Spider-man: Across the Spiderverse Review- An Action-packed Thrill Ride of a Follow-up of the Successful First Film

Sony has had a rough time over the years with their Spider-man IP. The Sam Raimi films have been pretty good except for the third one, the Andrew Garfield editions weren’t met with many good reviews. So they ended up making a deal with Disney to bring Spider-man to the MCU. This deal bore a lot of fruit but they still wanted to do their speidercenric films under their own Sony banner. That’s where the animation comes in. The first Spider-man Into the Spiderverse film allowed them, with the help of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, to do another Spider-man film under their banner. Even if it featured a different Spider-man than what the audience is used to. That film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature so it makes complete sense that Sony would go back to the well and do a sequel. It was a good gamble on their part.

Spider-man Into the Spiderverse introduced audiences to many different variations of this classic comic book character. The sequel Spider-man Across the Spiderverse doubles down on the many different variations of the character. One in particular besides Miles Morales (Shamiek Moore) gets a complete story arc. And that character is Spider Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) She has a terrific arc dealing with her father Captain Stacy (Shea Wigham) and then gets thrust into the main storyline. The Morales character has a great arc as well dealing with his parents, voiced by (Brian Tree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez), and their approval of him as well. The main storyline is very complicated involving a character called the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) who was affected by the explosion at the end of the first film. So both films are tied together in more ways than people would expect, besides the obvious.

Part of why these films are so great is the voice-over cast. The filmmakers have assembled a stellar cast for this film. Besides the ones I’ve mentioned, there is Oscar Isaac as Spider-man 2099/Miguel O’Hara Issa Rea as Jessica Drew, Jake Johnson as Peter B Parker/Spider-man, Karan Soni as Spider-man India, and Daniel Kaluya and Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk. These are just a handful of characters in this movie. It’s loaded with many characters voiced by many actors. A lot of them are comedic actors who bring the laughs to the film. All of these characters I’ve mentioned play a big part in these movies in the series. And they are all important to the overall story. Each character brings an interesting aspect to the story and film.

Part of what makes these movies very accessible to many audiences is the action sequences. With this being a Spider-man film you know there are going to be massive action scenes. Even though it’s an animated film there are at least three major action sequences. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time watching along. With this world that has been created the laws of physics are thrown out and the animators are allowed to do some crazy things. A variation on the Vulture/Adrien Toobs is one example. He looked to be out of an old drawing from a while back. And another scene where a bunch of Spider-man variants is chasing Miles is just straight-up bonkers. These are just a couple of wild scenes that the animation team got to play around with that audiences will love.

The filmmakers chose to use a specific style of animation most of the time though. Animation is similar to the first film that resembles that of a comic book style. I understand their depiction to use this style of animation. It just didn’t always work for me. There was shallow depth of field issues and the various styles didn’t always mix with the other styles on screen. That being said the animation is a variable cornucopia of styles. The filmmakers knew what they were doing mixing all these different aspects. It just didn’t always work for me in particular. The audience will surely love what they see. And I’m sure this film will look great in 3D if they have that option available to viewers.

One of the best parts of the movie for me specifically was the storyline involving the character’s families and the drama and heft that those bring to the film. Spider-man has always had to balance his personal life with being a superhero and there is no difference in this film except for all the multiverse stuff and many variations of the character. Both Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy have difficult lives because they are living dual lives. That of a teenager in school and a superhero. Sometimes these lives come in conflict with one another and it causes issues at home with their parents. I felt these aspects of the story brought a very dramatic real-world element to a movie that is a bit out there regarding the multiverse stuff.

As far as antagonists in the movie the main one is the Spot. He brings a crazy vibe to the story but like in a lot of comic book stories sometimes the heroes fight amongst themselves and this movie has a huge plot thread that deals with the various Spider-people fighting each other of a misunderstanding or miscommunication. So there are essentially two villains if you will. This leads to the film being quite long at over two hours and fifteen minutes. It’s only part of a two-part film though. So this story isn’t finished by the end of the film. There is enough drama to go around though and the writers and directors have kept me interested I definitely can’t wait to see how this story concludes. This one was very exciting and action-packed.

3 ½ stars

Dan Skip Allen

The Boogeyman Review- Another Adequate Horror Film from Writer Stephen King and Director Rob Savage

Stephen King has written a lot of books and short stories. And a lot of those have been turned into films and television series. One that hasn’t been turned into a film is his short story The Boogeyman, until now that is. Rob Savage (Dashcam) has brought this story to life for the first time but it’s quite a bit like many other horror films. It follows so many tropes in the horror genre but maybe fans of the writer or the genre will like it.

A family has dealt with a personal tragedy when a man, Lester Billings (David Dastmalchian) comes into their home which is the office of the father Will, who is a therapist, (Chris Messina) He tells the therapist that he has been blamed for killing his family but he also explains that he didn’t do it. An entity that infiltrated his house was the cause of his family dying. Unbeknownst to Will, the therapist, the man brought the entity to his home and it starts to threaten his daughters Sadie (Sophie Thatcher, Yellowjackets) and Sawyer,,(Vivian Lyra Blair, Obi-Wan Kenobi)

Stephen King is known as the master of suspense but even he has some stories that have let audiences down in the past few decades. Some stories are just that, stories. They aren’t meant to be turned into full- length feature films. The trenching of a short story can lead to slow moments or undeveloped plotlines and or characters. Even though this is a relatively short film at ninety eight minutes it does get to the main story rather quickly despite a slow start. Once things get into gear they move briskly. 

We were told stories of the Boogeyman as kids. Don’t do this or that or the Boogeyman will get you. Our parents kept us in check that way. What if this mythological entity was real? What would it look like or would it actually be very scary? The creature that was designed for the film is definitely creepy and very scary. It hides in the shadows and dark places like closets. It would be a good idea to turn on some lights with a creature like this crawling around. The filmmakers created a character that was quite frightful and caused a few jumps during the screening I was in.

Part of the way horror movies get the audience invested in them is their characters. The two daughters in the movie were played very well by these two young actresses. There characters were developed nicely as well. They both had backstories within the context of the film that I felt interested in. Having seen them in other projects made me more interested in them in this movie. I felt tied to the outcome of what happens to them more. Messina was very good in a father role and quite different then his crazy agent role in Air. I believed in him entirely as a concerned father.

The Boogeyman has enough scary moments and a creepy crawly character that even made me, who is not afraid of anything, a little scared. King created a story that is relatable to a lot of families. The idea of the Boogeyman is one we have all heard of as children. So the way Savage developed this story and character into a full-length feature worked. It follows a lot of horror movie tropes but is still engaging and scary at various moments. It starts slow but picks up very quickly. The characters are developed quite well as well. This was an adequate horror film.

3 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Kandahar Review- Another Fine Actioner From the Team of Butler and Waugh

Gerard Butler has more or less started to become a version of Liam Neeson lately. He has starred in films that allow him to be the man. Rather the savior role. He did this pretty well in the Fallen Series of film White House, London and Angles. This has become his lane in Hollywood as evident by Greenland last year, Plane earlier this year and his latest movie Kandahar. Where once again he plays the white savior.

Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) is an undercover CIA agent in the middle east where he has been caught in Afghanistan because of the fact that his mission has been exposed to hostiles. All he has on his side is his interpreter played by Navid Negahban and his operator, Travis Fimmel from Vikings fame, who is trying to help him escape the country. Along the way he has to overcome a lot of obstacles.

Kandahar is the latest in a series of action films that put men and or women at odds with governments and or terrorist groups in the Middle east. Regarding Hollywood these types of people or regimes make for very good bad guys. Which in turn make for good suspenseful action films. The obstacles in the way of the main character make for an all around good story.  Throw in the action sequences and fight scenes and you have a good movie.

Ric Roman Waugh has worked with Butler on a number of occasions. So these two have a shorthand with each other. It seems like Butler is playing this role with ease. The dialog and technical jargon flow out of his mouth throughout the movie. The same goes for others in the film. All this dialog would normally be a bit confusing for most but in this movie all of this stuff comes across like two normal people having a conversation. 

One of the aspects I noticed that looked very good was the cinematography. The film is mostly filmed in the desert so that it looks amazing and the various sunrises and vista’s in the distance all look very beautiful. It’s like it’s own character in the movie. The locations are that key of a part of this story. The Waugh made sure these aspects worked in context to the rest of the film. And the story worked as well.

Kandahar is a good action film with action and fight scenes that kept me interested throughout. Butler has found his niche in this genre and his shorthand with Waugh has made these film second hand nature for the two of them. They make it look easy. The look of the movie was also part of what I enjoyed about it. It’s not going to blow anybody away but it is a fine film that most people will enjoyed like I did. It’s not trying to do anything to crazy either. It is what it is.

3 stars

Dan Skip Allen

American Born Chinese Review- A Fantasy/Mythological Series with a Terrific Coming of Age Story

Disney has been known for a lot of things regarding their films and television series. Their channel had a bunch of popular shows. Now their streaming service is picking up from where the television channel left off. They have a lot of quality shows from Star Wars, Marvel and others. The latest series is called American Born Chinese. It has a lot of recognizable faces in front of and behind the camera.

The series focuses mainly on a high-school age-teenager Jin Wang (Ben Wang) He struggles to make his way through his sophomore year. He doesn’t get along with his parents, he has problems with students at school but when he meets a girl Amelia (Sydney Taylor) things start looking up for him. Until a strange new kid arrives on campus, Wei-Chen (Jim Liu) who has some secrets he’s harboring that could cause a huge problem for his new found friend.

Disney does a lot of coming-of-age shows. They have ranged from many different demographics. This one being mainly about Asian Americans, specifically Chinese, is a change for them. Getting Destin Daniel Cretton involved was a good choice. He has a good track record. .Throw Lucy Liu into the mix and show creator Kevin Yu has assembled some good directors to bring this series to life. 

The show has a magical/mythological aspect to it. At times these aspects can be a little confusing. The coming-of-age stuff is much better fleshed out regarding the story and the arcs of the main and supporting characters. I cared more about the school and relationship stuff than the fantasy and magical stuff. That being said the cast were still steller in both aspects of the series. The cast is the main reason to see this show. 

A domestic angle to the story may be one of the better parts of the show. The parents of the main character played by Shin Han and Yeo Yann Yann have problems with their relationship. These problems are passed on to their son. His issues in school and elsewhere aren’t as important as his relationship  with his parents. This aspect of the show is very important for his and their character development. The writers Gene Yuen Yang, Kevin Yu and Charles Yu did a great job adding these elements into the series. Which correspond to some of the magical/ mythological parts of the show. Which makes a lot of sense.

The cast besides the younger actors is filled with big stars a lot of fans will know from a recent Academy Award Winning Best Picture. Three of them were nominated and two won Academy Awards for Everything Everywhere All at Once. Michelle Yoeh plays a witch but a good one who helps one of the main characters fulfill their potential. She enlists the help of Stephanie Hsu in one episode, her co-star in the film. And Key Huy Kwan has his own arc separate from the main plot of the show.

His arc is a bit strange regarding the rest of the series but it ties the whole thing together in the end. Kwan brings a comedic element to a show filled with action and teen angst. He has just brought something new to his career that makes me happy. The action sequences are pretty well choreographed and the teen coming of age stuff is the meat and potatoes of this pleasantly surprising show. I really enjoyed it. And I think fans of Everything Everywhere All at Once will surely like it as well. Disney and Disney Plus has a winner on its hands despite an element in the magical/ mythological stuff that can get a bit confusing at times.

3 ½ stars

Dan Skip Allen

You Hurt My Feelings Review- A Total Misfire For Everyone Involved

With there being all kinds of movies coming out from week to week it’s hard for little indie films to make it sometimes. A24 is one of those companies that have invested very well in arthouse directors and indie films that premiered at film festivals like the Sundance Film Festival. The latest example of this is they made and premiered the most recent offering from writer/director Nicole Holofcener You Hurt My Feelings starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. It premiered to mixed reviews.

Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) is a writing teacher in New York while also trying to write her second book. She is married to Don (Tobias Menzies) who is a therapist. They have a son Elliott (Owen Teague) and frequently entertain Dreyfuss’s character’s sister and her husband. They all have struggles with each other, in their personal lives and at work. They are people that seem to be not very happy to me.

Holofcener tries to write what she perceives to be a clever, interesting story about the lives of a family in New York but ends up being a story that drove me completely insane while watching it. I couldn’t stand these people at all. They are pretentious and annoying throughout the film. I honestly didn’t care about their gripes with one another or any of their problems. There was one scene that I agreed with throughout the entire movie. That’s not very good.

Look, I’m a person who hasn’t necessarily been very happy at various jobs I’ve had in the past but these people seem miserable to me. I mean why make a film about a bunch of miserable people who don’t have any redeeming qualities? At least that’s how they are written to me. I’ve seen Louis-Dreyfuss in sitcoms and various other television shows. She’s a funny actress. I didn’t like her one bit in this movie. And Menzies is a good dramatic actor in Outlander, Rome, and other series. I couldn’t stand him in this. These were the tip of the iceberg on my gripes with this film.

Holofcener has made a previous movie with Louis-Dreyfuss called Enough Said where she co-starred with James Gandolfini. These two had chemistry and I cared about their characters. Menzies and Louis-Dreyfuss had no chemistry whatsoever. The inciting incident between them is ridiculous to me. I didn’t care about what got them at odds with one another. These people’s lives were just not that interesting to me. Maybe people in New York might vaguely be interested in this but not me. I wanted to poke my eyes out if I had to watch one more minute of this film. Thank God it was only ninety minutes long.

A24 has mined a lot of gold from indie directors and small budget films like Everything Everywhere All at Once. This is just not one of those cases. They made a mistake making this film especially after the reviews out of Sundanceare are any indication. Holofcener and Louis-Dreyfuss have done much better stuff than this in the past and I’m sure they’ll do good stuff in the future. This just wasn’t my cup of tea and I love a good cup of ice tea. This was like unsweetened tea for me. I can’t stand unsweetened tea. This is a total misfire for everyone involved.

1 star

Dan Skip Allen

The Little Mermaid Review- A Visually Stunning and Incredibly Sounding Disney Live-Action Remake

The Little Mermaid is the latest live-action remake of one of Disney’s classic animated films from the 90s. The Little Mermaid is an empowering story for little girls and an indication that love transcends all odds. Disney has worked with Rob Marshall a few times in the past on Mary Poppins: Returns and Into the Woods, but this may be the best of their collaborations to date. He has transformed this classic into a new version that people are going to love and be singing along with

Ariel (Halle Bailey) is one of seven daughters of the king of the oceans, Titan. She is a mermaid who likes to explore and travel the oceans with her buddy Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) She defies her father who wants her to be more like her sisters. Her infatuation with the world above inadvertently makes her fall in love with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauser King) who is attracted to her siren song. She ends up making a deal with an evil witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) so she can be with Eric forever but things don’t necessarily work out for her.

Marshall has done a great job in the past bringing new songs and new life to Disney properties. In Mary Poppins Returns he brought a fresh spin on this character and her world with the help of Lin Manuel Miranda. He collaborates with him once again in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. All the classic songs from the original film are back. Alan Menkin’s Under the Sea, Part of Your World and Kiss the Girl are all reimagined for this movie. I still enjoyed them all once again.  

Part of the original is that all the characters were animated so they were all voiced by actors.  They did a great job but in this film, most of the characters are live-action actors with a few that are animated and voiced by popular actors. Sebastian is voiced by  Dave Daveed Diggs, Scuttle was voiced by Awkwafina, and as Flounder was voiced by Jacob Trembley. They were very good but as in the original film the Sebastian character is great. Diggs does a great job voicing Sebastian this time around and his rendition of Kiss the Girl is an utter delight. I loved him so much. He was an utter enjoyment from the beginning of the movie to the end.

Those weren’t the only good performances though Halle Bailey was an absolute revolution as the title character Ariel. She owned this role from the moment she came on screen. Her singing was amazing but that is not a surprise since she’s in a singing group with her sister. Also ,Melissa McCarthy was menacing as Ursola. She brought her game to this villainous character. I also liked Javier Bardem as Titan. He embodied the king of the seven sees perfectly. Disney rarely gets it wrong as far as their casting goes. This time they got it right on the money once again.

The Little Mermaid had a unique style that made it beautiful to watch. The visual effects and the scenes under the ocean were done impeccably well. They were seamless as far as I could tell. I didn’t see the movie in 3D but If I had I’m sure it would have looked even better. It was a visual marvel as far as I was concerned. Marshall combined a lot of elements to make this film look and sound great. I’m sure people will enjoy it as much as I did. Especially mothers and daughters who may be looking for an alternative to the male testosterone of Fast X.

An issue im sure people are going to address is the fact that ariel is played by a Black actress instead of a white actress. My stance on that is this. Whoever is the best actress for said role should get the role no mater what race, creed or religion they may be. I though Bailey was perfectly cast as this iconic character and I can’t imagine anyone else that could play this character. Marshall and company cast the best person for the role and in the end that’s all that matters. I hope people will realize this while watching this movie.

Disney has had a good track record for turning their popular IP from the past into new versions in the last few years. Aside from the occasional dud most of their live-action remakes have been  pretty good. This one is one of the better ones with The Lion King, Peter Pan and Wendy ,and Beauty and the Beast. It has a lot of good visuals, voice-over work ,and a lot of good songs. Reimagined from the previous film. Kiss the Girl was my favorite movie. The message is also a good one as well. It is empowering and gives viewers the idea that love conquers all. Which I can always get behind.

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

The Wrath of Becky- A Sequel That’s Better than the Original Film

Becky was an action horror film from 2020. It featured Lulu Wilson in the lead time of Becky, a twelve-year-old girl who didn’t get along with her father or his decision to remarry. When some neo-nazis escape prison and come to her house looking for a special key she jumps into action to try to protect her family and take out these neo-Nazis. Fast forward four years later as she’s now sixteen she has bounced around from foster home to foster home. The Wrath of Becky takes this character to a new level of action and brings the blood and gore once again.

Becky (Lulu Wilson) currently lives with an old lady (Elana), and she still has her dog, Diego, by her side. She also trains and sometimes falls into her own traps, also she works at a diner, Three men, who have a flag in their truck of the emblem of a militia group known as The Noble Men, come into the diner Becky works at. She accidentally on purpose drops coffee on one of the guys. They come to her house and break in and one of the men kills the old lady Becky. They take her dog, Diego, 

The three men meet up with Darryl, the leader of this faction of  The Noble Men (Seann William Scott), an ex-Army Ranger who fought in Iraq. Becky comes to the house after finding out this was the right Darryl she was looking for. She steals a thumb drive with all the names of the members of The Noble Men on it. This, like the key in the first film, is a McGuffin, as Roger Ebert says, an item that moves the plot forward. This is when the real action starts.

As in the first film Becky takes revenge on those responsible for killing a friend or loved one. Or in this installment also kidnaps her dog. She has a knack for creating new and interesting ways to make these men and one woman pay for what they’ve done. With this being a group of militiamen you know they have a lot of weapons at their disposal which means Becky has all of this weaponry at her disposal as well. She gets creative with these weapons. 

Lulu Wilson wasn’t an actress I knew before seeing her in the original film in this series. She seemed a bit awkward in her role in the first film Becky. In this one, she opens up more as an actress. And her character benefits from this. Wilson shows more range as an actress in this sequel. The writers, Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote, and Nick Nortis, give her more to do regarding her dialogue. While the directors also Angel and Coote give her more room to explore the action side of her character. 

Becky was a pleasant surprise when I saw it a few years ago. The Wrath of Becky improves on that film in many categories. The action sequences are better than in the first film and they get crazy. Wilson is better as an actress in this sequel as well. The writers/directors have expanded on this character and the world she exists in. This story doubles down on the leftist agenda the creator of this character wants viewers to see. I for one am glad of this type of storytelling. This movie was a lot of fun and better than the first one. 

4 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

Killers of the Flower Moon- Rave Reviews and High Praise for Scorsese’s Latest

Killers of the Flower Moon was supposed to come out last year but the announcement came that it would premier at this year’s Cannes Film Festival which made Apple and Paramount move its release to this year instead. It has been my most anticipated film the last two years. When a new Scorsese film comes out its like a holiday and a birthday all rolled up into one. People anticipate it like the coming of Jesus, at least I do.

The trailer released on Thursday May 18th and this wet a lot of people’s appitights for this three and a half hour epic. This means this movie is definitely coming out in the near future, October 6th for US audiences. Audiences in France at the Cannes Film Festival got to see it yesterday and the reviews are in. But first what is this epic story really about?

Here is the trailer in case you haven’t seen it yet.


It’s about a series of murders on the Osage Native American people back in the 1920s. The formation of the FBI as well during this time. The murders were because the Osage people were among the richest people in the world per capita because they found oil on their land. This film is based on the book The Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.

Here are some critics opinions of this film out of its Cannes Premier yesterday are as follows.

“Look what we did to them!”

That’s what Martin Scorsese demands of any viewer of #KillersOfTheFlowerMoon to know. One of his greatest achievements.
Lily Gladstone’s performance? An all-timer. What she gives us comes from the ancestors. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro shine. Clayton Davis Film Critic Variety.com

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is a deserved, rather than presumptive, Oscar contender with DiCaprio as Best Actor, De Niro as Supporting, Lily Gladstone Best Supporting, Scorsese Director (of course), Best Adapted & Best Film. It is a theatrical experience as it courses along, even at 3hours, 26 minutes, and that’s how it should be seen, but it moves at its its own original rhythm. What a discovery! Keith Simanton senior editor IMDB

Everything about KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is big: The story, the scale, the run time, the staggering amount of extras, and the terrifically assured performance from Lily Gladstone opposite DiCaprio and De Niro. So big there’s room for cameos from Brendan Fraser *and* Pete Yorn! Kyle Buchanan the New York Times

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’: Martin Scorsese takes on bestseller about a murder epidemic among the Osage and turns it into a masterpiece. Our review: Rolling Stone

The film is “shocking, at times crushingly sorrowful, a true-crime mystery that in its bone-chilling details can make it feel closer to a horror movie,” our critic Manohla Dargis writes.The New York Times

The searing, sprawling ‘Killers,’ which premiered Saturday at Cannes, is both like and unlike anything its director has ever done. The LA Times

Here is the review from The Oscar Expert Cole


Here is the press conference live from Festival de Cannes with Martin Scorsese, Robert Deniro, Lily Gladstone, Leonardo Dicaprio and Standing Bear the Chief of the Osage Nation


If these opinions are any indications on what this film could be come awards season than look out this could be a juggernaut for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Director for Scorsese, Best Actor for DiCaprio, Best Actress for Gladstone, Supporting Actor for Deniro and many other nominations such as score, editing costumes and cinematography. Time will only tell though and the rest of us will have to wait to see it in October. I for one cannot wait until then I am very excited for this movie.

Dan Skip Allen

Master Gardner Review- Another Good Character Study From Writer/Director Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader, the writer/director of Master Gardener, is a man who has had his career rejuvenated in the past handful of years. Whether it be his own doing or fans who have wanted to see him return to his prominence. His early career in the 70s and 80s was a pretty good start for him. His latest film, similar in tone to his last two films, is a character study.  He just knows how to write and direct a man who has a tough life or a life where he has a tough depiction to make. This is his style.

Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) is the master gardener at Gracewood Gardens; he tends the gardens with a skeleton crew. He also has a secret in his past that he is hiding from everyone.  He’s also the narrator of the film and writes in a journal. His narration gives a lot of good information. He works for Mrs. Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver) she is the owner of the house and property that the gardens sit on, She decides to bring in Maya (Quintessa Swindel) her grand niece who she wants to learn gardening, and eventually take over the garden, Roth teaches her about gardening. 

When an incident happens, both of them get fired and go on a road trip together; they learn about each other on the journey and become very close friends. Swindel and Edgerton’s characters both have things they are running from. Their pasts are finally catching up to them. Which makes the story all that more fascinating to follow along with. Added in is the contentious relationship they have with Weaver’s character. These interactions are what drive the plot forward. And kept me interested throughout.

As I mentioned, Schrader is the master at writing troubled characters with a shady or conflicted past. The Edgerton character is on par with Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver, Reverend Toller, First Reformed, and William Tell from The Card Counter. They all have conflicts of some kind of their lives. Schrader gives audiences these kinds of juicy characters for them to decide which side they are on. With the main character played by Edgerton, he wants us to have empathy even though his dark past is not exactly something we should get behind. It’s tough for us to watch.

Another thing Schrader infuses into his films is a topic we may not be that familiar with. And that topic in this movie is gardening, plants and so forth. I myself don’t have a green thumb but Schrader made the topic of flowers and plants interesting coming from Edgerton’s character. A use of visual effects in one scene was a pleasant surprise and genuinely beautiful to witness. It showed in a way there was a beauty in this film even though there are dark elements within it.

Master Gardener does a lot of similar things to other Schrader films. It gives viewers a conflicted main character who has to make tough decisions. He also has to try to not be dragged down by his troubled past. This is another character study that he has become synonymous with. The cast including Swindell, Weaver and especially Edgerton are all very good. This is another well written and directed movie by legendary screenwriter and director Paul Schader. His talent is all over this film.

4 Stars

Dan Skip Allen

Carmen Review- Two Distinct Aspects of this Film Didn’t Fit Together Entirely

Sometimes I get excited when I see new actors and actresses that are coming up in Hollywood in a film together. Two actors in this scenario are Melissa Barrera and Paul Mescal. The latter is coming off of an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in After Son. And Barrera has already amassed a handful of great films under her belt. In the Heights, the last two Scream films and All the World is Sleeping. She has a lot of potential going forward. These two have teamed up in their latest film Carmen. 

The movie starts out on a sad note as an old woman is dancing and two men drive up and ask where she is, the she in question is Carmen (Melissa Barrera)  And she’s running away in the distance through a desert where they can’t see her. She ended up burning her house down and tried to cross the Mexican/ American border illegally with some others. This sets her out on the adventure of her lifetime.

In a parallel storyline a man named Aiden (Paul Mescal) is punching a bag, then he’s cooking burgers at a family gathering. A girl tries hitting on the man while making burgers, but his wife steps in and is trying to give him advice. The same man is sitting alone playing the guitar and singing,  and his sister scolds him about being alone singing and playing the guitar,  “You need to do something with your like” she says.

The guitar/singing guy ends up goes on patrol at night on the border and comes across Mexicans trying to cross the border. The man he’s with shoots some of them at first sight. The young Mexican woman Carmen from earlier steals a truck and gets away, the guy named Aiden jumps in and goes with her. He helps her escape instead of turning her into the authorities. Carmen shoots and kills the guy who was shooting at her and the others.

This film becomes a story of these two running for their lives most of the time. We see Carmen dancing with another woman while Aiden watches on. This shows the viewers that she had a talent. The dancing is accompanied by beautiful music playing alongside the dancing. with flames in the background. This precedes them going to California, to  get shelter at her aunt’s dance club, 

This film is a bit of a mixed bag. It has events of a road picture while also showing the musical side in the form of sultry intense dancing. The dancing is always accompanied by very good music by Nicholas Birtell. The dance scenes are very intense. Add in some other elements and you have a decent film about people looking for love and direction in their lives. It’s a passionate story. in which Mescal and Barrera give their all. It’s just not going to be for everybody. 

Carmen has mixes of brilliance thrown in with average story beats. The acting by Mescal and Barrera is good but it’s the dancing scenes that differentiate this movie from an average run-of-the-mill road journey picture. They have a life of their own within the film. They just felt separate from everything else going on in the story. It was like there were two good ideas for a movie thrown together. I don’t know if they mixed together properly. 

3 stars 

Dan Skip Allen