Suzume blends reality and fantasy masterfully.

A modern action adventure road story where a 17-year-old girl named Suzume helps a mysterious young man close doors from the other side that are releasing disasters all over in Japan.

Going into Suzume I knew very little outside of Makoto Shinkai being the director who’s previous work is very impressive particularly Weathering With You and Your Name both of which are very fantastic films. Suzume continues to show how incredible Shinkai is as a filmmaker and really surprises the viewer as well. 

The voice cast are all fantastic here and really deliver some very beautiful moments especially during the final act of the film, what makes the film standout quite a lot is that it pulls you in fantasy combined with some coming of age and road trip movie elements. But then slowly starts to introduce some reality type of elements such as losing a loved one, by that point the film has pulled you in making the viewer be treated to some very crushing scenes that are filled with emotion. 

As always when it comes to Makoto Shinkai’s work the animation is absolutely stunning, it’s a combination of reality and this dreamlike world that takes the viewer on an adventure while never letting go. There’s so much detail to the animation and the character’s as well that really bring the film together and only bring the viewer closer to the characters. 

There’s many creative ideas here that are very well developed, Shinkai takes ideas or plot points we are familiar with such as the road trip premise or the coming of age genre and completely makes it his own. We also get to meet several characters even if some of them aren’t in the film for very long, the humor and Suzume’s interactions with the characters makes up for that. When the film reaches it’s final act it starts to introduce a lot of hard hitting themes that can be very relatable to the viewer and is quite a beautiful way to bring the film together. 

The film has the theme of struggling with loss, how we cope with loss and that letting go can be okay, Suzume as a character goes through this and is absolutely well written. She’s a character that easily connects to the viewer mainly due to just how masterfully written she really is. 

Overall Suzume is a beautiful blend between fantasy and realistic elements that all come together to create a beautiful film. 

Suzume is available in theaters. 

10/10 A+


Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always has the nostalgia but not much else.

The Rangers come face-to-face with a familiar threat from the past. In the midst of a global crisis, they are called on once again to be the heroes the world needs.

Power Rangers has been a long running series to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the show they released a special on Netflix which is Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always. I grew up with The Power Rangers even if my first exposure to the Power Rangers was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, but there was a fair number of seasons that I really liked as a kid Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, Wild Force and of course the Mighty Morphin series. 

Right off the bat if you are someone going into this special hoping it stays with continuity with the series you are going to be almost immediately disappointed, Rangers who in the series quite clearly gave up their powers have them without any explanation. As for everything else though? You get that here, there’s a large amount of nostalgia and tons of character moments that are quite fun as well. 

It has the same cheesy acting that the show had and follows what made the show so likable in the first place, the one glaring issue that does hurt this special however is that the special effects somehow look worse than they did back when the show first premiered. It’s probably due to kind of missing what made the original series so charming, a lot of the effects here just don’t quite fit the Power Rangers. I understand this was a route they were bound to take but it’s just not that appealing to the eye. 

I do think it’s an overall decent celebration to the series, I can’t say that I didn’t have a fun time with the special. There’s just not a whole lot too it and the effects are very distracting. 

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is available on Netflix. 

5/10 C

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a huge celebration of the source material.

The story of The Super Mario Bros. on their journey through the Mushroom Kingdom.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie was one of my most anticipated films of 2023, I’ve been waiting for another attempt at a Mario movie for the longest time. While I have grown to enjoy the Super Mario Bros Movie from 1993 it is very far from the source material and I definitely thought that another attempt should happen. 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is more than just following the source material, it takes the material and does the absolute most it can with it in 92 minutes. I will admit that the plot is paper thin and there are moments where the movie most definitely could have done a lot more with, however that does not stop this movie from being a complete a total blast. 

The voice cast really does a fantastic job of bringing these characters together, Chris Pratt does a pretty solid job as Mario, Charlie Day is also really solid as Luigi, Jack Black as Bowser is incredibly entertaining and really captures the character of Bowser surprisingly really well. There’s been instances where Bowser in the games has had a very comedic side (Paper Mario series) and that really shows here so I really have to give credit where credit is due. Keegan-Michael Key as Toad is a lot of fun as well, finally there’s Anya Taylor-Joy as Princess Peach who absolutely nails the character. I especially enjoyed what the film did with Peach, despite the common belief that Princess Peach is always captured (I mean she does get captured in a lot of games but she’s been playable in quite a few of them over the years) and the film really balances that out quite well.

I didn’t particularly care for Seth Rogen as Donkey Kong or Fred Armisen as Funky Kong, while I did enjoy seeing the characters on screen the performances were just not very good and left a lot more to be desired. The animation was absolutely stunning, it does an incredible job of building the Mushroom Kingdom as a world and really leads to some really striking moments that leave you in a state of wonder. There’s so much attention to detail that really gives the viewer so much to look at and is quite pleasing to see. 

The little easter eggs are wonderful and awhile I am usually against films putting so many easter eggs into a film to the point where it takes away from the story that doesn’t happen here luckily. While there are a lot of easter eggs it actually does make a lot of sense, quite a few of the games do a similar thing where they do put a lot of easter eggs throughout the game. So in a way it did feel like the viewer was in one of the video games, whether that was intentional or not it was an interesting way to approach it. 

If you are a fan of Mario you absolutely know what to expect from this film, even if you are just a casual Mario player I still recommend giving this a shot, it’s a wonderfully done film that had so much effort put into it that is such an exciting film to watch. 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is available in theaters. 

8/10 B+

Chapa has heart but not much else.

A boy on a family trip to Mexico discovers a young chupacabra hiding in his grandfather’s shed.

Chupa is yet another one of those “group of kids discover creature and have to hide and defend it from people who want to harm it” type of movie. The problem I have with these types of movies is they almost never try to differentiate from one another and Chupa is really no exception.

While Chupa is ultimately a very harmless family movie with some actually decent acting (Christian Slater is in this for some reason) and it clearly does have heart. A lot of this is just recycled from other movies in this sub-genre, I guess the most interesting about this movie is the bond between Chava (played by Demián Bichir) and Alex (played by Evan Whitten). 

The grandfather and grandson bond has it’s moments of character development but is unfortunately doesn’t fully come together, which is a shame because the movie does a far better job at that than when the movie focuses on protecting Chupa. There really isn’t anything here that is horrible a lot of it is just very blandly written, a lot of it just comes down to whether or not the viewer likes these sort of movies. 

If you enjoy these types of movies you will probably like this one, if you don’t then you are going to have a bad time because there is absolutely nothing new here. 

Chupa is available on Netflix. 

4/10 D+

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a charming and heartfelt adventure.

A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a long lost relic, but their charming adventure goes dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.

Before I start it should be noted that I have next to no knowledge about Dungeons & Dragons, I only know it by name and that they made three previous garbage movies based on it. 

Anyway Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves I guess sort of serves as a reboot to the three movies I just mentioned. Dungeons & Dragons (2000), Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath Of The Dragon God (2005) and Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012) were a trilogy of movies that came out and well they were pretty bad, so fast forward to 2023 and there’s finally a solid Dungeons & Dragons movie? 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is definitely a huge surprise, there’s a lot going for it here and you would think would not work all that well but mainly due to the cast and a lot of the classic fantasy elements, there’s so much that works here. 

The cast is quite strong here in particular Chris Pine, Justice Smith and Sophia Lillis are really solid. They all work well together and bring a charming and this sweet type of atmosphere to their group that you can’t help but smile at, Edgin Darvis’s (played by Chris Pine) story might not be anything new especially when it comes to the fantasy genre. However what does make it standout is how it’s done, it’s a sweet and heartfelt story that makes you really care for Edgin and want him to succeed on his quest. 

The action scenes are quite well done, they aren’t going to break any new ground but there is absolutely no denying that they are filled to the brim with energy and really gets the viewer excited as well. The major thing I am pretty surprised they did pretty well with was the thing that I was mostly scared was going to take up most of the movie…the humor, the movie actually does a fairly decent job at balancing the humor and the character moments. 

There’s some genuinely funny dialogue here that actually works quite well and adds to the overall sweet and heartfelt atmosphere of the movie, the one liners do get old but luckily they aren’t enough to stop Honor Among Thieves from being a genuinely fun time. 

While Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves won’t break any new ground in the fantasy genre, it does offer something truly fun and very charming. 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves releases March 31st in theaters. 

7/10 B

The Magician’s Elephant is lacking magic.

The orphan boy Peter sets out to find his missing sister. He asks a fortune teller if she is still alive. She advises him to find a magician with an elephant. Peter must then complete three difficult tasks.

A genre that Netflix often struggles with is animation when it comes to films, every once and awhile you will get some really good ones like Klaus or The Sea Beast for example. But a lot of the time they really land on the forgettable territory. 

I watched The Magician’s Elephant yesterday (at the time this was written) and I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly what happens, mainly due to just how forgettable it really was. The few good qualities come from the animation, which does have it’s issues with the human characters. But for everything else it’s smooth and is nicely done for the most part. The voice cast isn’t too bad, it’s clear everyone involved is trying their absolute hardest to make this work. 

What really does this movie in is mostly in the writing department, there’s so much potential here that could be written thoughtfully and in a way that could even resonate with audiences. But unfortunately it’s written in the sort of way a lot of bad kid’s movies tend to be, focuses a bit too much on humor and relies on very bland character moments to tell a story. The movie really lacks the spark in it’s writing to get the audience engaged and ultimately leads down a forgettable path. 

The Magician’s Elephant is available on Netflix. 

4/10 D+

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania an extended TV episode.

Ant-Man and the Wasp find themselves exploring the Quantum Realm, interacting with strange new creatures and embarking on an adventure that pushes them beyond the limits of what they thought was possible.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the newest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the introduction to Phase Five. Phase Four was the very definition of a mixed bag leading towards the bad side (Wakanda Forever, Loki and a few others are exceptions.) so this was definitely the chance to start the new phase off strong…that did not happen unfortunately. 

To be absolutely fair I do think Quantumania is a bit better than some of what phase four had to offer and it is definitely better than the last Ant-Man movie (Ant-Man and The Wasp), but that honestly does not mean much when it suffers a very common problem that a lot of the MCU has been facing lately. Before we get into that there are the positives. 

Like everyone has said and will continue to say Jonathan Majors easily steals the show as Kang, he plays such a strong villain and puts his powerhouse acting ability into the role which leads to some quite fantastic moments, similarly Michelle Pfeiffer does a fantastic job here as well, she plays Janet Van Dyne who is actually decently written here, granted there are some scenes where had the writing been so much stronger the character could have improved. But from what was shown it wasn’t too bad, Pfeiffer and Majors are truly at their best when they share the screen together and are able to combine their talent. 

Lastly there’s the father and daughter relationship that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) that while does come off a bit basic at times, it’s mainly due to Paul Rudd and Kathryn Newton being so likable as performers that really makes it work, because Cassie Lang as a character was just not exactly well written at all here. But as I said Newton takes what she’s given and makes the most of it. 

Unfortunately everything else is a complete and total mess that just about sums up the main issues currently going on with the MCU, first off the movie is just the usual MCU formula again. Rather than tell a story the movie focuses on introducing the main villain of the new phase Kang, which while is nice it sacrifices writing, storytelling, character development and much more. Most of the other characters are given almost nothing to do especially Hope and Hank who are largely given a backseat this time around. 

MODOK is unfortunately not used well at all, he only really serves as a sort of example I’ve used in the past with a lot of MCU films and that’s “the Dragon Ball Z movie henchmen effect) which basically means he’s given a few scenes and then gets written out of the movie. Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll) makes a return from the first Ant-Man, what’s shocking is somehow this movie manages to make Cross even less interesting to the point where him as Yellowjacket was more investing than him as MODOK. But what really hurts MODOK is the stuff the movie decides to do with him towards the end, it’s the usual MCU humor that flat out makes very little sense given Darren Cross’s personality and the story. 

Lastly Quantumania just doesn’t risk any stakes, which I imagine is going to be a huge problem with this phase given that it’s about the Multiverse. Which if you aren’t going to risk any stakes or do something out of the ordinary at least try and build interesting characters and story elements, which is what this movie really lacked. The Star Wars similarities are painfully obvious and really don’t serve any point other than for someone to point and say “hey isn’t this like Star Wars?” 

Overall Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is basically an extended TV episode, it’s main purpose is to introduce the main villain which as I said Majors is one of the best parts. But doing just that sacrifices just about everything else. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is available in theaters. 

4/10 D+

Slumberland is a bland fantasy adventure.

A young girl discovers a secret map to the dreamworld of Slumberland, and with the help of an eccentric outlaw, she traverses dreams and flees nightmares, with the hope that she will be able to see her late father again.

I wish there was a lot to say about Slumberland a $150 million dollar budget Netflix original directed by Francis Lawrence, but to be quite honest there really isn’t. The movie at least looks a bit more appealing to the eye when compared to Red Notice and The Gray Man, but that’s mainly due to the fantasy elements here that actually do give the movie some sort of life. Jason Momoa puts on a very different type of performance here that is genuinely charming, Marlow Barkley also gives a charming performance as well, for a Netflix child actor performance this is definitely one of the better ones. The main issue comes in story wise where it plays out way too similarly to a lot of fantasy movies, the whole “person discovers a new land full of creatures” has been done far better before, what’s very unfortunate here is Francis Lawrence’s direction is just nonexistent here, maybe it’s because this is entirely different from what he usually does but a lot of what makes his direction interesting is just not here. The raw emotions in Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 2, the strong chemistry in Water For Elephants, the sense of building a strong atmosphere in I Am Legend and so on. It often times looks like the movie is going to try and do something interesting but quickly goes back to playing it way too safe. Every now and then you get some charming moments with Momoa and Barkley but otherwise this is very forgettable and definitely overstays it’s welcome with a nearly 2 hour running time. Overall despite my many complaints Slumberland isn’t exactly terrible it’s rather forgettable and just sits there as another addition to the forgettable Netflix movie pile.

Slumberland is available on Netflix.

5/10 C

Pinocchio (2022)..completely misses the point of the original

A puppet is brought to life by a fairy, who assigns him to lead a virtuous life in order to become a real boy.

Pinocchio is the newest of the Disney Live Action Remakes and is by far one of the absolute worst ones, it’s truly baffling to me how badly they messed this up. The original Pinocchio is one of Disney’s absolute best films they have ever done, it’s a story that was both dark but also very charming as well. This remake however takes everything the original did perfectly and completely misses on what made it so well done, the only positive I can give here is Cynthia Ervio as The Blue Fairy and her performance of “When You Wish Upon A Star” she did a beautiful job and has a tremendous singing voice that captures the magic of the song. The rest of the movie is missing a key element that the original had a lot of…heart and magic, the original movie despite the dark nature of some of the story was also filled with so much heart in it that made the characters so lovable. In this movie Geppetto (Tom Hanks) and Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) have absolutely no connection between one another, which was a key part of the original movie. So that really defeats the purpose of the story the movie is trying to tell, the CGI is bafflingly cheap some of the movements from the characters are either delayed or just don’t match. Monstro was done horribly with this movie, which again brings this back to Geppetto and Pinocchio. Monstro was an important part of the original Pinocchio serving as bridge to Geppetto’s and Pinocchio’s chemistry, in this movie it is so poorly done and has no passion put into it at all. Which is the main issue here this movie has the biggest “we don’t care” attitude to it, nothing here other than Cynthia Ervio has no energy, heart or passion put into it. Which is exactly the problem with a lot of these remakes (outside of a few) they heavily rely on cheap nostalgia and don’t even do justice to the original movies, what’s unfortunate is this could have been decent, Robert Zemeckis who despite his last couple movies not exactly being that great. Is still a very talented filmmaker who’s given us tons of classics (Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Forrest Gump) I only have to assume that he wasn’t given the creative freedom because this a lifeless movie that is so horribly written is not the thing you think of when you think Robert Zemeckis.

Pinocchio is available on Disney+

1/10 F

Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is a fun addition to the TMNT series.

The Turtles are put to the test when a mysterious stranger named Casey Jones arrives from the future to warn the mutant brothers of an impending invasion·of the most dangerous alien force in the galaxy the Krang.

Not going to spend too long talking about this one simply because I haven’t seen the series it’s based on which is Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s one of the many incarnations the TMNT franchise has had (side note I grew up with the 2003 version). I knew of this version but knew very little about it, for what the movie is it’s pretty fun and genuinely charming as well. It definitely has a bit more humor than some of the other incarnations but it’s not enough to take out of the movie, there’s some genuinely good bits between the turtles and how they care about each other plus their brotherhood. The animation is actually very well done, it takes time to get use to especially if you haven’t seen the series before but there’s a lot of attention to detail here that brings the movie itself together quite well. Krang as the villain was quite great it’s refreshing to see another TMNT movie that doesn’t have The Shredder as the main villain for a change (as much as I like him). The action scenes are very well done and the build up to the final battle is quite great and surprisingly touching as well, the final act is very satisfying as well. There’s a ton of action combined with some character moments that wrap up the film very nicely, overall Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a very solid movie, even if you aren’t a fan on the incarnation of the show it’s based on I still recommend checking it out especially if you are a TMNT fan.

Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is available on Netflix.

7/10 B