019 (the others being Aladdin and The Lion King). While some of the past remakes were at least somewhat enjoyable, I have yet to see a single live action remake of a Disney animated classic that can even be close to comparing to the original. If that does happen, then I be done seen about everything.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5.