Soul ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Soul – PG – 1 hr 40 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched on Disney+ Saturday December 26, 2020
Disney+ – Pierce County, Washington

Ironic that Pixar focused on death themes in 2020. Was this accidental or just the way these two films came about?

As the year comes to a close, it almost seems prophetic in hindsight, but we’ll tackle this more momentarily. First, what’s this movie about?

“Joe Gardner, where have you been?”

Band teacher and aspiring jazz musician, Gardner, finally gets the gig he’s been looking for, only to wind up in The Great Before, on the precipice of death. And thus begins Joe’s journey to return his soul to his body so he can live on earth again.

Not sure why Pixar dealt with death in both their films this year. Onward dealt with the aftermath of a dad who had passed on, his surviving children wanting to spend one last moment with him, and this film pokes the same depressing topic from another angle. Both films take a lighter tone to the subject matter, with Soul using music as the primary motivation of life. It’s not about what we have done in life, it’s what we do every day to live, what we can do — a not so subtle message that depression is in the mind, not in the soul.

Death isn’t a subject that animated movies target often. This one seems more for adults, or older children anyway, hence the rating, than Onward, one of the last two movies we saw in theaters in March 2020 before the pandemic first shut down theaters.

Kara preferred Onward over this one, but I liked this one better. However, she didn’t see all of it undistracted, as we watched part of this on Christmas morning, then went to celebrate Christmas with our children and grandchildren and watched the rest as background. I rewatched again completely today, Saturday 12/26/20. This is why I didn’t include a rating score for Kara below, because she really hasn’t seen the entire movie. I think she might enjoy it more if she watched the last third of the film undisturbed.

(Sidenote: this is the problem with streaming films at home. You are much more prone to distractions than in theaters. Not saying there can’t be distractions in theaters also, but a home environment can have more)

Typical Pixar attention to animation quality and design. Have mentioned in other reviews how much I like Pixar animation, it just has a certain signature quality to it. Their stories are often clever and original. Death has been, pardon the pun, done to death, and yet this story that blends a music teacher’s journey to playing the piano feels more alive than it should.

I was reminded in parts of the live action movie, Heaven Can Wait ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (see: Heavenly Movies – Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait). No idea if that formed any sort of inspiration for the filmmakers, but at times I felt like I was seeing an animated version of Warren Beatty wanting to get back into his body. That is a great part of the tension and what maintains viewer interest: can Joe get back to his body?

Joe Pendleton was the name of the main character in Heaven Can Wait. He played the clarinet — badly and was taken from life suddenly in a tunnel biking accident. Joe Gardner in Soul plays piano wonderfully and needs to “watch his step”, but must find the spark of life to be able to return as he mentors Number 22 (interesting number, to say the least). Is this all just creative coincidence?

The Great Before in Soul re-realized as a Way Station in Heaven Can Wait (1978)?

Anyway, good story, even if it was a copy of sorts of prior stories. In some sense, the best stories have already been told and new, great plots are going to be at least some combinations of past plotlines and characters put together in seemingly fresh ways. I would encourage anybody who has seen Soul and not seen Heaven Can Wait to go back and watch that movie. There are numerous comparisons that can be made about The Great Before, Soul and this movie that made me take away a star because it just wasn’t as inventive as I wanted it to be.

That said, Soul is good fun and well worth seeing. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you feeling good when you’re done watching and who can ever tire of those films? The subject matter is dark, yes, perhaps the reason it earned a PG rating, but the way it’s handled is good-natured.

It’s one of the better films put out in 2020, a year that has been far too much about doom and gloom. It’s nice to escape into this animated world, if only for an hour and a half. Recommended.

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

FIRST LOOK: Project Power – Netflix

If you could take a pill and have superhero powers for five minutes, but have a risk of dying, would you do it? That’s a no for me. I don’t need to be invisible or bulletproof.

Ok, maybe I’d take the pill to be able to fly for 5 minutes if the death risk was very, very, very low. I mean, it would be cool to soar like a bird, high up in the sky … if only for a few minutes.

This is the story hook for the new Jamie Foxx movie on Netflix called, Project Power.

Art, an ex-serviceman with a “personal vendetta” who lives in a world where it is possible to take a pill that will give the user super powers for five minutes, including invisibility or becoming bullet proof – but which also comes with a risk of death. Art join forces with a teenaged drug dealer played by Dominique Fishback and a police officer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as they attempt to put a stop to the pill’s creators.

Project Power release date | Netflix, trailer, cast – Radio Times

Official trailer:

Project Power looks like a lot of fun … great premise, solid lead actor, superheroes — sign me up!

Would you take the superhero pill? If so, for what power?

Project Power will be streaming on Netflix on August 14, 2020.

31+ Just Mercy Reviews – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Cites Difference Between Black and White Legal Dramas

Just Mercy ⭐️⭐️½

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar NBA star, actor and writer, too? Yes, it’s true, and he’s writing about the new in theater anti-death penalty movie.

Before continuing, there are SPOILERS in this post. You might want to see the movie first before proceeding.

… you have been warned SPOILERS ahead …

Now, onto Jabbar’s commentary:

…is a riveting, infuriating and inspiring story that focuses on three black men on death row, two of whom are innocent of any crime and a third who, if he were white, never would have received the death penalty. While the movie details how race led to their wrongful but inevitable conviction, it also warns of the dangers and inadequacies of capital punishment. The overwhelming case against capital punishment is so well documented, it’s shocking that 29 states still use it. The death penalty costs more than life without possibility of parole, it executes innocent people, it’s racist in application, it’s not a deterrent to other murderers, and so forth.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: ‘Just Mercy’ and the Difference Between Black and White Legal Dramas | Hollywood Reporter

Jabbar is using this movie for a screed on capital punishment. As much as I’d like to take that bait, I’m going to stick to the critiquing the movie itself in this post and how it dealt with the topic.

The legal system is put in a very bad light in this system, but when you have racist cops with an agenda, the system is tainted by the “evidence” used for prosecution..This is a fairly common theme in movies that we’ve seen before.

I thought the source material was very good, extremely compelling, but didn’t recommend the movie because of how it was relayed to the viewer. There have been better legal dramas dealing with racism, most notably A Time to Kill by John Grisham featuring Samuel L. Jackson who murders two racist in the south and is on trial for murder. That isn’t a true story like the one portrayed in Just Mercy, but it is considerably more entertaining.

Brian Banks is better, too

One of the very first new movie we saw after becoming Regal Unlimited Pass subscribers was Brian Banks⭐️⭐️⭐️½ which dealt with a black football player wrongly accused of rape and how he struggles to clear his name in an unwieldy and largely unwelcoming legal system. There are definite parallels with how the legal morass is navigated. This is a stronger and better told story. 


Maybe another death row convict’s story will be told in a future movie that better deals with the subject matter. The actors did a good job with what they had to work with. I’m a fan of both Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan and they should be proud of their work in this film.

Reviews by Others

Let’s find out what other moviegoers think of Just Mercy?


  1. Bill/I Actually Paid To See This (Grade: B): ” Like a lot of historical films, the crux is the journey in getting to the known destination. In that respect, this is pretty by-the-numbers. You get stories, flashbacks, setbacks, a second act climax that is meant to leave you wondering if there’s any hope, and then eventually the resolution everyone pretty much knew was coming.”
  2. Bouquets & Brickbats (3.9/5): ” It’s a pity, perhaps, that Cretton has opted for such an understated style: more anger, more excoriation, more subtlety in the depiction of the establishment, might have elevated this to a big-hitter, conveying its vital message to a wider audience. As it is, its an important piece of work, but probably destined to be viewed by relatively few. “
  3. Dana Simone/Runpee (Grade: A): “…a good dramatic story deserving a solid A, illustrating why we should always do the right thing for the right reasons.”
  4. Far from Rome: “The film is a powerful indictment of our criminal justice system and how it is weaponized against blacks. Jordan has a courtroom moment that rivals anything of the great Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It just might give you goosebumps, and it belongs on his actor reel for this awards season.”
  5. High Contrast: “I hope Just Mercy continues to gain steam at the box office and find a huge audience in theaters, on disc and on streaming platforms. This is not a movie that should be missed by anyone.”
  6. Island Movie Blogs (8.5/10): “…is a wonderfully acted movie, that makes a really compelling argument about the death penalty, but doesn’t exactly get into the rarified air it wants to be in.”
  7. Jeff Huston (3/4): “Competently done, with genuine sincerity and moral weight, Just Mercy ultimately transcends the familiar, simplistic melodrama this telling often resorts to. It may be Oscar bait, but it’s worth taking.”
  8. Keith & The Movies (4/5): “The movie doesn’t feel particularly fresh or new but it’s unwavering in its honesty and dedication to its characters (with the exception is Larson’s Eva who is terribly underdeveloped). And I can already hear some criticizing it for not being “angry enough”.”
  9. M.A Kleen: “I think it’s refreshing for a movie of this caliber to stick so closely to the facts. You don’t need Hollywood revisionism to tell a compelling story about racial injustice in America. I’m glad they got this one right.”
  10. Major Film Reviews: “Apart from a few pacing issues in the middle, this film is an engrossing, and at times harrowing look at the failings of the American justice system, portrayed by brilliantly talented actors, and shot with conviction. A very enjoyable film, with a memorable and deeply moving message at its heart,”
  11. Martin: Through The Silver Screen (Grade: A+): “With a trio of fantastic performances at its centre, and an emotionally charged story packed with an urgent, powerful message that must be heard the world over.”
  12. MATINEE CHAT With Kathy Kaiser: “Powerful, moving, and yes, it brought me to tears… Just Mercy is one of those incredible films that you just have to see, to believe.”
  13. Movie Man Jackson / MMJ (Grade: B): “…delivers a sound and intriguing analysis of the validity of the death penalty. Does a just world exist? Maybe, maybe not,”
  14. Movie Reviews From The Dark: “…it’s Mr. Foxx who excels here. He conveys the feelings of resignation that the man has for his situation … a situation so beyond his control, and one that he understands is biased against him.”
  15. Movie Warrior (4/5): “…is executed brilliantly. The movie is understated while getting to the point. Things do get a bit emotional but that is expected given the subject matter.”
  16. Music Movies Thoughts / Thomasena: “Tragic and triumphant, relevant and rousing, Just Mercy is a timely film that offers the viewer an education as much as it serves as a call to action.”
  17. Nic Mahood: “…is horrible, it’s an awful story, it disgusted me, but it’s an amazing film, and I hope everyone leaves the cinema as uncomfortable and angry as I did. A difficult watch as I call it.”
  18. Often Off Topic (3.5/5): “As powerful as the story is (I cried more than once) it still felt quite dry in places, and it’s at least 20 minutes too long, although I don’t know where I would cut parts out.”
  19. Rae’s Reads & Reviews: “I got to go see an advanced screening of Just Mercy starring (my future husband) Michael B. Jordan. Must I say, this movie is a must-see! It was so good!”
  20. Roger In Orlando / Movie Nation (3/4): ““Prejudiced,” as evidenced by the behavior — personal, official and legal — in this case and many others like it, is what “Just Mercy” sees as instructive. Break down the word. “Prejudiced” implies “pre-judged,” which is the curse of our legal system — under partisan assault, courts stuffed with judged deemed “unqualified” but fitting the racial and political agenda of those doing the appointing.”
  21. Screen Zealots / Louisa: (3/5): “There’s a compelling enough courtroom drama that’s drawn out near the end, which is mostly disappointing because it makes the movie feel too long. Something with more succinct would leave a greater impact, at least with holding the audience’s attention.”
  22. Thoryn A B Gittos (7.4/10): “I encourage all to take the opportunity to see this film upon it’s release if only to shed light on some of the harrowing statistics around people sent to death row under false pretences.”
  23. Tom E./Plain Simple Tom Reviews (4/5): “An emotionally rousing and all too relevant true-life story with effective direction, great writing, and strong performances from Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.”
  24. Writer of Pop: “Stevenson is a devout Christian and his faith is likely a huge motive for doing what he does. But with the exception of a few brief mentions, his faith is never really shown in this film. Even so, this is movie not to be missed.”

Not Recommended (or undecided)

  1. C.C Saunder / Whispers of a Womanist: “So while I commend the brilliant performances delivered by the film’s leading and supporting black cast, Just Mercy, remains among the plethora of films that mutate the black archive in a merciless portrayal of men made mules by a white supremacist manifold.”
  2. Festival Reviews (3/5): “…over dramatizes a real true life event in the typical Hollywood style.  Those looking for a feel-good history lesson might enjoy this, but this film is no TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.”
  3. Jill / Drinks With Film (3/5): “Michael B Jordan portrays Stevenson as a noble, caring young man on a crusade. Sadly, the heavy-handed musical score and polished speeches lend the film a preaching-to-the-choir feel. The film is saved by Foxx’s strong performance and that of his fellow inmate, Morgan (Herbert Richardson)”
  4. Josh Board (2.5/5): “Overall, the movie is interesting enough to watch. It’s a bit heavy-handed and formulaic, and comes off as a Lifetime movie. It’s basically Oscar bait.”
  5. Josh Lasser / The TV & Film Guy’s Reviews (2.5/5): “…fails where it most wants to succeed. It does well telling the story of one conviction being overturned; of one injustice rectified. What it wants to do is tell how the world was changed, how the system was fixed, but it doesn’t come close to approaching that issue.  Instead, it simply offers a declaration of near victory.   That just isn’t enough.”
  6. Let the movie move us: “It just was not strong enough for me to process the whole story as someone who is interested in capital punishment and believes there are more stories like this that must be told.”
  7. Nick Kush / Moviebabble: “…it never has faith in its audience to pull meaning from what is a clearly defined story of pervasive injustice.”
  8. Phil The Bear’s Film Reviews: ” is the quintessential awards season film. It features powerful performances on a subject matter that is thought provoking and of course is based on a true story. We have seen this all before but that doesn’t stop it being an entertaining and emotional journey.”

Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quote from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.

FIRST LOOK: Just Mercy

Do you know who death row convict Walter McMillan is?

I don’t. And am resisting the urge to read the Wikipedia page and spoil the surprise and momentum for the upcoming film Just Mercy.

The only reason I know he’s a death row convict is because of the trailer and courtroom drama in the trailer (see below).

The article linked in the quote is relatively safe from spoilers save for one sentence I now can’t erase from my memory. So, maybe don’t follow that link unless you already know more about Walter McMillan.

In the article, Foxx explains how he got into McMillan’s character.

Foxx also told the roundtable that his biggest challenge in preparing for the role was developing an Alabama accent. The Texas-born actor has played a number of roles based on Southern men, including Grammy award-winning musician Ray Charles in the movie “Ray,” a portrayal that garnered him the Academy Award for “Best Actor” in 2005. But Foxx says the most difficult part in replicating McMillian’s voice was crafting a vernacular and pitch that would sound authentic and not like a caricature.

Watch Jamie Foxx talk about preparing to portray Walter McMillian in ‘Just Mercy’ –

I’m a big fan of Jamie Foxx. Great actor and going into this, I’m already excited with his name associated with the film. Michael B. Jordan plays his attorney and he’s a little typed in my mind, I just see him as Apollo Creed’s boxing son. Admittedly, I can and will get past his role there, but whenever I see his face, it reminda me of Creed.

Just Mercy official trailer

Just Mercy opens wide in theaters December 25, 2019.