The Courier ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Courier – PG-13 – 1 hr 52 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Sunday March 21, 2021
AMC Kent Station 14 – Kent, Washington
14th new movie seen in theater in 2021

In the early 60s, Businessman Greyville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is recruited by MI6 to courier top secret documents from Russia traitor Olen Penkovsky whom he befriends. If the KGB discovers their ruse, it could have deadly consequences. Based on a true story.

Generally, I’m a fan of historical true stories. The early 60s, when JFK was President of the United States was an especially compelling period of time. You could pick at least a half dozen different stories as juicy material. The lesser known ones, like this story, at least to us make good fodder for a movie.

There was good tension in the early part of the film, setting up how dangerous it could be if the KGB discovered they were spies, but it takes a long time to get to any payoff on this threat. The KGB is never realized as anything more than a shadowy police presence. We don’t get to know any real KGB characters, other than very generic bad guy sketches. This ruins some of the suspense because we don’t get a good sense of who to root against. It’s like saying, the boogeyman is there, he’s in the shadows, he’s watching, but we don’t really get more of a sense than that. Missed opportunity.

Another disappointment is the portrayal of Greville’s wife, Sheila Wynne (Jessica Buckley). Again, she’s setup pretty one-dimensional. She’s a wife thinking her husband is cheating on her — again. Yeah, how many times has that story been told? We don’t really learn any more about her background, motivations, other than to be almost a stereotype. It’s unfortunate because more could have been done here.

The last quarter of the movie everything finally happens. Even though we didn’t know the history, it all seemed predictable. My favorite part was when the movie was over and we found out what really happened to everybody involved. Then we left the theater, recorded the video below and I learned more about the real people involved from Wikipedia.

If you want a more suspense-filled drama dealing with Russia and the Cuban missile crisis, there are several available, including one starring Martin Sheen (look it up!). As a businessman everyman turned into somewhat of an unwitting spy this was interesting enough — mostly due to the subject matter, not the telling of it — if that turns your crank, give it a look, but we can’t recommend.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️½ (Kara)

Long Weekend ⭐️⭐️½

Long Weekend – R – 1 hr 31 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday March 11, 2021
AMC Lakewood Mall 12 – Lakewood, Washington
13th new movie seen in theater in 2021

Bart goes on a drinking binge and falls asleep in a movie theater after some bad news. He’s awakened by Vienna who wants to go out and have another drink. She doesn’t have a cell phone and carries around a bunch of cash in her purse and thus begins their brief romance surrounded by where she came from and why.

Since this is no spoiler, we can’t get into what Vienna’s secret origins are, but we find out early in the first act. The second act becomes about whether or not Bart believes her, even reaching out to his best friend. The third act comes to a most predictable conclusion.

Whether or not you like this movie will all come down to Vienna’s secret. We’ve seen too many movies, especially romantic comedies that have used this plot device before. Kara and I discussed this — but again we didn’t spoil it — in our just left the theater review below.

Kara disagreed with me, but I didn’t think Bart and Vienna had that much chemistry. For a romance to work, I need to want the characters to get together. Here I barely cared. They seemed more like drinking, hook up buddies than lovers.

The problem with Vienna’s secret badly impacts the ending. There is a major plot hole exposed that I couldn’t get past involving a bank and safety deposit box. If you decide to see this film, and we’re not recommending to do so, then maybe this plot hole will bother you, too. We’ve talked about how important endings are to films, that a great film finishes strong and a good film can be ruined by a subpar ending, in this case it’s a mediocre romance with a cliched story and an ending with a major logic gap. No, thank you.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️½½ (Kara)

The Father ⭐️½

The Father – R – 1 hr 37 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Thursday March 11, 2021
AMC Lakewood Mall 12 – Lakewood, Washington
12th new movie seen in theater in 2021

Alzheimer’s, Dementia, senility, whichever of these fearsome ills of aging is your nightmare, they are a reality for Antony (Anthony Hopkins).

Will start with the positive. I like when filmmakers show instead of tell. There was a strong attempt to make us feel as disoriented as the protagonist. Unusual and unexpected time, place and sub-character shifts. This is clever at first and quickly becomes frustrating.

We have to be able to understand what is reality and what is not and the reality is exactly what we see: we’re inside Antony’s head — and it’s a scary place. If you’re closer to his age than to youth, anyway.

As always, Anthony Hopkins’ performance is strong. I mean, we’re talking the guy who played Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs opposite Jodie Foster, but he doesn’t have a meaty, coherent story here sadly. Even the great Hopkins can’t save this mangled mess.

We left the theater staving off sleep and boredom in parts of this very slowwwwwwww film.

This was based on a play and that’s where it probably worked better. The sets were minimal, it wasn’t much to look at cinematically, more to feel through the dialogue and character performances. Not enough happens unfortunately given the runtime and it’s too depressing. It’s very artsy, which might appeal in Oscars voting, but there have been much better films in the last year. Not recommended.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️½ (Todd) ⭐️ (Kara)

TV SERIES Review: Star Trek: The Animated Series S2E3 – The Practical Joker ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Season 2
CBS All Access (Original TV network: NBC)
September 21, 1974
Run Time: 24 minutes

Episode 3 – “The Practical Joker”

While on a routine geological mission, studying various asteroids, a trio of Romulan ships attack the Enterprise for crossing into their territory. Captain Kirk orders their escape into a nearby energy storm that shorts out the ship computer and makes it play a bunch of practical jokes on the crew.

Summary

This one has classic adventure, suspense and a little Star Trek humor. Everything a good original series included. The solution is a bit predictable, so took away a little bit from the rating there, but an otherwise enjoyable episode. Some of these stories, especially this one, feel like they would have been better extended a bit.

Episode rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 

Chaos Walking ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Chaos Walking – R – 1 hr 30 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Sunday March 7, 2021
AMC Kent 12 – Kent, Washington
11th new movie seen in theater in 2021

A spaceship crashes on a planet, leaving only a female survivor named Viola. A young farmer finds her named Todd. The men on the planet have their thoughts radiating around them and can be heard and yet the town has no women in it. Todd then tries to secret and Viola “space girl” from the townsfolk.

If you can see this in a theater, like most (all?) sci-fi fantasy films, it helps. There was enough mystery in the storyline to keep me entertained, but this wasn’t Kara’s type of movie. Listen to what she has to say about in our just left the theater below.

Great sound effects. Cinematography was good. The story wasn’t cliched, was a little redundant, but had a little bit of a Planet of The Apes vibe running through it. Runtime was too long, again, due to the redundancy.

I liked this one. It was “different” as Kara stated while we left the theater. When you see as many movies as we do, different is nice and appreciated. Is it that great a movie? No, but the whole idea of men leaking thoughts, while women can suppress theirs is intriguing. They kind of pulled it off, too.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️ (Kara)

Coming 2 America ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Coming 2 America – PG-13 – 1 hr 50 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched on Amazon Prime Video Friday March 5, 2021
Amazon Prime Video – Pierce County, Washington

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return in their late 80s comedy roles. This time Prince Akeem learns he has a bastard son (Jermaine Fowler) and must travel to America to bring him to Zamunda to become heir to the throne. If you’re thinking, hey, that sounds a little like the original movie, you’d be right. Only this time, America isn’t really the central focus, nor is Prince Akeem — which leaves this sequel on thematically shaky ground.

Many people, myself included, feel that Coming To America ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½ is among Eddie Murphy’s finest movies. Tops in comedy along with 48 Hours ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy has had movies that make you cry with laughter down to movies that make you cringe (Pluto Nash) and everywhere in between. Most recently, he’s on the comeback trail, trying to relive his funny non-children friendly movie phase. Dolemite Is My Name ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ was his last comedy, and it was, somewhat surprisingly, a good one.

When I heard they were making a sequel to Coming To America, I was at first a little skeptical. After seeing Dolemite Is My Name, I was more interested and it became one of my most anticipated films of 2020. Alas, we all know what happened to movies in theaters in 2020, most being pushed off to the future and some to streaming instead of in theaters.

I don’t think seeing this movie in theaters versus streaming would have made much difference in the overall experience. It’s not the type of movie that requires a theatrical screening. Most comedies can be enjoyed on streaming equally to the theater and I’m a huge fan of the movie theater experience. Other genres like action, sci-fi and other more cinematic spectacles demand the big screen treatment.

Also, I’m not one that harps on movie ratings in reviews, but here in Eddie Murphy’s career case, ratings do seem to matter — a lot. His film output when it’s rated R is funnier. When critically reviewing comedies, humor is the #1 aspect we analyze. Is it funny? Does it make us laugh? The story can be implausible (they often are), the characters can act unrealistically (many do), just make us laugh out loud.

Eddie Murphy’s R-rated comedies have done that. This one, however, is rated PG-13.

Murphy never should have left R rated movies. Seriously, he is funniest when he doesn’t try to water down his raucous brand of comedy. Coming 2 America is humorous, but not laugh out loud funny. It’s the semi-neutered joke that makes you smile and maybe even chuckle, but it doesn’t make you laugh. Eddie Murphy himself returning as Prince Akeem is older, slower and not the main focus in either jokes or prominence. Wesley Snipes with his role as the opposing kingdom leader is arguably more funny in his minor character role.

The best parts of this are when they pay homage to the original. The scenes which harken back to those hilarious barber shop characters (played by Murphy and Arsenio Hall in 6+ hours of makeup). Even these characters lines aren’t as funny here as they were in the first movie.

One scene callback example that isn’t as funny here as before is when Akeem walks in front of a taxi. In the original film, the taxi driver jumps out and screams a profane name at him. A minute later Akeem asks Semmi what the name meant? That sort of perfectly timed comedic naivete was hilarious. In this movie, a similar scene involves Akeem stopping in front of a Uber/Lyft driver. That guys gets out and tells Akeem he needs to use the app to schedule a pickup — without the profanity and without the follow-up naivete. It’s timely, yes, for 2021, but it isn’t remotely as funny.

Despite shortcomings, I was happy to see Murphy and Hall revisit the original movie. It wasn’t a bad sequel, like so many are, and at times it almost captures the spirit and magic of the first film, but that one is superior comedically and dramatically in so many ways. It’s (too) obvious they wanted to relive former glory instead of telling a story we absolutely needed in 2021. I’m happy we got this, don’t get me wrong, unlike many sequels, but wished it was funnier. This made me smile. Guess that’s enough, but if it had been R-rated and Murphy had let loose, gone more off the hook old school (like he can do when he wants), this would have been funnier.

After watching this — then rewatching a second time just to appreciate some of the more nuanced comedy — I went back to the original film. Parts of that film still made me laugh out loud, despite it being 30+ years old. Great comedy just never dies. Coming 2 America doesn’t have that same staying power feel. Is it worth seeing? Yes, if only to remind how great the original film was and to smile at the appearance of old friends returning.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Todd)

Boogie ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Boogie – R – 1 hr 30 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Thursday March 4, 2021
AMC Lakewood 12 – Lakewood, Washington
10th new movie seen in theater in 2021

Alfred “Boogie” Chin (Taylor Takahashi) is a talented basketball player that transfers to a school where he can face off against the future NBA phenom “Monk” and his team. Boogie must learn to be a team player, despite being the best player on his “trash” team while also navigating through being an Asian man racially stereotyped as unable to play basketball at a high level.

First, the good: this isn’t a typical sports movie. Always enjoy giving points for creativity. Some of the camera shots like the extreme close-ups on the eyes to measure emotions. The run time is good, it doesn’t hang around too long, but with all the different stories. The fact that two actors named Taylor of opposite sex are romantically involved — admittedly, it’s Taylor and Taylour — is one of those odd IMDB facts that make the movie after the fact a little more enjoyable. We were never bored with the film, because there are so many stories in one. It’s like each scene is introducing another layer upon layer. The setup was good.

The payoff? Not so much.

Yes, now, the not so good. It’s multiple types of movies in one and switches between them often too clumsily: 1) a dramatic character coming of age high school getting a college scholarship because we’re poor story, 2) an interracial romance and all the stupid society acceptance conflicts, 3) an underdog basketball team (David vs. Goliath). The worst sin this movie commits is an ending that just doesn’t resolve everything setup. Heck, it doesn’t even resolve enough of the stories. Everything doesn’t have to be resolved, but major plot points sure do.

Without spoiling, since this is a non-spoiler review, and ending isn’t something in a story, it’s everything. You have to tie up the story we spent an hour and a half watching. The payoff needs to be both satisfying and somewhat surprising. If it’s predictable, cliched, stupid or doesn’t resolve the conflicts, it makes us feel like we were ripped off watching.

I know, I know, it’s the artistic ending. The make you think about everything you watched ending. That works with some stories, but not this one. We touched on this a little bit as we left the theater. Again, when we’re talking a non-spoiler review we can’t tell you specifically what we hated about the ending, but neither of us liked that aspect of the film.

As for the rest of the movie? We were entertained and for a date night, sometimes that’s enough at the movies. We probably are being generous giving this three stars, but it had a lot creative potential, but it’s too many stories in one movie, unfortunately. Maybe catch this on the streaming circuit, but it’s not recommended to see in the theater. The reality is there are better basketball movies, better romances and better high school fish out of water socially acceptance movies (Superbad!).

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Kara)

TV SERIES Review: Star Trek: The Animated Series S2E2 – Bem ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Season 2
CBS All Access (Original TV network: NBC)
September 14, 1974
Run Time: 24 minutes

Episode 2 – “Bem”

The Enterprise is on a scouting mission on a planet with some new lifeforms. They have a guest, Commander Bem, an independent observer, assigned to monitor how they handle encounters with new and/or unknown alien species. Bem chooses to beam down to the planet with the landing party against Kirk’s concerns for his safety.

Once down on the planet, Bem separates his body underwater and seizes and replaces the phasers and communicators of the landing party. What is Bem up to? Is he conspiring with the aliens on the planet? Whose side is Bem on? You’ll have to stream in to find out.

Summary

I chuckled when Bem is literally able to rip himself into pieces. This type of episode could only be animated (at least in the 70s) — and I loved it. Both humorous and entertaining. This is like the spirit of the tribbles with a very weird and unusual alien. Somebody was smoking a lot of pot and listening to a bunch of 70s classic rock when they conceived this episode.

Bem Bem? Is this a nod to Bam Bam from The Flinstones?

But is the story any good? It’s crazy creative, that’s for sure. It’s one of the weirder episodes of the entire animated series, so giving it three stars just for the eccentric theme and story. Adding another star because of Commander Bem’s character. He almost deserves his own series, because his unusual race could lend itself to all sorts of odd, imaginative stories.

“How come we always end up like this?” said a caged Captain Kirk. That sums up this episode.

With Paramount+ now in action and the former CBS All Access gone, this is the first episode reviewed under the new banner. I’m bummed thinking there are only 4 more episodes left in the series after this to review. The series only made it a short time and one thing it doesn’t have much time to do is provide any sort of ongoing substories that arc across multiple episodes. These are standalone stories.

Episode rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Land ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Land – PG-13 – 1 hr 29 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday February 26, 2021
AMC Southcenter 16 – Tukwila, Washington
9th new movie seen in theater in 2021

After a tragic personal loss, Edee resigns herself to a remote cabin in the woods where she intends to cut herself literally off from the world. It will be her against herself and nature. She goes against advice and doesn’t even leave herself a vehicle — and then winter and nature sets in.

This story somewhat reminded us in a way of another Nomadland, only in this film mother nature is a cruel adversary, whereas the other film is more about a woman choosing to live in a van and move from city to city in a nomadic lifestyle. Both protagonists seem to want to live alone, but Edee finds loneliness harder to escape. Also, Edee needs help to survive in the wilderness alone. Help to make sure she can eat and stave off the elements and wild animals.

At one point in the story I wanted to yell at Edee for her extreme naivete, her stupidity, rather, for not realizing how harsh the wilderness can be. I mean she thought she could survive in the middle of nowhere in a remote cabin on canned food? She didn’t know how to fish or hunt, she couldn’t even chop her own wood for fire. Come on.

Alas, the main character’s weaknesses and the fact that we don’t really understand why she’s doing this, keeps it entertaining. We want to know what was so bad in her life — besides the loss of her family — that would make her want to give up civilization to live as a hermit in the woods.

So many missed opportunities with sound. There is one scene early on when we think the scary sounds of nature will come into play, but that fear is never played upon again. There’s also an encounter with wildlife that I expected to come up again, but that is yet another scene that doesn’t get any payoff. It’s one thing to show us a conflict, but to never provide any sort of resolution later is frustrating. It’s like, why did they show us this in the story? There were several moments like this in the film.

The run time is not too bad, but if some of the redundant scenes were clipped, maybe 15 more minutes — like how many times cutting wood or going outside and looking at the majestic surroundings do we need? — then this would have improved the pacing.

As we left the theater, Kara and I spoke about the film and how it compared to another film with “land” in the title: Nomadland.

Kara felt this was pretty much a tie with Nomadland for her rating. I thought this was stronger on story and characterization. The cinematography in Nomadland was superior, but I go to movies to be told a story, not primarily watch a cool photoshoot. Yes, I like creative filmography, but I need a good story wrapped around or within it. This one had a stronger story, deeper characterization and invoked deeper emotions.

The downsides are slow pacing, the fact that it takes way too long to understand the main character’s motivations. The conclusion is very good, but by the time we get there, we are somewhat exhausted by what seem like too many unwise decisions. For these reasons, it’s not recommended.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️½ (Kara)

Tom and Jerry ⭐️⭐️½

Tom and Jerry – PG – 1 hr 41 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Friday February 26, 2021
AMC Lakewood Mall 12 – Lakewood, Washington
8th new movie seen in theater in 2021

Tomcat rides into town on a train and then runs into Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) on her bike. Kayla is heading to a job interview at a hotel and decides to steal the resume of a much more qualified applicant. She gets the job and is soon tasked with helping the hotel rid itself of Jerry Mouse so VIP guests Ben and Preeta have their wedding go off without problems. Only, with Tom and Jerry fighting everywhere, that will be no easy task.

Tom and Jerry are like the Road Runner and Wyle E. Coyote cat and mouse combatants. Tom forever wants to catch the much smarter mouse, Jerry. This is one of those live action for everything except animals that are all animated. This is a bit distracting at first, but we get used to it. Also, outputting for me was neither Tom or Jerry speaking, while other animals speak. And then Tom sings at one point? What?

The central wedding story was cliched and tiresome. It was there simply as a vehicle so we could see Tom and Jerry complicate the proceedings. Michael Pena’s character Terrence Mendoza was the hotel’s one-dimensional conniving event manager. His accent seemed forced and phony to me.

Despite a rather large audience, nobody was laughing or even chuckling in the theater. We talked in our just left the theater video that the movie was a little too old for children and too juvenile for adults. It’s in the middle where movies without audiences go to die.

It’s not a bad or good movie. It’s just … there. It’s the type of film families want to take their kids out of the house to see — despite being available on HBO Max — but like noticed upon leaving the fairly decent-sized audience, there were people at the back of the theater on their cell phones. Yeah, that about it sums up the interest.

I hope Space Jam with Lebron James is (a lot) better than this!

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️½ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️½ (Kara)