A Christmas Mystery and Holiday Harmony (2022)

When her best friend’s dad is falsely accused of stealing the town’s prized jingle bells, a young amateur sleuth and her friends must find the real thief before Christmas.

I definitely think A Christmas Mystery is a lot better than it could have been, as there are a few things to like about it the standout being Violet McGraw who gives a very delightful performance. She easily steals every single scene she’s in and is even able to carry the movie on her own pretty well, the rest of the cast do a fine enough job, unfortunately what does hold this movie back is it’s way too predictable. While yes it is a kids movie and does play out like a kids mystery movie that really doesn’t change how it’s very predictable and the viewer could easily figure out who stole the bells within the first 20 minutes or so, there just isn’t enough mystery to it and the cast of characters truly make it a bit too obvious who did the crime. Having that said it’s a very non-offensive kids movie that I think kids will enjoy, it’s forgettable but it’s definitely one of the better Christmas movies to come out so far this year (although that’s not saying much).

A Christmas Mystery is available on HBO Max

4/10 D+

With just two weeks to get to the iHeartRadio Christmas Eve performance of her dreams, singer/songwriter Gail takes on a group of misfit kids hoping to perform in a Christmas Eve gala of their own.

Holiday Harmony is like if you took any Hallmark Christmas movie and mixed it with a bad fanfiction on Wattpad, outside of Annelise Cepero who gives a decent enough performance and actually has a decent singing voice. The rest of the movie is way too predictable and is the very definition of a Hallmark Christmas movie, including bad writing, terrible pacing, nonsensical story beats and way too drawn out. I think the most surprising thing about this is it’s a HBO Max original, before this I can’t really think of an original from HBO Max that felt like something from the Hallmark channel but I guess nobody is safe. The movie is also a huge product placement for iHeart Radio even when it hurts Gail’s (Annelise Cepero) music label the movie still remains positive to iHeart Radio which completely takes the viewer out of the movie. The movie ends exactly how you expect it to, there’s definitely some cute moments but those appear during the third act which is around the time someone might turn this off. It’s definitely not the worst Christmas movie out there but it is one of the most forgettable.

Holiday Harmony is available on HBO Max

3/10 D-

God’s Creatures an atmospheric film with strong performances.

A mother tells a lie for her beloved son that rips apart their family and close-knit Irish town — ultimately testing her own sense of right and wrong.

God’s Creatures is definitely an interesting one that I’m not even 100% sure how I feel about it exactly. On one hand there’s some really solid performances from Emily Watson and Paul Mescal who both give raw performances that completely keep the movie going, the cinematography is spectacular combined with the dark and dreary atmosphere that all compliment the film quite well. On the other hand you have a very slow first act that takes way too long to get going and only picks up during the second act when events start to unfold and you have writing that while it’s not anything bad (far from it) there wasn’t exactly so much power to it outside of a handful of scenes. The movie does grab the viewer’s attention with the second act as the performances and atmosphere really start to kick in, there’s a lot of detail with the filming and makes the viewer look around for clues as to what exactly is happening. God’s Creatures might not be one of the best films of the year but it is one that I can see some people really loving!

God’s Creatures is available on all VOD platforms.

7/10 B

My Policeman falls short.

Tom, a policeman in 1950s Britain, falls in love with a schoolteacher on the Brighton coast. However, he soon begins a passionate same-sex affair with a museum curator, in spite of homosexuality being illegal.

The unfortunate thing about My Policeman is that there is a good movie here the issue is a lot of the decision making that went into it, I like the idea of switching back and forth between the younger and older versions of the characters especially given the subject matter it could lead into something very touching and memorable. One of the biggest issues with My Policeman is how very uneven it really is, while the older cast such as Linus Roache, Rupert Everett and Gina McKee are really solid and deliver some very touching moments the younger side completely fails to leave an impression on the viewer Emma Corrin and David Dawson aren’t particularly bad but the writing just does not give them anywhere near the amount of power as the older cast. Harry Styles is just not great here, the chemistry between him and Dawson isn’t anything special the same can be said with the chemistry between Styles and Corrin it’s charming at first but as the movie goes on it starts to really lose it’s charm due to repetition. Another main issue is the movie really doesn’t allow the viewer to think of how they feel, it’s sort of like a set of cue cards the movie tells the audience to feel depressed when sad music plus more darker filming is shown rather than let the audience digest a scene by it’s own. There’s some decent moments here particularly with Linus Roache, Rupert Everett and Gina McKee but a lot of this is just very forgettable that doesn’t fully dive into a lot of themes that would have been very interesting.

My Policeman is available on Amazon Prime Video.

4/10 D+

The Other Tom has it’s heart in the right place but ultimately misses with it’s messaging.

A single mother and her 9-year-old son are living in the U.S. by themselves and relying on a thin public safety net to survive. When the boy is hastily diagnosed with ADHD, their fraught bond is pushed to its limit.

I definitely think there is a conversation to be had about the message The Other Tom is trying to say, a conversation about over doing medication for kids and how kids with ADHD are treated. However what hurts the movie is the way the movie goes about telling it, unfortunately it does feel like a PSA in some areas especially with some of the acting. Julia Chavez definitely gives it her all and at times delivers a genuinely touching performance while others are nowhere near as strong. A huge issue here is while the movie does claim that it’s sympathetic to households with kids with ADHD and while it does show some sympathy it’s done In a way that doesn’t really offer any solutions. Especially when it comes to the movie tackling over-medicating kids, it mainly says “over-medicating bad” and does nothing else to explain or show any solutions. The other issue is the movie tends to be very overwritten with a lot of melodrama thrown in, a lot of said drama is very irrelevant to the story and could have easily been left out and nothing would have changed. I definitely think The Other Tom has it’s heart in the right place but unfortunately goes about telling the story in a very dull way that isn’t particularly memorable.

The Other Tom is available on all VOD platforms.

4/10 D+

The Banshees Of Inisherin is a film filled with powerhouse crafting and talent.

On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, Pádraic is devastated when his buddy Colm suddenly puts an end to their lifelong friendship. With help from his sister and a troubled young islander, Pádraic sets out to repair the damaged relationship by any means necessary. However, as Colm’s resolve only strengthens, he soon delivers an ultimatum that leads to shocking consequences.

The Banshees Of Inisherin has so many layers to it that I truly did not expect, it’s directed by Martin McDonagh (director of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths) who does a masterful job here. Instantly when the film starts you already sense a unique type of atmosphere it’s dark but at the same time very humorous as well which you easily see why that’s the case as the film goes on. The set up is quite simple Padraic (Colin Ferrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) use to be great friends until one day Colm decided not to be friends anymore due to Padraic being “dull” so now Padraic keeps trying to talk to Colm and find out why they aren’t friends. it takes that setup and truly goes pretty meaningful and deep with it. With some symbolism and character study of the characters, plus the town they live in as well. The acting here is tremendous Collin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan truly give powerhouse performances that are very natural. Each of them truly give something unique to the film Colin Farrell gives a humorous yet honest performance of someone who is naturally upset and wants to know why their friend no longer wants to have anything do with him, Brendan Gleason plays a cross between an intimidating but also humorous performance that is truly baffling in the best possible way. Kerry Condon plays Padaric’s sister Siobhan who is very kindhearted and like the previous mentioned performances a very honest one as well, finally there’s Barry Keoghan’s performance that really is the definition of a friend, he plays Dominic who is Padaric’s friend who is always listening and is there for him. It’s truly a honest performance that is actually quite emotional. The writing is truly flawless from the character study, to the natural interactions the characters all have it’s truly the type of writing that really compliments each scene. Speaking of which the cinematography is some of the best of the year. The film was shot in Achill island which is in County Mayo the largest of the Irish isles and the beauty of it all really shows in the film. It really compliments the film’s overall beauty nature while adding very dark humor into the mix that truly works. Every shot has so much detail and a lot going on which leads to it being a massive film that the viewer can explore with the eyes, overall The Banshees Of Inisherin is one of the best films of the year, it’s one of those films that will stick with you for awhile once you watch!!

The Banshees Of Inisherin is currently in theaters.

10/10 A+

Causeway is a breezy and powerful character study full of honesty.

Lynsey, a U.S. soldier, experiences a traumatic brain injury during her tour in Afghanistan which forces her to return home. She struggles to return to her daily life with her mother as she waits for her eventual redeployment.

Causeway is a film I’ve been waiting for awhile now and the wait was truly worth it, I’ve always been a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence so it’s truly fantastic to see her back doing the type of roles she loves doing and does really well at. Her performance as Lynsey a U.S. soldier who experiences a traumatic brain injury and is forced to return home is truly an honest one. The film really creates a portrait of her character interacting with the rest of the cast who do a fantastic job here, the other standout being Brian Tyree Henry who plays James a car repairer who quickly befriends Lynsey and from there they start to have honest conversations with each other that lead to a lot of character study type of scenes. From the very first scene Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry are in together they instantly connect, mostly due to how creative and unbelievably good they are as performers combined with the writing which has a lot of meaning and depth to it. The main theme of the film is trying to rebuild your life after a traumatic event which is never an easy thing to do and the film shows plus explains that quite well, it mainly shows this from close up shows of Lawrence and Henry, a ton of quiet moments that let the viewer sink in the information and the honest nature of the characters with their emotions. Lastly there’s the direction from Lila Neugebauer who does a fantastic job here especially with it being her directional debut, she creates a breezy atmosphere that’s both relaxing and honest at the same time.

Causeway is available on Apple TV+

10/10 A

Tar is a masterfully crafted film with a unforgettable performance from Cate Blanchett.

Renowned musician Lydia Tár is days away from recording the symphony that will elevate her career. When all elements seem to conspire against her, Lydia’s adopted daughter Petra becomes an integral emotional support for her struggling mother.

Tar is truly something mesmerizing that I’m still thinking about a week and half later since I saw it, immediately when the film starts the atmosphere hits you right in the face. It’s a mysterious and almost like a dark void, like you are the only person there in a world that is covered in darkness. It’s truly a haunting feeling that is only the beginning of what’s to come, Cate Blanchett gives one of the strongest performances of the year, there is so much to her performance mainly due to the amount of emotional, detail and power that went into it. Blanchett plays Lydia Tar who in the film is one of the greatest living composer conductors and first female chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, who is very passionate about her work. Right near the beginning the film starts with a monologue that Cate Blanchett absolutely hits out of the park, it’s a fantastic introduction to Lydia Tar and how she can be quite intimidating as well as surprisingly funny, in fact that’s the most unnerving thing about Lydia she can go from being funny to intimidating in a split second which only adds to what is learned about her later on in the movie. The film talks about abuse of power as well as cancel culture however it has more of a nuanced approach that carefully examines how each side reacts and the human nature of it all. It keeps the film far more grounded and more interesting as well, Lydia is such a well built character that has so many sides to her and that’s really mainly due to how well written and directed it is from Todd Fields and the performance from Cate Blanchett. Todd Fields brings so much realism to the film and truly makes every scene count, each of the scenes tell something unique and have so much detail included within them. Fields keeps things as grounded as possible especially when it comes to the themes of abuse of power and cancel culture (if that’s what you want to call it) the abuse of power part isn’t in the direct spotlight in the real world it’s done sneakily and often times covered up which is shown here in this film. Cancel Culture while it often does take place online here it’s done in a much more realistic approach and has more realistic results of what happens. The film is honest and gets the point across masterfully. Overall Tar is a masterfully crafted film that is truly something that needs to be seen, it’s one of the best films of the year and I can’t recommend this one enough!

Tar is currently in theaters.

10/10 A+

Armageddon Time is a powerhouse film filled with raw interactions.

A coming-of-age story about the strength of family and the generational pursuit of the American dream.

Something that I have always liked about James Grey is how different his films are from one another and that only shows even more here with Armageddon Time. The film is inspired around Grey’s upbringing and childhood experiences and examines the dangers of complicity when it comes to prejudice and inequality, the performances right off the bat are quite fantastic each of which give something special to the film. Banks Repeta plays Paul Graff and Jaylin Webb as Johnny are both fantastic, they both truly do a fantastic job in their roles and the conversations between the two lead to some of the film’s strongest moments as well as heartbreaking moments. Anne Hathaway as Esther Graff and Jeremy Strong as Iriving Graff are quite incredible, very raw performances that truly capture the rawness of the film and really center around the film’s message. Finally there’s Anthony Hopkins who plays Aaron Rabinowitz who is definitely the heart of the film and who ultimately ties the film together, his interactions whether it be with Anne Hathaway or Banks Repeta are truly mesmerizing and down to earth, it truly feels like you are watching someone’s grandfather giving you his advice and thoughts on your actions. Hopkins truly does an incredible job here and gives one of the best performances of the year, as the film goes on we see a lot of the dangers of complicity and how it hurts people when no action is taken, the cinematography truly fantastic here with lots of close and personal shots that really add to the film’s rawness as well. James Grey always this personal type atmosphere in some of his films that works each in every time, he wants the viewer to come close to the events that are happening on screen which makes them all the more effective. Armageddon Time isn’t going to completely connect with everyone, however there is so much to love here that I have to recommend it!

Armageddon Time is currently in theaters.

10/10 A+

All Quiet On The Western Front is a brutal and honest depiction of war.

War breaks out in Germany in 1914. Paul Bäumer and his classmates quickly enlist in the army to serve their fatherland. No sooner are they drafted than the first images from the battlefield show them the reality of war.

When you take a look at the war film genre you often don’t see too many anti-war films, it’s a type of film that I really appreciate it because it has an entirely different perspective plus it really shows the tragedies of war. Plus how nobody really wins at the end, two most recognizable ones are Come and See and All Quiet On The Western Front. All Quiet On The Western Front is based off of a 1929 book of the same name written by Erich Maria Remarque, the book was later adapted into a 1930 film of the same name which would go on to win best picture at the Oscars. Fast forward to 2022 and we have a new adaption that is just as powerful and meaningful as the 1930 film from all those years ago. For starters as soon as the film begins the film immediately grabs the viewer’s attention with its cinematography there’s so much attention to detail here which only adds to the gory and disturbing battle shots that show up in the film later on. The cinematography also has this perfect war like atmosphere that truly hits home the point of how terrible war really is, it hits all the beats necessary to get the viewer into a state of terror and tragedy. The performances are absolutely masterful with every sense of the word, especially from Felix Kammerer who plays Paul so well that it’s truly captivating, the very beginning really captures this well. With Paul and his friends being sent out to war, some of his friends not knowing truly how serious war really is and only hits them harder and harder when they see lives being taken. The film isn’t afraid to show how war mentally effects the people involved and how it can really kill you on the inside as well, it can completely lead people to many states such as completely shock and trauma which we the viewers get to see a lot with Paul and the others. We see the differences of how the soldiers have to survive and hopefully get to go home to their loved ones where as the generals don’t really have the same worries, I mean sure something could happen to them but they are normally very well guarded where as soldiers like Paul have to fight to survive. The film does a fantastic job of showing this by cutting back and forth between the chaos on the battlefield and dialogue scenes of the generals, a lot of this is really shown at full force during the final act of the film where Felix Kammerer’s performance get’s even more powerful. It completely blossoms into this brutally honest performance that still has not left my mind since I saw it a 2 weeks ago, it’s truly one of the best performances of the year and one that will leave you with goosebumps. The film itself is a brutally honest one, it doesn’t sugarcoat anything it’s a film that lays out the tragedies of war and tells the viewer that in the end nobody really wins during a war. Lastly there’s the atmosphere of the film which combined with the cinematography is truly striking, there’s so many scenes that capture the horror of war and add so much terror to it. Overall All Quiet On The Western Front completely nails the message of the book and the original film, it’s definitely hard to watch but it’s a very necessary watch that truly hits all the right notes.

All Quiet On The Western Front is available on Netflix.

10/10 A+

Triangle Of Sadness is an insane right from beginning to end.

A cruise for the super-rich sinks, leaving survivors, including a fashion model celebrity couple, trapped on an island.

To say Triangle Of Sadness is truly insane and completely out there (in a good way) would be the understatement of the year, right from the beginning there’s a huge sense of style. Particularly with the cast the standouts being Dolly De Leon who does a tremendous job during part three of the film and becomes one of the film’s biggest highlights. Zlatko Burić gives a quite hilarious performance that offers many laughs and much like De Leon really gets strong in part 3, Woody Harrelson who although doesn’t get the biggest amount of screen time is still a delight to see and much like Burić is quite humorous. Finally there’s Charlbi Dean Kriek who gives a tremendous performance that is one of the year’s best, it’s very unfortunate that we will never get to see more of her as she sadly passed away back in August. She truly gave a really strong performance that really connected the characters in part 3. The film is a satire of the rich and the class element, while it is very on the nose about it that’s part of the fun about the whole film. It really let’s loose it’s insanity while also being very well written, there’s a lot of attention to detail with the filming as well. There’s some personal character moments that help evolve the characters from being just background characters to actual main characters who have much more to say, the only slight criticism is the bit of the third part sort of deflated, it doesn’t quite match with what the rest of the movie was saying and does draw out a tiny bit. But that’s not enough to stop Triangle Of Sadness to be such a really strong film that will definitely make you laugh.

Triangle Of Sadness is currently in theaters.

9/10 A