Ella (Camilla Caballo) is a young woman with big dreams, she wants to open a dress shop, which is a big dream indeed in the patriarchal society in which she lives.  Her dreams are also being held down by a sadistic stepmother named Vivian (Idina Menzel) She is also being held back by her cruel and conceited stepsisters, Malviola, (Maddie Baillio) and Narissa, (Charlotte Spencer) who derisively call Ella Cinderella, because of the cinders on Ella’s face. 

Undeterred by her family, Ella goes out to see the changing of the guard, unable to see, she climbs on the stature of King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) and starts having a conversation with the king.  Prince Robert (Nicholas Gailitzine) is enchanted by Ella’s spunk.  The next day, the prince in disguise, buys Ella’s dress and invites her to the ball.  But stepmother Vivian says Ella cannot go to the ball because she’s already pledged to be married to someone else.  Can her Fabulous Godmother (Billy Porter) get her to the ball, and must Ella leave the ball before midnight? 

This is an excellent rendition of the classic fairy tale, the contemporary music and touches of humor make this movie eminently more watchable than the original animated Disney version.  There is some good character development, the Fabulous Godmother, and some not so good character, development, the Prince. But try as they might to escape the patriarchal tropes of the original story, and try to make it a story about self-determination, the story ends up revolving around the cliches of a woman deriving her power and happiness from a man, and the biggest cliché of them all, love cures all ills, that is hardly the liberating story that little girls need to hear in 2021.  The writers compromised a truly radical story in the name of romance and a happy ending.  If the writers wanted to be daring, why not go all the way? 

Camilla Caballo makes this Cinderella both perky and spunky, her voice is good enough to sing all the songs well, but her voice doesn’t really stand out.  Her performance is also limited by the contours of the writing. Idina Menzel absolutely steals the show from everyone else, she has no issues playing a cruel character, and her voice is so powerful that it blows the roof off this musical.  A highlight was her rendition of Madonna’s “Material Girl.” Piece Brosnan is surprisingly good as King Rowan, again he’s limited by bad dialogue.  Brosnan even sings, and yes, it is bad, but humorous.  Minnie Driver is not given much to do, but at least proves she has a good singing voice.  Billy Porter seemed like a gimmicky choice for Fabulous Godmother, but he made the most of his one scene and his one song, “Shining Star” by Earth Wing & Fire, so Billy Porter take a bow.  Nicholas Gailitzine is not convincing in his transformation from spoiled little rich prince to besotted prince. 

Director Kay Cannon has only directed one other film, Blockers, but she does a good job with this film, the pacing is good, most importantly the songs are well-staged and well sung, and the transition from speaking to singing seems natural.  The pacing lags a bit after the set piece of the ball, but there’s enough humor and singing to hold the rapidly changing plot together till the end. 

Cinderella:  Ella, mostly enchanting. 

A man gets involved in a car accident and meets God.  The man asks where he is and who he’s speaking to, when the man finds out he’s talking to God, he asks about his wife and children, he then asks about himself and his purpose in life, and later man’s purpose in the universe.  Does God answer the man’s questions?  Does that lead to more questions? 

This is a metaphysical philosophical look at the concept of Divinity and man’s place in the universe. Weir uses a common fertility symbol across religions, the egg as a title. What may surprise some is that it’s devoid of any Christian theological foundations, and relies heavily on Hindu and Buddhist tenets to provide the basis of Weir’s ideas, neither of which is the problem in this story.  It is when Weir adds his own constructs to the story that the story starts to stray from most traditional religious beliefs, and becomes something else entirely.   

 Weir’s own religious constructs are where this story suffers, most religions emphasize self-sacrifice, not self-aggrandizement, Weir seems to forget this in his theology. Also, not reading the story, and instead listening was also not the best experience.  Amazon should put all books on Kindle and not try to push other formats.  I haven’t needed anyone to read to me in a long time, thank you very much. 

The Egg:  A sunny side up view of religion. 

Episode 1:  Glorious Purpose: 

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) disappears from New York in 2012 and ends up being a prisoner of the TVA. (Time Variance Authority) The TVA accuses Loki of breaking his timeline, and she is about to be sentenced by Judge Ravona Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha Raw) when Mobius (Owen Wilson) intervenes. He wants to study Loki, see what makes him tick, and hunt down another variant while studying Loki, will Loki agree to help Mobius?  Or will he just continue to have delusions of grandeur? 

The concept of analyzing Loki is an interesting one, although they seem to be doing the same with the Winter Soldier in the other series.  The problem is Loki always worked better as comedy relief, working off of Thor’s hyper serious character, can the character handle a storyline all by himself, or will the show become too Loki-centric.  In this episode Loki seems to take a little too much pleasure in torturing his antagonists.  The other issue is the cast, Hiddleston is a fine actor, but Owen Wilson and his Ambien inflected beach bum voice is hard to take seriously, Mbatha Raw is a pretty face who hasn’t had many complex characters to play.  This series could be great, it could be lousy. 

Episode 2  The Variant: 

There’s a variant on the loose, and this variant is hurting TVA employees and hiding in certain events in time.  Mobius uses Loki to try to find the variant, and stop its plan. But does Loki really want to find the variant or is he just playing with Mobius’ mind? 

The two central questions in this show are, who is the variant, which the writers answer quite quickly and what are Loki’s motives, which will probably take all six episodes to answer.  The more important questions are, is this plot sustainable and can it hold the audience’s interest for a season or longer?  To be determined, but judging from the first two episodes, this show shouldn’t last more than 6 episodes.  Besides Tom Hiddleson, the acting is poor, and where can they go with this except Loki chasing the variant through different times and places and how long before that gets redundant? 

Episode 3  Lamentis: 

Loki finds the variant named Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and they disappear to the planet Lamentis, just before the planet is about to be crushed by its own moon.  Loki and Sylvie board a train, to go to a rocket that will take them off the planet before it dies.  But they get kicked off the train, and it’s a race against time to get to the ship.  Do they make it in time? 

This episode, in fact the show so far, is the epitome of bad writing.  The writers boxed themselves in from the start of the show with the variant character, so they made the variant a woman.  So now, the exposition plays out like a bad rom-com, Sylvie and Loki are on a train, they don’t like each other at first.  Not only is this a rom-com, it’s a bad rom com.  Disney surely paid Tom Hiddleston a king’s ransom to be in a series, but didn’t come up with an imaginative enough plotline to make this show worth watching. 

Episode 4:  Nexus Event

Loki and Sylvie are still stuck on Lemantis, with no way to leave, are they doomed to certain death?  While on Lamentis Sylvie shares her insights on the TVA and the Time Keepers.  Loki is not sure what to think but he knows he wants to help Sylvie. 

This episode is another example of bad writing.  Sylvie and Loki are facing an existential threat in episode 4.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens next.  And no one should care what happens to the time Variance Authority for many reasons, which will be elaborated on in the Season One summary of Loki. 

Episode 5: Journey Into Mystery 

Loki is sent into an undisclosed location by Judge Renslayer, Sylvie soon follows.  They meet other variants, who are resigned to the fate of staying where they are. But can Loki and Sylvie survive Alloth?  What is Alloth? 

This episode has a very medieval feel too it, complete with a quest, a creature, and even a castle.  Unfortunately, it’s not as entertaining as Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  It tries to be funny in an off-handed Python way, with the variants, but it doesn’t work. 

Episode 6:  For All Times.  Always

Loki and Sylvie finally meet He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) is he the being they’re after, or just another false face to battle through? 

There’s a Wizzard of Oz, man behind the curtain vibe going on here, it’s lazy writing and bad writing, because even if Loki and Sylvie achieve their goal what next? 

My Impressions of Season One. 

There was an interesting premise here somewhere, about Loki hunting a deadly variant, but the premise got plowed over by a lot of bad writing and yes even dangerous writing.   

The writers boxed themselves in by making the variant a variant of one character, with nowhere ese to go, the writers the writers made the variant a woman.  That led to the oldest and most tired cliché, sexual tension.  Yes, every television comedy and drama from Friends to Moonlighting to The Wonder Years used this overused plot device, and suddenly with Loki, sexual tension is supposed to be fresh and new, well it isn’t.  Sylvie and Loki hate each other at first, then they open up to each other, then they fall for each other, it’s all been done before, many times. 

This leads to other cliches later on in the plot, the medieval themed “Journey Into Mystery” is filled with characters and images viewers have all seen before, the writers try to change the circumstances of the setting shift, but the change in setting wasn’t as imaginative as the original setting, so it fails.  Then as a finale, at the end of the rainbow, as it were, viewers are treated to an Oz themed finish, again It’s been done before and done better. 

Now, here’s what’s dangerous about the writing, Loki is sent to the TVA, Time Variance Authority, not the Tennessee Valley Authority, Loki has nothing to do with rural electrification, although maybe Loki would have been more interesting discussing rural electrification.  Loki is left in the Time Variance Authority a big, bumbling bureaucracy that somehow manages the timelines of every humanoid in this reality, in a world that believes that their world is held aloft by the Timekeepers, three lizard-llke creatures, who control the timelines for everyone.   

Questioning authority and even divinity is fine in make-believe worlds, what’s the worst that can happen in a make-believe world, fake chaos?  But we humans are facing a very real and existential threat from a very real variant called Delta, and now is not the time to create a storyline that questions authority, when belief in any sort of authority is at an all-time low.  And when some need faith to soothe their grief when their loved ones are dying is this a time to satirize people’s beliefs in a higher power?  Hindus believe the world was created by three gods?  Is Disney satirizing polytheism?  Or animals as gods?  Hanuman is the Hindu monkey God, Ganesh is the Hindu elephant God.  So, this storyline is either a very condescending take on religions that the American Disney writers do not understand, or a satire of a bumbling bureaucracy that doesn’t know what it’s doing or why.  Either one is a horrible take when the world is suffering through a global pandemic. 

For a show with a seemingly innovative premise, the characters are awfully conventional.  Loki is a mischief maker, he likes to cause chaos.  Sylvie is nothing more than a love interest, with a strange nod to narcissists.  Mobius is the epitome of an establishment character, a TVA functionary, a bureaucratic pencil pusher, his evolution through the episodes is unconvincing and uninteresting. Judge Renslayer is even more determined to preserve the status quo than Mobius, and therefore even less interesting. 

Loki is a showcase for Tom Hiddleston.  Hiddleston does not disappoint, he uses his wit and charm to turn Loki from an irritating pest to a likeable antihero.  But the writers made a mistake by pairing him up with Sylvie, that means Hiddleston has to share time with an actress, and generate genuine feelings for her.  That takes away from Loki’s Modus Operandi, which is tricking people to get his way.  Owen Wilson and his narcoleptic beach boy delivery is not a sharp enough retort to Hiddleston’s quick witted verbal bobbing and weaving.  Sophia D’Martino doesn’t really have any chemistry with Hiddleston, so the romance seems forced, the writers also try to give her an action hero aspect to her role, but that doesn’t work well either, so the writers are stuck with a romance.  Gugu Mbatha Raw brings nothing to her performance as Ravona Renslayer, no dramatic ability, no comedic ability, it’s a flat uninspired performance.  Wunmi Mosaku is good as a variant hunter, named B-15 (really creative name there) but not as good as her performance as Ruby in Lovecraft Country, where she got to show off her singing talents.  Here, her character was more one-dimensional. 

The direction is not that great, the pacing lags somewhat.  There’s a cliffhanger in episode 3, that the audience knows is not a real cliffhanger, and the final set piece, or climax is really anti-climactic.  There are different locales, some meant to be exciting, but the dying planet of Lamentis looked like set decoration from a Star Trek episode from the 60’s, surely Disney can afford better set design. When Loki is banished, the scenes look like something out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Except Monty Python’s version looks more authentic. 

Loki:  Hiddleston’s non-low-key performance can’t save this predictable sci-fi series. 

A protagonist (John David Washington) is working for the CIA, and it trying to find out why an Indian arms dealer named Priya (Dimple Kapadia) is interested in selling a unique weapon to a Russian oligarch named Sator. (Kenneth Branaugh) Sator and his wife, Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) are mixed up in some messy art forgeries.  Is Sator going to sell the weapon to a third party, or threaten to use it himself and blackmail a government into paying his art forgery losses?  Can the protagonist trust the team assembled to help him? Are Neil (Robert Pattinson) and Ives (Aaron Taylor Johnson) there to help the Protagonist or betray him? 

First of all, Protagonist is a ludicrous name for a character, second of all, Christopher Nolan’s fascination with time, and timelines has finally resulted in an incomprehensible plot.  If this movie was about someone trying to stop someone from using a unique weapon at some point in time, that would have been fine, but it’s about much more than that, and the much more is where the movie becomes difficult to understand.  Memento was great, Inception was great, Interstellar took some time to come together, but in the end, it made sense.  Time travel makes no logical sense in this movie, for various reasons, and the weapon makes no logical sense if analyzed properly.  This movie stopped making sense about an hour before it ended, why anyone would sit through to the end is hard to fathom, even though I did watch it to its end. There are some light-hearted moments, but most of the humor is drowned out by a heavy mix of overwrought drama and pseudo-scientific babble. 

The acting is not that good.  John David Washington lacks the sophistication and charm of his father, so any electricity that should have happened between he and Debicki is simply lacking, and that’s a key element of the movie.  Elizabeth Debicki is playing a damsel in distress, that’s her only function, and for some reason, she’s not very convincing.  She should have played more of a femme fatale, with more characteristics of an independent strong-minded woman, instead of a helpless victim.  Her actions seem more of a result of fear and desperation than courage. Robert Pattinson is good playing a man who is intentionally vague about his origins and intentions.  Kenneth Branaugh lays it on thick as the sadistic Russian oligarch, he doesn’t give the character any dimensions, just unabashed cruelty. Dimple Kapadia, an Indian actress, is quite good as a shady arms dealer who never shows whose side she’s on, it’s a good, understated performance.  And Michael Caine makes a humorous cameo, which is always a welcome sight. 

Christopher Nolan is an unparalleled director, both in terms of visual acumen and narrative navigation.  He is able to steer the most complex narrative to a clear and compelling finish. That is what makes Tenet so disappointing, seeing actors going backwards and forwards in multiple scenes is not visually gratifying, neither is a chase scene with a car driving backwards.  Tenet is a waste of Nolan’s prodigious directorial talents.  The exposition is no better, there are a thousand plot twists and not one of them is consequential.  Nolan needs to go back to the drawing board and forget his obsession with time travel. 

Tenet:  A no-no for Nolan, bad writing and uninspired direction. 

In 1969, the FBI recruited William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) who was on his way to jail for impersonating an FBI agent.  Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) wants O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panthers Chicago branch, and keep tabs on a rising star in the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton.  (Daniel Kaluuya)  O’Neal agrees to spy on Hampton, and watches as Hampton become more and more popular un Chicago, making alliances with black and Latino gangs, and the white, largely Southern Young Patriots. The police arrest Hampton, on trumped up charges that he stole 71 dollars of ice cream.  After he gets out of jail, things have changed for Hampton and The Black Panthers.  O’Neal is now head of security, and Hampton’s girlfriend Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) is pregnant, Because of Hampton’s popularity and the FBI’s tactics, O’Neal considers ending his undercover work for the FBI, does O’Neal quit the FBI?  What ultimately happens to Fred Hampton? 

The central themes of this movie how Fred Hampton, through sheer will and force of personality brought the idea of self-sufficiency to the black community still devastated by the death of Martin Luther King Jr.  Simultaneous with Hampton’s rise in stature, was J. Edgar Hoover’s interest in destroying Hampton, because of Hampton’s interest in Marxist philosophy, and his penchant for violence.  But somehow these central aspects of the story get muddled by subplots, including Hampton’s relationship with his girlfriend, and O’Neal’s struggles with his FBI handler.  So, by the time this movie reaches its climax, it doesn’t pack the emotional punch it should.  

The acting was very good which makes the writing and direction especially disappointing.  Daniel Kaluuya is very good as Fred Hampton, giving the character the wit, charm and guile to create unlikely alliances, it’s not as commanding a performance as Denzel Washington in Malcolm X, and Kaluuya lacks the forcefulness of Fred Hampton’s speaking patterns, but it was a still good performance.  Kaluuya won an Academy Award for his performance,  LaKeth Stanfield also gives an interesting performance.  William O’Neal is part self-preservationist part revolutionary, and so he hedges his bets, and Stanfield does an excellent job of showing both sides of O’Neal’s personality, and the desperate measures he uses to survive.  The viewer can see the relief on Stanfield’s face when he averts detection from the Panthers, and the calculus in his mind when he’s speaking to the FBI. Dominique Fishbeck plays Fred Hampton’s love interest, it’s a one-dimensional role, but she makes the best of it.   Jesse Plemons is also very good, using both intimidation and charm to keep O’Neal in the FBI fold.  Martin Sheen has a minor role as J. Edgar Hoover, and other than an opening credits scene, doesn’t do anything with the role.  He acts as if he’s a functionary, and not the head of the most powerful law enforcement agency in the world. 

The direction is poor, the pacing is slow, and none of the scenes grab the viewer, there is no visual excitement, the gun battles are poorly staged, the speeches are poorly staged, and Shaka King, who co-wrote and directed this film is hugely responsible for turning a potentially interesting subject into a field trip to the public library. 

Judas and the Black Messiah:  Betrays its audience with a lackluster script and direction. 

Edwin Rutledge is the owner of the Babylon Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  Nick Chen, Rutledge’s IT guy has turned off the Keno Lounge in his casino, and it’s costing Rutledge 200,000 dollars a day.  Chen says someone could hack his Keno lounge unless Rutledge updates to a quantum computer.  The hackers are using quantum computing, so he has to fight quantum computing with quantum computing. 

Rutledge reluctantly agrees, and Chen sends Prashant Singh. Representative from the computer company to install the new system.  What neither Rutledge or Chen knows, is Singh’s wife Sumi is a quantum physicist, a prodigy who has determined a way to beat the quantum computer and its random number generator.  Does Sumi beat the randomizer and steal money from Rutledge’s keno lounge? 

Science fiction is a fascinating genre.  The short story is a challenging format.  Authors have to build a story worth reading while concurrently building interesting characters in a limited number of pages.  Weir is successful in both aspects of the challenge before him.  He sets up a decent cliffhanger, with interesting characters. Weir even adds a twist towards the end of the story, which leads to further questions, which he ties up neatly, all in an economical package of 24 pages.  Weir’s breakthrough book, the Martian was also very entertaining, if there’s one criticism of Weir’s stories, it is all the technological jargon he uses.  It adds to the authenticity of the science, but it also takes away from the narrative flow. 

The probability of reading his new book or older short stories, just increased greatly. 

Randomize: Not Weir-y of Andy’s style yet 

n 1936, Professor Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is in the jungles of South America looking for a golden Chachapoyan fertility idol with his guide Satipo. (Alfred Molina) Jones finds the idol, only to lose it to rival archeologist Rene Belloq. (Paul Freeman)  

After losing the idol, Jones returns to teaching for a time, until representatives from the US government propose a new mission for Indy.  They have intercepted a message that Nazis are looking for the Ark of the Covenant in Tanis, near Cairo.  Indy accepts the mission to find the Ark and flies to Nepal to meet a former girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) who possesses an artifact that points to the exact location of the Ark, Marion is not pleased to see Indy, but agrees to give Indy the amulet for 5,000 dollars. After Indy rescues Marion from Nazi Major Toht, (Ronald Lacey) in Tibet, the two head off for Egypt, do Marion and Indy find the Ark of The Covenant?  The Nazis are already in Egypt, do they find Indy and Marion? 

What makes Indiana Jones and The Riders of the Lost Ark such a classic?  It’s a series of cliffhangers, not just one major one at the end of the movie, so the viewer bounces from cliffhanger to cliffhanger, and doesn’t really know how Indy and Marion are going to get out of one situation and what awaits them next.  It’s a cinematic roller coaster ride.  The villains are perfect, how could the villains be more perfect than 1930’s era Nazis? There is no better villain. The ending is just. There is no better justice than what is meted out in this film. Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas were the writers, and they were at the peak of their blockbuster box office writing game.  Lucas seemed to lose the skill of how to write compelling action-adventure scripts, witness the Star Wars prequels, but that is a discussion for another day.  Raiders is as close to a perfect action-adventure movie as there is. 

Another reason why this is an iconic movie is the direction by Steven Spielberg.  The pacing is fast and never lets up.  Each location, South America, Nepal, and Egypt (actually Hawaii, Tunisia, and France) had its own set of cliffhangers, and took the audience along for the ride.  There are so many iconic images from the many different scenes, one scene is even somewhat frightening, reminiscent if Spielberg’s work the next year in Poltergeist.  The special effects were so minimal, because computer animation was non-existent at the time, and that actually makes the exposition a lot easier.  The major special effect is saved for the set piece, or climax, and that’s the way it should be. 

Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark: Indy film strikes box office gold. 

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has a new mission, with a largely new group of mercenaries.  The mission is to find out the top-secret plan, named Operation Starfish, by a military junta in the island of Corta Maltese led by Sylvio Luna (Ernesto Alvarez).  The Squad is still led by Colonel Rick Flag, (Joel Kinnerman)  but two teams of the Suicide Squad invade Corta Maltese, the first team is largely decimated by the Corta Maltese military, however Flag and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) survive.  The second team, including Bloodsport, (Idris Elba) Peacemaker, (John Cena) King Shark, (Sylvester Stallone) Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) emerge unscathed from the other side of the island, but by the time the second team meets the leader of the opposition to the Junta, Sol Sonia (Alice Braga) the second team has already killed most of the opposition’s forces. 

Another complication arises when Harley falls in love with Sylvio, and is subsequently captured by the Junta, so now the second team has to find Flag, rescue Harley, and find out what the heck Project Starfish is all about and destroy the evidence of its existence.  Does the Suicide Squad find Colonel Flag or Harley?  Do they find the details of Operation Starfish, and stop it? 

This version of the Suicide Squad is better than the previous iteration, by far, but that’s not saying much.  This could have been an epic summer popcorn movie, but it’s far too derivative.  It starts off by stealing or leveraging, to use corporate terminology, from the earlier version of this film, but then it continues the lack of imagination by stealing not only from Marvel but from Disney animated films, not to mention Ben and a few other films.  The Suicide Squad is very violent, that accounts for the R rating, the blood flows like wine in this film and there’s seemingly no end to the gore, even for comic book fare, the ease by which violence is perpetrated is a bit shocking.  There are also well written aspects to this film, members of this band of mercenaries start to turn on each other, and that introduces a twist of uncertainty into the proceedings.  It is also laugh out loud funny in spots, but ultimately the antagonist is more like a video game character than real life, and in that way suffers the same fate as its predecessor.             

The acting is very good, and that raises the level of some very pedestrian writing.  Idris Elba is one of those rare actors who can be deadly serious one minute and making jokes the next, that wide range of skills is a big reason why this movie is so watchable.  John Cena is also very good, he provides a lot of comedy relief, but his character has a darker edge to him, and Cena handles it well. Margot Robbie is a great actress, she’s been nominated for Oscars twice, in the Wolf Of Wall Street and I Tonya.  She seems comfortable playing Harley Quinn which she’s done at least three times.  She’s given Harley depth and dimension, and heart, and she is Harley Quinn, just like Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. Sylvester Stallone does his best Rocky Balboa monosyllabic grunting, except he uses less syllables as King Shark.  Daniela Melchoir adds a touch of much needed innocence and humanity to these hard-scrabble anti-heroes as Ratcatcher 2, but her character is borrowed from other films. 

The director James Gunn has mostly written and directed the underwhelming Guardians of the Galaxy series, and for this movie, the length is too long, the pacing is slow, the visual exposition is sloppy, flashbacks too early in the story and backstories make the narrative as wobbly as a gymnast experiencing the twisties.  Does James Gunn hate birds, some of the scenes would suggest yes.  Cut out the scenes of excessive blood and violence, and what’s left is at least L45 minutes of solid entertainment.  The ultimate threat in this film looks like something out of Ghostbusters, which undermines both the R rating and the seriousness of this film.  It’s more 60’s campy Batman than the Dark Knight.  By the time Gunn gets to the set piece or climax, it’s pretty anti-climactic. 

Suicide Squad: Writer/Director Gunn runs out of bullets, leading to a lackluster finish.                                                                                           

Movie Review: Freaky (2020)

Posted: August 12, 2021 in Comedy, horror
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Millie Kessler (Katheryn Newton) is a pretty, but unpopular teen, with family issues.  Her father died recently and her mother Coral (Katie Finneran) has turned to alcohol for solace.  A serial killer named the Butcher (Vince Vaughn) kills four teens in Millie’s hometown of Blissville, and steals a cursed Aztec dagger called La Dola.  Later The Butcher comes across Millie, and stabs her with the dagger, wounding her in the shoulder, but causing the same wound in his shoulder.  The next morning, unbeknownst to both Mille and the Butcher, the dagger causes them to switch bodies.  How does Millie convince her only friends, Josh (Misha Overovich) and Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) that she’s Millie, stuck in the Butcher’s body, and how can anyone catch the Butcher now that he’s hiding in Milliie’s body?  Will Millie ever get her body back? 

Freaky is an inventive twist on the Disney movie Freaky Friday, where a mother and daughter switch bodies to experience life as the other person. Freaky throws a little slasher/horror twist into the old Disney formula, and mostly good things come out.  The characters are somewhat formulaic, however.  Millie’s an outcast, for no apparent reason, there are the popular girls, who are mean to Millie for no apparent reason, and there’s the stereotypical sassy gay guy friend.  Thank goodness no typical sassy black girlfriend.  The movie is also unnecessarily violent, yes, it’s a spoof of a slasher film, but there is too much blood for a comedy, and the men in this movie, except one, are needlessly cruel and misogynistic.  There is also a forced romance in this slasher comedy that doesn’t work. And the ending is predictable.   

Freaky is Vince Vaugn’s movie, and he carries it, the funniest moments in the movie are him as Millie, sometimes he overdoes the feminine flourishes, but this is as funny as he’s been since Dodgeball. He is also a menacing serial killer when given the chance.  Katherine Newton doesn’t get to say much as Millie or The Butcher, she gets to grunt a few lines, but the audience never gets to see her act like a male serial killer would act, that’s the writers’ fault, not necessarily Newton’s fault. Alan Ruck, whose claim to fame was being Ferris Bueller’s friend Cam, plays a psycho woodshop teacher, this role is the writer’s fault for making the character such a one-note disaster.  Misha Overovich plays the stereotypical flamboyant gay guy, complete with smart-aleck quips at the ready.  Celeste O’Connor plays a smart-no-nonsense teen friend of Millie’s, finally some decent writing with good acting by O’Connor. 

The direction is disappointing, the pacing is slow, even though the entire movie is slightly over 90 minutes, it takes forever to get to the set piece, or climax.  Christopher Landon was the director of the better Happy Death Day, and writer for three of the Paranormal Activity movies, but hie should have cut back on the gore, and added more jokes.  Freaky is a wasted opportunity. 

Vaughn is con-Vince-ing, but the rest of the movie falls flat. 

Episode 1:  New World Order 

The Falcon, (Anthony Mackie) is sent into Tunisia to stop the terrorist group LAF, meanwhile his friend, Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez) is attacked by another terrorist group, the Flag Smashers, can Falcon help stop them too? 

After facing off with LAF, Falcon goes to Washington DC to retire Captain America’s shield, but is the Captain really retired? 

The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is in therapy, and trying to atone for all the damage that he’s done as the Winter Soldier, how does his first attempt at redemption go? 

The issue with this episode is that there is much too much backstory, and not enough plot to hold the viewers’ attention.  The plot is pedestrian, and the writers are trying to make the show a character driven show, but the backstory isn’t very interesting.   The plot is undermined by the fact that The Falcon and Winter Soldier don’t appear together at all, they just look like two superheroes doing different things.  The most interesting plot point is Captain America, it should be fun to see how that develops. 

Episode 2:  The Star-Spangled Man 

The American government introduces a new Captain America, John Walker. (Wyatt Russell) and both the Falcon and The Winter Soldier are disgusted by the thought of a new Captain America.  The Winter Soldier and Falcon go to Baltimore to visit a disgruntled veteran super soldier, Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbley) Isaiah refuses to help Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  Captain America tries to get them to work with him, but neither is interested. 

Falcon and WS continue with their main mission, find the Flag Smashers.  When they find the Smashers leader, Karli Morganthau (Erin Kellyman) they are surprised to learn that she and the rest of the Flag Smashers have super soldier strength, how did they get that way? 

This is a much more interesting episode than the first one.  The duo has a mission, and they are working together to pursue wherever it leads.  They view John Walker as a usurper to a throne he doesn’t deserve, and they view each other as rivals.  Falcon is not please with Winter Soldier, and the feeling is very mutual. 

Episode 3: The Power Broker 

Falcon and the Winter Soldier are looking for the source of the Super Soldier serum, and Winter Solder suggests breaking dangerous criminal Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) to help them on their quest.  Falcon is not so sure that’s a good idea.  Their journey takes them to Madripoor, a lawless island near Indonesia, where Falcon and Winter Solder are in over their heads, but they get some unexpected help.  Do they make it out of Madipoor in one piece? 

This is a great episode, because the mission has changed slightly, and the writers keep bringing in different characters from the MCU and these are nice surprises throughout the episode.  The new Captain America is still lurking about, on the outside looking in and that adds another element to the show. Good acting by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, and guest stars Daniel Bruhl and Emily van Camp, which makes the episode even more enjoyable. 

Episode 4:  The World Is Watching 

Ayo (Florence Kasumba) second in command of the Dora Milaje, travels to Latvia and demands that Winter Soldier turn over Zemo, but Zemo is helping Falcon and Winter Soldier, so will they turn him over?  Zemo wants to ko kill Karlii Morgenthau, leader of the Flag Smashers, and Karlii has already blown up a building with people inside, none of which is helpful.  But Falcon wants to save Karlii from the Power Broker, and talk to her before she does anything else impulsive.  Is the new Captain America helping or hurting the situation with Karlii?  

This is probably the best episode of this series yet, it has shifting allegiances, action, and becomes a cautionary tale about the Super Soldier Serum.  What makes the characters on this show fun to watch is that they are all flawed, so the viewer has to choose the most heroic anti-hero, which makes for difficult viewing, but complex dramatic exposition.  Complex dramatic exposition makes the show worth watching. 

Episode 5: Truth 

John Walker is unceremoniously discharged from the military for his less than heroic actions in Europe, but Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis Dreyfuss) says the people who she works for might be interested in Walker for some unspecified purpose.  Falcon wants Walker to turn over his shield dies he? Winter Soldier wants to turn over Zemo to the Dora Milaje, does he?  Falcon, Winter Soldier and Sarah work on the family boat while waiting for Karlii’s next move.  While working on the boat, Falcon mulls over an idea that could have seismic effects on him and the Avengers.  What is the idea that Falcon is thinking over? 

This is another excellent episode, Falcon and Winter Soldier are trying to stop another terrorist attack, while the future of Captain America is in limbo, the only aspect of this episode that is sub-par is the Contessa character, played by Julia Louis Dreyfuss, who was a bad choice for this role.  She plays the Contessa like a smarmy Elaine Benes, she just doesn’t fit the show, all the other actors fit into their characters well, but Louis Dreyfuss sticks out like a sore thumb, a square peg in a round hole. 

Episode 6:  One World, One People 

Karlii is set to unleash her plan in NY Do Sam and Bucky know how to stop it?  What about John Walker?  Does he help or hurt Sam and Bucky?  Sharon Carter comes to NY to watch the proceedings; does she help Sam and Bucky?  Can Sam talk Karlii out of enacting her plan? 

All those questions are answered, and the questions raised are interesting.  There are more than a few surprises in store for some of the characters and plenty of loose ends, more than enough for a new Captain America movie, with should be good.  If this show was created to set the stage for a new Captain America film, it did an amazing job of creating the need for a new movie. 

Impressions of Season 1 

Episode one of the Falcon and Winter Solder was a slog, it seemed like just another superhero movie, good guys bad guys, fighting, explosions.  Was it worth watching another episode?  Thankfully the answer is yes, and as the episodes continued, each episode began elaborate on larger themes, racism, both subtle and unsubtle, terrorism, and redemption.  

Just as intriguing as the weighty themes that are wrestled with, is the way the writers have revitalized the Captain America story, by bringing in another Captain America, there is an immediate and intense rivalry between Steve Rogers’ friends and John Walker, and then just as suddenly it becomes a cautionary tale about serums that promise great things, but may have nasty side-effects.  They also revitalize the Captain America story by rejuvenating two underused characters, Falcon and Winter Soldier, giving them new purpose and frankly making them more multifaceted.  Episodic television gives writers the opportunity to give characters depth, and the writers certainly gave Falcon and Winter Soldier much more depth than they had in three or 4 movies, 

The writers also did an excellent job of integrating characters from previous Marvel films, and bringing them seamlessly into the plot.  And all the characters are flawed they are not perfect Superman type extraterrestrials here to save the world, because the feel magnanimous.  These are very human characters with very human problems, and they have to work through these problems to become better people and better heroes.   The self-actualization process could be frustrating for viewers who want someone clean cut and flawless to root for, but not having a rooting interest makes for interesting viewing. 

The acting is mostly fantastic, especially by the principles.  Both Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan play unassuming anti-heroes who eschew the spotlight.  There’s a rivalry between them because both of them can lay claim to part of that Steve Rogers legacy and neither thinks the other is worthy of Rogers’ legacy or friendship.  And then they have a new Captain America to deal with, and there a rivalry between the new Captain and Falcon and Winter Soldier.  Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan take all that repressed anger, jealousy, reluctance and infuse it into their characters and yet they have great chemistry between them, for characters that don’t like each other. 

Wyatt Russell, Kurt Russell’s son, has a tough role, playing John Walker, he has to appear likeable, but really be a jerk and consistently do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and Russell is pretty convincing as a know-it-all jerk.  Daniel Bruhl is also very good as Zemo, a shady character whose only goal is self-preservation.  Emily Vaan Camp reprises her role of Sharon Carter from the Winter Soldier and Civil War films and the viewer is not quite sure what she’s up to.  Van Camp does a good job keeping the audience guessing. Florence Kasumba reprises her role as Ayo from the Captain America, Avengers Civil War and Black Panther films both Sharon Carter and Ayo are small but pivotal roles played well.  Not so good, are Erin Kellyman as Karlii, the  leader of the Flag Smashers, the writers wanted Karlii to be an idealist, but there was something missing from her role, fatalism, anarchy, her performance was too controlled, if Kellyman had thrown some aspect of unpredictability into her character, that would have made her performance much better.  Julia Louis Dreyfuss plays a snarkier version of her Elaine Benes character, and it’s not a good fit, she wasn’t able to meld with the ither characters. 

The direction is good, the pacing of the first episode is a little slow, there a lot of exposition to do.  That episode tries to pick up the pace with an action sequence, but the pacing was still uneven.  After that the director, Kari Skogland, stayed laser focused on the characters.  Yes, there are action sequences, but they don’t get in the way of the many storylines and themes, or the evolving characters. And Skogland directed the whole season, sometimes when a series has many different directors, the series loses focus.  Not here. 

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier:  A Marvel-ous series.