Ep. 66 – A Wrinkle in Time

A taste of the future for this podcast, for example the running time of this show is 28 minutes. Should be around there from now on. Movie reviews with banter and kick ass background music for your day. Music credits are attributed verbally in the track.

The review in this one is “A Wrinkle in Time.”

A film written in “child” should not be criticized by adults who do not speak the language. This is not your typical Disney standard of film release. At the same time, when watched with my two daughters, this adult saw a truth in it, a juvenile purity. Evil fights to dominate Good. Who wins? Um, most of us speak Disney but this one speaks in child first and foremost.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
PG | 1h 49min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy | 9 March 2018 (USA)

After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writers: Jennifer Lee (screenplay by), Jeff Stockwell (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon

The first love of most kids, after mom, up to the tween ages is their father, whether he was around or not. Storm Reid’s character and her brother lose their father. Right away you have most kids hooked in. Will she find him? Where has he gone? Does he still love the family? Would he want to be found. The director focuses on these particular questions. I would argue it’s to engage the children and tweens in the audience. Chris Pine plays the father and he does a great job of acting. Most the performances are wooden and almost inaccessible but not his, he delivered.

Children often feel trapped in their families. They can’t drive, they can’t choose where to go every day. They are held by their families. Most children dream of being swept away by a mythical savior presence with their well being in mind. That would be Reese Witherspoon’s character. I think they call her a witch but I don’t recall. She is a ditz. She falls into the character she played in “Legally Blonde” more than once. It’s off-putting at best. She was poorly cast in her role. But the kids eat her up. They all want to be taken away from their mother so they can soar through the galaxy in search of dad. Hmmm. Sounds like a bleak plot, but that’s what it is. Summon your inner child and it actually kind of works though.

There is a quote witch and a giant witch. Zach Galafinakis plays a Zen warlock (I assume he’s something like that) who says something really cool (I’m being serious): paraphrased:

“It’s okay to fear the answers but you can never escape them.” – The Happy Medium in A Wrinkle in Time

I took this as it’s better to seek the answers rather than hide in ignorance.

There are amazing backgrounds and colors in this movie. There are also euphoric sound effects and songs. At times it equals the running waters over rocks at the local Massage Envy lobby. Ultimately, there is a battle and there is a victor. I’ll leave the revelation to you. I must say as I close that my daughters loved the filmed and thanked me all the way home for taking them. Maybe those kid brains know something about enjoying films that we don’t? This was a film you must see as a kid and if you can bring a kid to see. As an adult critic, I wouldn’t praise it but for what it is, I give it a 7/10. In an upcoming Talking Stars show I’ll be elaborating more in a conversation so if you’re interested. Please tune in.

Ep. 65 – Thumper

I listened to one of my new subscriptions in my car today and got inspired to watch and review a movie called Thumper.

Thanks Lance and Katie! Keep up the good work.

Ep. 64 – A Ghost Story

In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.

A Ghost Story (2017)
R | 1h 32min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance | 27 July 2017 (Australia)

Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, McColm Cephas Jr.

When I look at David Lowery’s directing record, it isn’t saying much that he did the remake/reboot of Pete’s Dragon. The original was in fact my favorite movie and in fact the first film that ignited my desire to be a critic. Star Wars (2017) would be the next one. I am no fan of the Pete’s Dragon reboot but as I understand a lot of other people are so I’ll give Lowery a break there. He also did Aint Them Bodies Saints which I haven’t yet seen but have read much critical acclaim for. This film, A Ghost Story (1977) is a slow film that likely took pounds and pounds of muscle to make. Ironic I would say. It takes a big risk painting a simple picture. How many directors can say they had a strong visual idea and saw it through to completion without any nonsense added? For that I tip my hat to him. In that respect it s a rarity. The production company A24 made the film which is in keeping with their “big but simple” ideas for film. One example that comes to mind is It Comes at Night (2017).

The two actors are excellent, no need to say anything critical about either of them. Besides, there isn’t much dialog here. There is a scene where Rooney Mara eats a pie for 5 minutes (or more) and the Casey Affleck ghost watches. So there you are for the description of the actors.

I think this film brings up questions of eternity and hauntings but it is never for one instant scary in any way. I think Ghost with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze did this concept better but you be the judge. This film for me is the thought of a spooky, thoughtful image being displayed the full length of a movie for “open-ended” effect. It is pretty cool for about an hour. After that, it really got boring for me. Kudos to Lowery for trying, there just isn’t enough here to justify the cost of a drama, or romance ticket. And Mr. Lowery, you would probably admit, you never claimed it to be a horror. It is nevertheless a beautiful almost still picture. and some will enjoy that.


Ep. 63 – Swiss Army Man

My score: 10/10. The debut feature film from “Daniels,” aka directing duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, has a lot of people talking: mostly good, a tiny percentage bad, all expressive because this is an atypical movie that emanates expression. These guys are known for their quirky short films that reveal a human side struggling in a dark society. Swiss Army Man falls right into that category only in a feature length.


Swiss Army Man

Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Directed by

Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Duo Credited as “Daniels”)

Written by

Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Other Info

Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Rated R
1hr 37min

Swiss Army Man is a story about Hank who is stranded on a desert island. He is trying to hang himself when he sees a man wash up on show, Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). He rushes over to him to find him dead but the dead man keeps farting. He discovers it isn’t a loss that the man is dead, he has farting powers that make him function like a jet ski for Hank. Hank is able to use the dead man to get to the other side of the island. As Hank continues his quest to “get back” to civilization, he discovers Manny has all sorts of special functions that help him survive. This is where the title comes from: “Swiss Army Man.”

I want to address the film’s use of farting, since it has become a point of criticism online and it print. Apparently, a small percentage people walked out of the theater at Sundance during one of the farting scenes. I find that laughable that critics would walk out on any movie, much less one screening at film festival. The Daniels addressed this as an exxageration. They say of the 1500 people in the theater, maybe 12 walked out which was 1% of the occupancy. I had a completey different reaction to the fart scenes. I saw them as representative of life. Fart sin this film are the things that bind Hank (Paul Dano) and Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) together. This film doesn’t concern itself with the cool things that usually make up a popular movie. Instead, it points out that things like farts separate us from dead bodies. If a dead man can fart that much, it’s like he is alive. The use of farting to make a point is minimal in my opinion and shouldn’t be criticized … listen to the podcast for the rest.

Ep. 62 – Game Night

My rating: 5/10. A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery. Horrible Bosses was a pretty funny movie and it had some originality to it which kept the viewer on his toes. The same people made this film and it’s a fun night out at the movies but not what it could have been or at least, what I expected from the marketing.

Game Night (2018)
R | 1h 40min | Comedy, Crime, Mystery | 23 February 2018 (USA)

A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery.
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Writer: Mark Perez
Stars: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler

John Francis Daley was a co-director. You may know him from the cult hit show “Freaks and Geeks.” Alongside Daley is co-director Jonathan Goldstein who is known as writer of “Horrible Bosses.” I’m not sure the writing was aligned with the vision here. The Direction os good and in many places the writing does work. unfortunately it’s too unbelievable at times.he

Speaking of the neighbor cop Gary, played by Jess Plemons, this character is the relief for all the suffering you may encounter watching the film. He is quick witted and he has great lines written for him. He’s a young cop whose wife has left him. s a result he has no friends and is always trying to pout his way into Game Night. When Jason Bateman has a use for him police computer, they trick him into having date night at his house. The story works in a small way but fails on so many levels with me.

I think the title was cashing in on the gimmick of “Date Night” which was a funny movie with a well crafted plot. In this we have a “Game Night” that goes awry in a similar way that Steve Carell and Tina Fey experience. The big difference is that it’s now Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and the plot is disconnected at best, illogical at worst. “Date Night” is a much better film. I recommend seeing it. The writing it more gritty and the comedy keeps you wanting more. It is also a story of suburban people getting caught on the dark side of the city. The results are truly hilarious and the more is believable.

There’s a needy divorcee next door, a smuggler brother, a really mismatched couple, and a black couple. I’m sorry to say none of these characters are very developed. In the same breath, I will say that this is a pretty good option if you want a background movie that doesn’t require much thought. The only thought I had was “Why did I come here and when will this be over.” I know a lot of you will like it so I’m holding. You won’t miss anything in my opinion if you miss this film. I give it a 5/10

Ep. 61 – Check-Ins

This episode is a 5 minute summary of my “Check-Ins” on IMDB, including A Field in England, Darkest Hour, Monkey Shines, Prevenge, & Still/Born. From time to time I plan to post these summaries as a new series here called simply “Check-ins.” Have a listen and if you have the time, leave me a comment with your thoughts on these films, my series or just to say hello.

Ep. 60 – Stand and Deliver

Listen to my 5 min review of this film. It’s a true story of a teacher and his class that truly “Stood and Delivered” passing the AP calculus exam from a school that was one of the lowest in the state at the time.


Stand and Deliver (1988)

Edward James Olmos, Estelle Harris, Mark Phelan

Directed by

Ramón Menéndez

Written by

Ramón Menéndez, Tom Musca

Other Info


This film means a lot to me as someone who values education. I can only think of one other film that competes for the position of my all time favorite and that is ‘Lean on Me’ with Morgan Freeman. They both demonstrate the concept of raising your expectations high for students, trusting they want to achieve.

This film, as far as I am concerned, should be required viewing for anyone who wants to be a teacher. I’m not saying it will discourage that career path but I think it accurately shows what you have to aspire to be if you want to reach your students. The larger than life teacher, Jaime Escalante, is played by Edward James Olmos in an eerie sort of doppelgänger way. It’s as if he was born to play this part.

The story goes that Escalante starts his first day teaching in an inner city Los Angeles school. The school is overwrought with gang members and students who seem to not care about school or their new teacher. I can tell you I have seen this played out in high school when I was a substitute teacher there in my twenties. At the same time, I’ve seen it in the lower grades, though a little more innocently, in my 17 years of teaching elementary public school. How do you tame this teeming horde? That’s the method you must develop as a teacher and it doesn’t come easy. Sending kids to the Principal becomes a last resort and you have to deal with unruly and disrespectful kids on your own.

Because the situation is so bad in some schools, teachers should see this movie. You can pick up some tips and you can be encouraged to go toward what you think is best. That’s called developing a teaching style. It’s also really easy to get into because it’s an 80’s movie with a great soundtrack. Credits to credits, you feel immersed in the miracle that truly took place in an inner city L.A. school. It is a powerful film for anyone to appreciate and enjoy, especially teachers.

StandandDeliverEdwardJamesOlmosEscalante gets a group of hispanic kids all fired up to take the AP calculus test. This surprises everyone in the film because up to now, the school has been one of the most underperforming in the country. Escalante petitions to the school board to get his students to take it and in spite of some people disagreeing, he gets permission. The kids do finally take the test and at that point, the worst of all worst things happens: the state comes out to investigate possible cheating. As if it wasn’t enough for these kids to work so hard, now they get accused of doing an immoral thing. They have to take the test again to exonerate themselves.

slide-daniel-villarreal-1All along the way, Escalante is reaching out to his students: showing them a finder trick to learn their 9’s in multiplication, dining at their parents’ restaurants trying to get buy-in on them going to college, and things like that. He is not a normal educator but rather a “super” one. I think it would be foolish for me to try and be like him, he’s an individual with a specific skill set of gifts. I on the other hand, have my own bag of tricks when it comes to classroom management and student achievement. Even those who are not teachers will find this film entertaining. Everyone has been in that student chair right? It is relatable from both sides and it clearly shows the benefits of having a common goal and never backing down.

stand-and-deliver_1Lou Diamond Phillips plays on of the hoodlum gang types that gets drawn in by Escalante’s teaching style. There is a great scene where Phillips’ character and a few hoodlum types steal his car and then fix it up in their chop shop. They make his old VW into a tricked out show car. It’s a great scene because is really shows how much he means to these kids now, after proving himself a conscientious and caring teacher.

4407856_f248I love another scene where Andy Garcia comes in from the test company to investigate the possibility of cheating. Phillip’s character jokes with him faking him out that they cheated. Then he springs a punchline insulting Garcia. There is another scene where Garcia throws a fit saying he is a Mexican and he understands the pressures. They are basically accusing him of not being sensitive to the Mexican people. It’s one of his more irate scenes I’ve seen him play. He does and excellent job.

ejo-stand-and-deliverThe movie is like a racing film in that there is a goal and despite tons of setbacks, the race ensues until the end where the elusive prize is won. For anyone starting school, college, a new challenging endeavor of any kind (but academic would probably receive the most benefit) this is an excellent motivation tool and source of inspiration. As a teacher, this is one of my favorite films but it ranks up there with any other movie I love. I’d put it in my top 10. So if you’ve never seen this “based on a true story” film, I highly recommend it to you. It has something for everyone and it affects you in a very banal way. If you don’t walk away after watching this in a more positive mindset, I think you need to rewind it and watch it again, you probably weren’t paying attention ese.

Edward James Olmos consulting on the set with the real teaching legend: Jaime Escalante.
Edward James Olmos consulting on the set with the real-life living-legend of teaching: Jaime Escalante.

Ep. 59 – Zoe Kazan is ‘The Exploding Girl’ (Includes explosion sound)

I loved this film, a really great date flick. I also really love my sound effects CD so I jumped at the chance to use the grenade explosion sound. This is part and parcel of my odd sense of humor.

Don’t think I blow people up as a habit. The funniest part of this is that she really never explodes in the film. It’s a metaphor for epilepsy. Tell me how you like the soud effect anyway, I’ve played it 3 times for my family and they’re starting to worry about me for cackling so loud.

Just kidding, this is a great film. Do watch it!

College can be a rough time, even for those who are 100% healthy. In this case, we have a protagonist with epilepsy. She’s trying to find love that eludes her time and time again.

I like films like this that look almost like hidden camera footage. When a girl and her roommate stay up watching TV, hanging off the couch talking about life, you are among them. It’s really a hard time when you’re out of high school in your early years of adulthood. You want the job, the enjoyment, and the love that culture promises and yet, it doesn’t translate that way.

We see a girl who is stuck in unrequited love, trying to improve a relationship tat is sadly one-sided. When one is new at love, there is so much that has to be learned the hard way. Then, there is the “Ducky” type of friend who shares her apartment. Is their friendship destined to stay platonic or will it grow into a sexual thing.

Thes are the basic elements of this film. My wife thought it dragged on a bit. I, on the other hand, liked the mysterious ether-like feeling of the film. For me, it was a peering into the life of a brave young girl with no answers. I found it inspiring in an odd way. Maybe because I don’t yet have the answers and I felt for her in that stage of life. I recommend it as a thoughtful romantic drama.


Ep. 58 – Annihilation

Something other-worldly has landed and this is nothing like us. We don’t know what it wants or if it wants anything. We can’t see it but we see its impact on the area around it. This is a film that reminded me of “Alien” 1 in its sci-fi purity. It also surprised me with some chilling horror aspects.

Annihilation (2018)
R | 1h 55min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy | 23 February 2018 (USA)

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.
Director: Alex Garland
Writers: Alex Garland (written for the screen by), Jeff VanderMeer (based on the novel by)
Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson

Director Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”) Pulls out all the stops with this his second directorial project. I don’t want to let him sound “new” though, take a look at his writing credits: “Dredd” (screenplay), “Never Let Me Go” (screenplay), “28 Days Later…” (written by). In my opinion, “Annihilation” is his largest undertaking to date. He wrote the adaptation from a novel and directed this film.

Now for the cast: Natalie Portman pays Lena, the soldier turned biologist who ventures out on a mission to examine a strange new region changed by unknown forces. She is not only following her scientific curiosity but she wants to find out what happened to her late husband Kane, played by Oscar Isaac, in a place called “The Shimmer.” Benedict Wong plays a hazmat suited govt. professional who keeps a storyline running throughout the film through questions. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the all-too-creepy leader of this expedition, Dr. Ventress. She speaks in barely above a whisper most the film. Gina Rodriguez is the third woman on the mission. She is known for playing Jane on the tv series “Jane the Virgin.” Also in this is Tessa Thompson who you will recall was in “Thor: Ragnorok.”

What it’s not:

A long pointless sci-fi posing as a mystery. I want to celebrate this fact because it seems lately we’ve been fed pseudo si-fi that never delivers.

What it is:

An engaging well-written story that holds your attention through elements of drama, mystery, horror, and sci-fi. It’s also an incredibly cast and well-directed film that keeps you guessing and never leaves you hanging. While keeping some questions open-ended there is much room for discussion but the main spine of the story is explained and concluded well. I find this to be more and more rare in sci-fi mystery these days. Is it any coincidence the director of this film is its seasoned writer and a great one at that?

I won’t hide the fact that this is a long film at 2 hours. There were a couple of times I wondered how much time had passed (and I tend to do this when things are not chugging along). Still, in those moments you get to absorb the most incredible visuals and CGI. In between that the adventure moves swiftly.

My final word and rating:

This is a great adventure film I highly recommend. It is rated R for horror and gore elements so it’s not for the squeamish. I am a horror fan however so for me and my recommendation, I give this film a 9/10. I am officially a big fan of director/writer Alex Garland and looking forward to his next project.

Ep. 57 – The Alchemist Cookbook

Taking ancient riddles and recipes for the dark arts seriously. I saw it recently in “A Dark Song” now we have it again in “Alchemist Cookbook.” This one is quite a thrill and certainly a recommended watch. Listen to my short review and see what you think about this mysterious yet simplified horror film. Comments are always welcomed.

The Alchemist Cookbook (2016)
1h 22min | Drama, Horror | 7 October 2016 (USA)

Suffering from delusions of fortune, a young hermit hides out in the forest hoping to crack an ancient mystery, but pays a price for his mania.
Director: Joel Potrykus
Writer: Joel Potrykus
Stars: Ty Hickson, Amari Cheatom, Fiji