Review of “Underwater”

The Tian corporation is making another attempt at putting an ultra-deep-sea oil drilling rig at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, seven miles underwater. Previous efforts have failed for mysterious reasons. The base where the crew is housed is called Kepler and the drilling rig is called Roebuck. One morning when mechanical engineer Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) is brushing her teeth, Kepler suffers massive structural failures, causing flooding and implosions. Price and Rodrigo Nagenda (Mamoudou Athie) go looking for emergency escape pods, but their way is blocked by more damage. As they try to find an escape from the ocean floor, they find fellow crewman Paul Abel (T.J. Miller) buried under rubble but unhurt. The pair digs him out and continue their search for safety. They find Captain Lucien (Vincent Cassel) unhurt and unsuccessfully trying to contact the surface. The four then head to the control room where they find biologist Emily Haversham (Jessica Henwick) and engineer Liam Smith (John Gallagher, Jr.) also unsuccessfully trying to contact the surface. None of them knows why Kepler is coming apart at the seams, but the leading theory is earthquakes. Captain Lucien suggests a plan where they don high-tech pressurized suits and walk the mile to Roebuck where they might be able to contact someone or access more escape pods. There chances of success are slim and even lower since the cause of all their problems is a mysterious creature lurking in the depths that is unhappy about the intrusion of humanity in its home.

January usually is a dumping ground for movies, especially the first couple of weeks. You get Oscar contenders that had limited releases in December, but the majority of new movies are the cast offs, the unwanted, the redheaded bastards at the family reunion. In other words, January is often the landfill where garbage movies go to die. That brings us to “Underwater.” Shot back in 2017, “Underwater” was made by 20th Century Fox prior to its purchase by Disney. What struggles the film and film makers had due to the change of ownership and the reason for the release delay are unknown, but it shouldn’t have taken over two years for the film to arrive in theaters. Maybe it got lost in the transition or maybe Fox and Disney execs saw the movie and decided to bury it. Whatever the reason, “Underwater” is a good example of a January film.

It isn’t that “Underwater” looks cheap. The sets and pressurized suits look like they could exist. While the characters sometimes use the technology in ways that don’t make sense or seem impossible, nothing in the film looks like it’s such a leap that it would be 100 years before it would be available.

The movie has a claustrophobic design to many of the sets. There are some larger room and long hallways, but most of the film takes place in narrow access shafts, small elevators, collapsed structures and inside the suits. If you feel tense while being in a confined space, you might want to skip “Underwater.”

My issues with the film are based more on the actions of the characters, including the monster, and how much of it doesn’t make sense. There are some very stereotypical horror film behaviors on display. For instance, late in the film, Norah is awestruck as she sees the monster, missing an opportunity to run away. There are a couple of characters that sacrifice themselves in ways that are supposed to be brave and unselfish but feel more like a screenwriter trying to force the audience to feel something for generic tropes. The monster misses some opportunities to take out most of the cast when they become separated. It seems omnipresent for patches of the film then disappears if the script needs it to. Even the design of the drilling facility doesn’t make much sense. If you need to get from Kepler to Roebuck, how do you do that? It isn’t clear if a transport train we see the survivors riding is how teams get to Roebuck or another part of the facility. Do they take subs? Are they sent there directly from the surface? If so, what is Kepler for? This is another example of me thinking too much about meaningless details, but if you put that much information in a movie it should make sense. There are other examples of little details that confused me but those would be spoilers. Much of “Underwater” doesn’t seem to care of it makes sense.

“Underwater” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, and brief strong language. There are a couple of bloody deaths, including one where a body implodes. We see a couple of dead bodies amongst the wreckage of the destroyed station. Foul language is scattered.

Perhaps the best thing about “Underwater” is the monster. We don’t get a good look at the creature until near the end of the film and even then, it is somewhat hidden by the murkiness of the water. It resembles bits and pieces of other movie monsters including ones from “Cloverfield” and “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” I wish as much effort had been put into the story and the characters as the monster, then maybe “Underwater” would have been worth the trip to the theater. Sadly, generic characters behaving in nonsensical ways in a predictable story with a decent monster is what we are given. If you are forced to see this film, be ready to hold your breath.

“Underwater” gets two stars out of five.

Two new movies open this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Bad Boys for Life—


Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

No Review

A sinus infection kept me out of theaters last weekend. I’ll return this week and see and review at least one of the following:


Just Mercy–

Like a Boss (NSFW)–


Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Uncut Gems”

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) owns a jewelry store in New York City’s diamond district. He has a sports betting problem and is into a loan shark for lots of money. The loan shark, Arno (Eric Bogosian), is sending his enforcers to threaten and rough up Howard, warning him to get Arno his money quickly. Arno is also his brother-in-law, married to his sister. Howard is also having an affair with a woman he hired to work at the jewelry store. Julia (Julia Fox) is kept in an apartment Howard has in the city while he, his wife Dinah (Idina Menzel) and their three kids live in a house in the suburbs. Dinah plans on divorcing Howard after they celebrate Passover as she is aware of his infidelity and he’s more interested in sports than his family. Howard has a kind of celebrity customer recruiter named Demany (LaKeith Stanfield). Demany moves in circles with athletes and entertainers. Any celebrities he brings in that buy jewelry at Howard’s store, Demany gets a percentage as a commission. Demany brings in Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett (playing himself) to the store on the same day Howard receives a raw, uncut Black Opal from Ethiopia. He shows it to Garnett who becomes enchanted with the stone. He feels an emotional connection with the rock and asks if he can keep it for a night. Howard plans on auctioning off the stone in a few days but reluctantly agrees to let the superstar take the rock in exchange for his Celtics championship ring. Because he sees Garnett’s enthusiastic response to the Opal, Howard takes Garnett’s ring to a pawn shop, gets $21,000 for it, and places a complicated bet that, if it hits, will pay off his debts to Arno. The consequences of many of Howard’s decisions begin to crash around him as all his plans face unexpected complications.

“Uncut Gems” is a beautifully made movie about ugly people. The film’s directors, the Safdie Brothers Josh and Benny, mined their father’s life in the diamond district for story ideas and based Sandler’s Howard Ratner on a person their father worked with. If he’s anything like the character in the film, he was a horrible person. Making movies about horrible people, the bad decisions they make, their selfishness and inconsideration of how their choices will harm others is a time-tested Hollywood trope. Usually, there are some good characters to offset the bad, but in “Uncut Gems,” decency is something in short supply. And perhaps the most interesting character in the film is a lump of rock with opals in it.

The part of the film getting the most attention is Adam Sandler’s performance. Sandler slides easily into the sleazy role of Howard Ratner. Ratner is a smooth talker and slick businessman that can sweet-talk his way into any party or business to advance his schemes. Sandler is getting rave notices and Oscar buzz with this performance, but I didn’t think his work was all that impressive. Howard Ratner is close to many of Sandler’s other characters, just toned down in some respects. Sandler does good work, but it isn’t all that special. Should he be praised? Sure, but I don’t know if the performance is something deserving of the highest honor Hollywood gives.

“Uncut Gems” is relentlessly grim. Howard uses everyone in his sphere of influence: His employee/lover, his brother-in-law/loan shark, his father-in-law, his celebrity recruiter, Kevin Garnett, it doesn’t matter who gets close to Howard, he finds a way to take advantage of them. Julia Fox’s Julia appears to care for Howard, but she is using him for his access to celebrities and a free apartment. Even Kevin Garnett and a brief appearance by The Weeknd, appearing as himself, make the celebrities look shallow and self-absorbed. Even Howard’s kids are obnoxious. The closest thing to a decent person in the film is Idina Menzel’s Dinah. She’s finally had enough of Howard’s infidelity and disinterest and plans on getting a divorce. She doesn’t get much screen time, but I believe if she had, we would have seen her shortcomings and weaknesses. While I’m aware characters need flaws to make them more interesting, there should have been at least one person that gives us hope for humanity. As it is, “Uncut Gems” details a world that needs to be cleansed by fire.

Despite all the awfulness in the movie, it moves at a brisk pace, constantly throwing new complications at Howard and his plans to finally pay off Arno. I was constantly wondering what would go wrong next for Howard and how he would try to escape the latest hitch in his scheme. Howard thinks fast on his feet, lies with ease and is likable enough (at least for a while) to placate those he’s scamming. He can get away with his plots for only so long before those he’s dealing with begin to lose patience with his deflections and unkept promises. The Safdie Brothers and co-writer Ronald Bronstein weave a taut story around the lowlifes in and around the diamond district that won’t bore you but may wear down your soul.

“Uncut Gems” is rated R for pervasive strong language, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use. There are punches thrown and a couple of shootings with a fair amount of blood. The sexual content is a scantily clad woman beginning to pleasure herself. Drug use is limited to two characters apparently snorting cocaine in a bathroom, but we never see the actual drug. Foul language is common throughout the film.

“Uncut Gems” gives the audience a glimpse into a world no one should ever visit. While the jewelry is shiny (when it isn’t gaudy) it hides an ugly subculture of grifters, conmen, thugs and desperate dreamers. The saddest of all this group is the dreamers, hoping to leave behind a life of common drudgery, of going to work, of facing mundane problems, in search of a quick score and a ticket to luxury and leisure. For 99.99% of the world, the easy life is a dream never fulfilled. For the characters in “Uncut Gems,” it’s a sportsbook ticket that’s never cashed in and a life of violence and tragedy. I’ll stay in my everyday 9-to-5 world and die an old man, thank you very much.

“Uncut Gems” gets three stars out of five.

There’s only one new film in wide release this week. It’s likely that’s what I’ll see and review.

The Grudge—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Link to Review of “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker”

Here’s a link to my review of “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” available at

The Christmas holiday brings Oscar contenders and family fare to a local theater near you. I’ll likely see and review at least one of these features:

Little Women–

Spies in Disguise–

Uncut Gems–

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Jojo Rabbit”

Johannes Betzler, better known as Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), is a 10-year old boy in Berlin, Germany near the end of World War II. His father is off in Italy, either fighting for or against the Nazis, and his older sister died of influenza, so Jojo lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) in their home. Jojo and his best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) are going off to Hitler Youth camp to learn fighting and survival techniques to protect the Fatherland. Jojo is nervous but gets words of encouragement from his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). At the camp, Jojo is ordered by some older boys to wring a rabbit’s neck to prove he’s willing to kill to protect Germany. Jojo refuses and is tagged with the nickname Jojo Rabbit. Adolf tells Jojo the rabbit is cunning, fast, can outthink his enemies and isn’t a coward at all. With renewed confidence, Jojo runs back to the group where they are being taught how to throw grenades by the leader of the camp Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). Jojo grabs a grenade and throws it, but it bounces off a tree and lands at his feet. Frozen in fear, the grenade explodes, injuring Jojo’s leg and scarring his face. Because of his perceived incompetence, Captain Klenzendorf is assigned a low-level job posting propaganda posters and collecting metal, and once he has recovered from his injuries, Rosie takes Jojo to the office so he can feel included and help. Arriving at home before his mother one day, Jojo hears noises coming from his sister’s room. He investigates and discovers a panel in the wall granting access to a hidden compartment. Inside he discovers Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a Jewish teenager Rosie is hiding from the Nazis. Jojo threatens to turn her in but Elsa warns he and Rosie might get in trouble also. Jojo and Elsa declare an uneasy truce, but he demands she share all her “Jew secrets” so he can write a book and one day present it to Hitler.

“Jojo Rabbit” is a sweet and funny coming of age film set against the horrors of World War II. Writer and director Taika Waititi, who also plays Jojo’s imaginary friend in the form of Hitler, downplays most of the atrocities in his film as it’s not really based on historical facts, but loosely on a book called “Caging Skies” by author Christine Leunens. Combining childhood imaginary friends, the priming of a generation to hate Jews and others seen as inferior, and a worldwide conflict that cost millions of lives is difficult to turn into a comedy, but Waititi succeeds…mostly.

Viewed with over 70 years of hindsight, films of Hitler giving speeches, wildly gesticulating and puffing out his chest as thunderous applause washes over him from adoring followers, seems almost comical. None of us can understand the circumstances that led to the rise of Nazism since we didn’t experience the German economic collapse due to reparations demanded by the Allies as punishment for World War I. We can’t understand a country’s fanaticism and willingness to follow the orders of madman, demanding the expulsion, then extermination, of a race of people. Despite America’s current political climate that draws dire comparisons, the conditions that led to nationalism, fascism and genocide are unknown to modern people (except for those unfortunate ones that live under totalitarian regimes like in North Korea). Portraying Hitler as a child’s imaginary friend takes the sting out of the dictator’s crimes against humanity. While there are some atrocities shown, like the public hanging of people considered traitors or enemies of the State, the last weeks of European campaign look pretty calm, peaceful, almost idyllic.

And that’s my biggest complaint about “Jojo Rabbit.” Director Waititi puts a glossy finish on a dark and horrific period in world history. Yes, he’s showing the end of the war through the eyes of a child, but there were many things children of the time saw that could have been incorporated. We do see young people given guns and told to kill invading troops. Rebel Wilson, playing a trainer of Hitler youth named Fraulein Rahm, sticks a grenade with the pin pulled down the belt of a young boy and tells him to go hug an American. These scenes are played for the sake of dark humor and we never see any children die as a result. The approach is more like Monty Python-lite. There’s no dismemberment, no obvious dummy bodies blown up, as the death always happens off screen. I think this approach cheapens the story. We all know the Nazis were murderous brutes, but we aren’t shown that except is snippets that fail to connect. Perhaps I’ve watched too many World War II documentaries with footage shot of bodies lying in the street, but I think Waititi owes it to the victims of this bloody war to show the suffering caused by a group of people suffering the delusion of being a superior race.

All that said, “Jojo Rabbit” has a great to going for it. The performances of the cast are lovely. Roman Griffin Davis is a joy to watch as Jojo. He undergoes a great deal of growth as the film progresses. Jojo is a fanatic with a dream of serving on Hitler’s personal guard. He believes all the lies he’s fed about Jews having horns, sucking the blood of victims, eating babies and the like. Davis can put a cute face on fascism as we follow him through his transition to decent human being.

Thomasin McKenzie is affecting as Elsa. The young woman forced to hide in a wall is broken when we meet her. She plays with Jojo’s opinions about Jews, confirming what he believes to educate him about how silly the lies he’s been told are. A scene where Jojo is trying to hurt her by reading a fake letter from her boyfriend will break your heart as the hateful words heap more damage on an already fragile soul. McKenzie’s is possibly the best performance in the film.

Director Waititi steals every scene he’s in as Hitler. Portraying the dictator as a childish oaf works well. Waititi is gifted in both his script and performance, shaming Nazis for their ridiculous beliefs of supremacy. Jojo’s Hitler is a stand-in for his absent father, providing support and guidance as Jojo navigates his way through a world that’s falling apart. Waititi doesn’t shy away from making Hitler an aggressive jerk towards Jojo. He puts on a Beer Hall Putsch flourish to some of his pep talks, likely based on speeches Jojo heard on the radio. While I have an issue with how in general the subject matter was presented, I have no problem with Waititi’s take down of Hitler.

“Jojo Rabbit” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some disturbing images, violence, and language. There are a couple of scenes showing bodies hanging in the town square. The end of the film has some battle scenes showing a few people getting shot and laying amongst the rubble. Jojo is shown being injured by a grenade. Anti-Semitism is featured throughout the film. Foul language is scattered and mostly mild.

I enjoyed “Jojo Rabbit” a great deal, however the softening of the horrors of war was something constantly nibbling at my mind. I understand the film’s main characters are a 10-year old boy and a teenage girl, but I also know young people were witness to awful things at the end of World War II in Europe. They had suffered through food and medicine shortages and then the brutality of Soviet troops looking to exact revenge for all their people lost on the Eastern front. Taika Waititi sweeps most of this under the rug with a few offhand comments. I think dealing with it more directly would have made the humor of the movie more effective and a relief from the horrors of war. It’s a difficult balance to strike and Waititi partially failed.

“Jojo Rabbit” gets four stars out of five.

I am taking some time off so there probably won’t be a review this week (probably) but here’s what’s opening in a multiplex near you.

Black Christmas—


Jumanji: The Next Level—

Richard Jewell—

Uncut Gems—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment. It’s available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Knives Out”

Successful murder mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead, with his throat slit, in the third-floor study of his elegant home the morning after a celebration of his 85th birthday with his entire family. On hand were his daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), their son Ransom (Chris Evans), Harlan’s son Walt (Michael Shannon), his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Harlan’s late son’s wife Joni (Toni Collette) and her daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), Harlan’s mother Wanetta (K Callan), Harlan’s housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) and his nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana DeArmas). Police believe Harlan’s death is a suicide, but no note is found. A detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired by a secretive client to investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey. Blanc knows something is odd about the case as there are plenty of motives amongst the family to kill Harlan, but everyone appears to be accounted for at the time of death. The case takes on a new urgency when Harlan’s will is read leaving everything to Marta. In order to regain their inheritance, the family pushes the police and Blanc to prove Marta is the killer.

I love a good murder mystery. I listen to several true crime podcasts, watch documentaries about serial killers and how they were caught, and enjoy TV shows and movies with twisty, complicated conspiracies to commit unspeakable crimes (watch “Dark” and “Black Spot” on Netflix to get an idea of what I enjoy). One might question my sanity with my viewing history on a couple of streaming services, but I enjoy unraveling the puzzle of the crime. Was it someone familiar with the victim? Was it a stranger in a “wrong place, wrong time” scenario? Was the motive money, anger or love? What would drive someone to violate the most sacred law and take the life of another? In “Knives Out” the motive is clearly money, but the question of “Who dunnit?” requires a brilliant mind and the help of a woman who vomits when she lies.

Rian Johnson, director, producer and writer of “Knives Out,” manages to make it impossible to figure out who the killer is until the final scene. Information is carefully withheld, or hidden in plain sight, that can identify the culprit. It is a masterfully crafted mystery with plenty of loathsome characters, all believably capable of killing Harlan. Johnson also injects political and personal commentary about toxic online culture using the character of Jacob Thrombey, played by Jaeden Martell, as an alt-right internet troll, and Don Johnson’s Richard Drysdale talking about immigrants “waiting their turn” to enter the country legally (Ana DeArmas’ Marta is the daughter of immigrants).

While the cast is huge and loaded with A-List stars, Johnson is smart to focus on three characters: Blanc, Marta and Ransom. This trio is the eye of the storm and Johnson studies them like a plane sent into a hurricane. Each is given a moment to shine, each actor is brilliant in their role and none disappoints when they are in the spotlight.

Chris Evans takes his All-American image from the Marvel Universe and uses Thor’s hammer to destroy it. Evans’ Ransom is a terrible person. A trust fund playboy, Ransom has never made anything of himself. He looks down on common people and believes he’s superior because he was born into a rich family. Despite his odious nature, Evans still give Ransom a touch of decency. After the will is read giving Marta all the fortune, Ransom helps Marta escape the clamoring Thrombey heirs. He wants to help her as he sees being written out of the will as a second chance to make something of himself. His offer to help Marta feels sincere, despite the strings attached, and we are willing to give Ransom the benefit of the doubt. Evans charm and sincerity makes us feel sorry for Ransom and willing to give him a chance.

Ana DeArmas’ Marta is the moral center of the film. She is incapable of lying as it makes her vomit. She is a walking self lie detector. DeArmas makes you feel sympathy for Marta. She’s put into an impossible situation, facing down a ruthless family willing to do anything to reclaim their fortune. She’s been otherwise ignored and seen as just “one of the help” by everyone else, but Marta had a close, familial relationship with Harlan. She didn’t want anything from him other than to take care of him, and he took her into his confidence, knowing he could trust her. Harlan’s death has a profound effect on Marta and DeArmas conveys that pain throughout the film.

Daniel Craig is the main reasons to see “Knives Out.” His Benoit Blanc, referred to as one of the last “Gentleman Detectives,” steals nearly every scene he’s in. He can do as little as strike a note on a piano and the scene changes in tone and tension. Craig lays on a thick Southern accent, slightly different from his drawl as Joe Bang in “Logan Lucky,” that makes every word he says sing like a choir. Some might think the accent is too much, but I loved it. Its sound and phrasing draw in the ear like a homing signal. You can’t ignore anything Blanc says as he might throw in some bit of homegrown wisdom or a unique turn of phrase that adds more color to an already vibrant pallet. He speaks of the mystery being like a donut, and there being a hole in the center of that donut where the solution lies. Then he discovers there’s another donut within the hole of the donut. A donut within a donut. Craig delivers the lines with such excitement and passion you might think he’s about to burst into tears.

The entire cast of “Knives Out” is wonderful, delivering performances of terrible people in beautiful ways. While Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Katherine Langford and Christopher Plummer get the most screen time, the rest of the ensemble fills their roles well without a weakness in the lot. Rian Johnson gives a masterclass in juggling characters and talent with a cast that any director would kill to work with.

“Knives Out” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material. There is a brief fight between two male members of the family. Harlan’s death is shown in a very quick flash. A character is shown near death with a spider crawling on its face. Marta is shown throwing up on a couple of occasions, including in one character’s face. Sexual references are limited to the family asking Marta if she was having sex with Harlan and mentions of a character masturbating. A joint is briefly shown being smoked and there is a reference to using a vape pen. Foul language is scattered and mild.

While “Knives Out” is all about the murder, it also is very funny. Director Rian Johnson clearly intended for the story to have humorous elements, including the actions of the family to be viewed as comical. Still, Johnson knows how to balance the humorous with the mysterious as discovering the identity of the killer is always at the forefront, even when the audience thinks they know who’s responsible. As with all good murder mysteries, you don’t know until you really, really know. And you won’t know until Rian Johnson is ready to tell you.

“Knives Out” gets five very sharp, pointy, dangerous stars.

There’s only one wide release this week, so I may watch and review something available at my local arthouse theater.

Playmobil: The Movie—

Dark Waters—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is an investigative journalist for Esquire magazine. He’s married to Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and they have a beautiful baby boy named Gavin. The Vogels go to his sister Lorraine’s (Tammy Blanchard) wedding where his estranged father Jerry (Chris Cooper) is giving away the bride. Jerry abandoned the family right after Lloyd’s mother discovered she had terminal cancer. Lloyd holds a great deal of resentment towards Jerry and when Jerry drunkenly tries talking to him, Lloyd punches him and is punched by another person in the wedding. Lloyd’s editor at Esquire, Ellen (Christine Lahti), assigns him to write a brief article on children’s show host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) for the magazine’s edition focusing on heroes. Lloyd is offended at being given a puff piece, but Ellen shoos him away to write the story. Lloyd calls to set up an interview and later that night, Fred Rogers calls and chats with Lloyd. Lloyd then goes to Pittsburgh, where Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is recorded, to meet with him. Their interview doesn’t go as Lloyd expects and is cut short with Rogers needed on set. Lloyd tells Andrea, Rogers is too good to be true. He tells Ellen he needs more time and interviews with Rogers as he’s more complicated than he appears. Through all this, Jerry is trying to talk with Lloyd, parking outside his apartment for two days and showing up with pizza. Lloyd is obsessed with breaking through and getting to the REAL Fred Rogers.

This will be a short review. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is an amazing and unique film. It seems very straightforward in the trailers and looks light a heartwarming story of an unusual friendship, and it is. However, the movie is far from straightforward in the way it tells the story, how it frames the events and what the movie is really about. There are few films that can be both simple and complex, and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” manages to pull off that trick.

Tom Hanks is everything you’d want and expect him to be as Mr. Rogers. He has that infinite kindness in his eyes. He’s unremarkable while also being remarkable. Rogers loved children and loved to teach them about the world the way it is, with all the pain and heartbreak, but in the most gentle way. Hanks embodies Mr. Rogers fully, exuding a warmth and kindness that would be looked upon with suspicion should anyone else behave the same way. Matthew Rhys’ Lloyd Vogel casts a doubtful eye on Hanks’ Rogers. That just makes Rogers treat him with more love and understanding, which infuriates Vogel.

The way their early interactions are written is filled with uncomfortable silences as Rogers doesn’t answer Vogel’s questions and begins trying to break through Vogel’s angry shell. Rogers might be thought of as passive-aggressive in these scenes, but he’s really looking for Vogel’s soft spot. That part of his personality, his soul, that is hurting and needs soothing compassion. Just before their first meeting, Rogers’ business partner Bill Isler, played by Enrico Colantoni, tells Vogel that Rogers loves guys like him, and that bit of dialog comes back later during a pivotal scene. Vogel is a hardened man. His writing looks for the dirt, the darkness in his subjects. It’s getting harder for him to find stories because anyone that’s read his work doesn’t want to talk to him. He assumes the worst about people and manages to find the worst in everyone…except Fred Rogers. He keeps looking, but it isn’t there. He has plenty of darkness that he’s ignored for years. Now, with his father returning, that darkness and anger is beginning to take over.

The film uses miniatures that look like the Neighborhood of Make Believe to do the interstitials between scenes, like when Lloyd is traveling from New York to Pittsburgh and other scene transitions. It’s an unusual choice when stock footage of planes taking off or highway traffic could have been used. But it becomes comforting to watch a small model of a jetliner move down a runway and takeoff nearly straight up, like a child was guiding the movements.

I believe the director, Marielle Heller, might have been showing us how the mundane reality of air travel, commuting and other things we find tedious is like child’s play in the grand scheme. We often complain about traffic jams, security lines at airports, long waits at the grocery checkout, when it’s all meaningless. We ignore the suffering of millions around the world, turn our eyes away from the homeless person on the corner, shrug our shoulders at hate crimes on the nightly news as if to say, “What are you gonna do?” Mr. Rogers Neighborhood of Make Believe touched on difficult subjects with old puppets and simple songs for toddlers. He talked about looking for people that helped in times of trouble as a sign of hope. The childlike quality of parts of this film are an attempt to open our minds and give the world, with all its hate, war, crime and suffering, a look with fresh, childlike eyes.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is rated PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language. The fight consists of a shove and a couple of punches. Family abandonment is the focus of much of the film. Language is very mild and infrequent.

I don’t know if “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” will get Tom Hanks another Oscar nod, but the film deserves to win any and every award for which it’s nominated. The final scene of Hanks playing a piano in the dark should get him at least consideration. It is such a sweet film with unexpected moments of humor and joy, it might get run over by other more “serious” movies about big, important ideas. That’s fine, I suppose. But if you want to watch a film that works over your tear ducts and gives them a strong punch every now and again, then “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is definitely the film for you.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” gets five tear-stained stars.

The holiday delivers a couple of very different releases for your post-Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll be seeing at least one of the following:

Knives Out—


Queen & Slim—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Link to Review of “Ford v. Ferrari”

Find my review of “Ford v. Ferrari” at Here’s the link:

There are tough choices to be made as a trio of interesting films are opening in a cineplex near you. I’ll see and review at least one of the follow:

21 Bridges–

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood–

Frozen II–

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Review of “Doctor Sleep”

Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has been dealing with ghosts and memories of his homicidal father at the Overlook Hotel all his life. As a child he was visited by the ghost of Overlook Hotel chef Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), who taught Danny how to construct boxes in his mind to trap the ghosts so they couldn’t try to possess him anymore. Now an adult, Danny is a homeless alcoholic in need of a new start. Riding a bus to a small town, Danny meets Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). Billy recognizes Danny as a fellow alcoholic, gives him a job in the city park, becomes his AA sponsor and is a reference to get him an apartment. Danny soon begins work as an orderly in a hospice and is tagged with the nickname Doctor Sleep as he comforts a patient on the edge of death. In Danny’s apartment there’s a wall painted with chalkboard paint by a previous tenant. One morning, Danny sees a message he didn’t write saying “morning.” The message is from a teenage girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran). Abra has “the shine” like Danny, only she’s much more powerful. Her ability attracts the attention of a cult of called the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The True Knot feed off the shine, they call it steam, given off by those with the gift as they die. The True Knot travel the country, abducting young people with the gift, torturing them to purify the steam, and absorb it to prolong their lives. They also save some of the steam in metal cannisters to feed on later. It’s getting more difficult to find powerful possessors of steam and the True Knot is beginning to age and die. Abra is so powerful, Rose believes she could feed her cult for a very long time. Abra gets in touch with Danny, in person, and he intends to protect her from the True Knot, even if that means returning to the cursed Overlook Hotel.

Is it an absolute necessity to have seen or be familiar with “The Shining” to enjoy “Doctor Sleep?” No, however it would help as this follow up makes references to, and contains characters from, the 1980 film that might cause some confusion to the uninitiated. Does “Doctor Sleep” stand on its own? Yes, it does. Director Mike Flanagan had the unenviable task of taking elements of Stanley Kubrick’s classic, that changed things from Stephen King’s novel, and merge them into a new film made almost 40 years later and based on another of King’s books. He also had to make King happy in the process, something Kubrick didn’t do. “Doctor Sleep” may be the best example of artistic juggling with running chainsaws in history.

The reverence for “The Shining” on display in “Doctor Sleep” might be called slavish by some. However, it’s necessary to give proper credit to a film that wasn’t popular or successful when it was released but has gained a following and respect over the years. I watched “The Shining” the night before seeing “Doctor Sleep” and was surprised by how much I liked it. Sure, Jack Nicholson comes off as very smarmy right off the bat, and Shelly Duvall, who didn’t get along with Kubrick, performed the role of Wendy like she was in a high school production of “Oklahoma,” but the tone of the film, the performance of Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance, and the explosive and violent final act make “The Shining” a one-of-a-kind horror/thriller. “Doctor Sleep” takes the base built by the original film and builds an exciting and tense haunted house upon it.

Rebecca Ferguson is a terrific villain as Rose the Hat. Her beauty and lilting accent lull the innocent into her trap. She and her cult of shine vampires are a roving band of death and greed, finding those that shine and sucking them dry in the most vulgar and painful way. Ferguson’s charisma lights up the screen so that, despite her being the leader of the bad guys, you miss her when she’s not featured. You want to see her twirl her metaphorical mustache as she plots, schemes and carries out her diabolical plans.

Ewan McGregor’s Danny Torrance is a pitiful sight when we meet the adult version. He’s a drunk, getting in bar fights, going home with women he doesn’t know just so he has a place to sleep as he’s homeless, stealing from those women, all to quiet his shine and try to forget what happened when he was a child. When he meets Billy right after he gets off the bus, he admits he’s trying to run away from himself. McGregor is all pain in these first few scenes. You can see it oozing from every pore. As Danny begins to turn things around, there’s a glow in McGregor’s performance as the character’s goodness (pardon the expression) shines through. McGregor isn’t flashy in his performance until later scenes at the dilapidated but still haunted Overlook. Danny is the anchor for the audience. He’s the focal point of our sympathy and we want Danny to be alright. McGregor makes it easy for us to root for Danny.

Kyliegh Curran is great as Abra Stone. Abra is tough and willing to get her hands dirty to fight Rose and the True Knot. Curran delivers a balanced performance, showing Abra as a typical teenager with fears and insecurities, and a brave and mature young woman facing a challenge no one can imagine. Curran gives Abra a calm and steady presence atypical for a teenager. We see Abra has been using her abilities since she was very young and has apparently honed them to a point that attracts Rose’s attention. When the two meet in their minds, the battle is fierce and Abra is more than a match for the older Rose. It’s a battle I would have liked to see more of, but the film makers chose to keep their interactions limited. Curran is an actress I am looking for to seeing more of as her career grows.

“Doctor Sleep” is rated R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use. There is a barroom fight that is very bloody. A body is shown with a knife in its chest. A character kills himself with a rifle shot to the head. We see various people shot. The True Knot people die in a weird way. A car crash shows the driver being thrown through the windshield. A little boy is sliced with a knife numerous times before he dies. A woman’s leg is cut with a knife three times. Drug use is limited to seeing a woman snort cocaine, but the True Knot’s ingesting the steam/shine could be seen as drug use. We see numerous ghosts with various injuries, including the naked bathtub hag from “The Shining.” Foul language is scattered.

Danny Lloyd, who played Danny Torrance in “The Shining,” has a brief cameo in the film. Some shots from the original movie were repurposed for “Doctor Sleep,” including the opening helicopter shot over the lake and past the small island. Some music is reused including “Midnight with the Stars and You,” heard in the party scene in the Gold Ballroom. There are numerous touches from “The Shining” that are sprinkled into “Doctor Sleep,” but they don’t take over the film, just add a hint of flavor. There is much to love about “Doctor Sleep” that has nothing to do with “The Shining.” It stands on its own as a very entertaining and tense film. It builds on “The Shining” without tearing it down. It’s a rare feat to both honor and advance a film so separated by time and those involved in making it.

“Doctor Sleep” gets five stars.

This week, I’ll be reviewing “Ford v. Ferrari” for

Other new films are:

Charlie’s Angels—

The Good Liar—

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to

Reviews of “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Parasite”

Daniella Ramos (Natalia Reyes), her friends call her Dani, works at a car assembly plant in Mexico City. She struggles to keep her job, support her YouTube-singing-sensation-in-training brother Diego (Diego Boneta) and make sure her father gets to his doctor’s appointment on time. She doesn’t know her importance to a post-apocalyptic future will make her the target of two time travelers. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is an augmented human soldier sent to protect her from a Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna), sent to kill her. Grace’s augmentations only allow for short burst combat. If she can’t kill the terminator quickly, she will likely die. The Rev-9 has a liquid metal exterior and a metallic internal skeleton that can separate, allowing for a two-pronged attack. When the Rev-9 is about to kill Dani and Grace, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up with high-caliber guns and a rocket launcher, giving Grace and Dani a chance to escape. While hiding out in a hotel, Sarah explains how she and her son John changed the future, saving billions of lives, and Grace explains how an A.I. called Legion, designed for global warfare, tried to wipe out humanity and unleased terminators to finish the job. Dani asks Sarah how she knew to be on that part of the highway at that time to save them. Sarah tells her how she receives text messages with coordinates, date and time. She shows up and kills what ever arrives. Grace traces the messages to Laredo, Texas, where they find a T-800 model that calls itself Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Carl has learned to mimic humanity, developing his version of a conscience, and agrees to help protect Dani and try to kill the Rev-9.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is the sixth film in the “Terminator” franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in all six in either a primary role or via digital manipulation. Linda Hamilton has appeared in three. All the other surrounding characters have been different or played by different actors. From James Cameron to “Deadpool” director Tim Miller, there have been some impressive people behind the camera, producing and writing all these films. And yet, they can only think to rewrite the same story over and over again. While this film has put much of the old band back together, “Terminator: Dark Fate” shows how his franchise is just a rehashing of a one-hit wonder.

The thing that bothers me the most about the film is the utter lack of logic. I know you must throw common sense out the window when you’re talking about a film whose central tenets are time-travel and sentient killer robots, but there are a few things that should be central to your storytelling. For instance, they only send one evil Terminator to kill the target. Why not send two or 10 or 100? You have the technology, why not make sure the job gets done? Same goes for the good guys that learned sending a human back in time to fight a Terminator isn’t the best idea after getting lucky the first time. And the evil A.I. should understand that if the timeline doesn’t change the instant your cybernetic killer disappears, it failed, and send another. Also, I know the time-travel gimmick requires the characters to show up naked, but shouldn’t they at least have a plan to acquire the weapons they need to defeat their enemies? Guns, grenades and other standard weapons only slow Terminators down, so find what you need to kill them quickly. Of course, this means the movie will only be about 30 minutes long, but you could do other things, in the dystopian future for example, to lengthen the film. I know I’m wasting characters with these thoughts, but this is the kind of thing that takes me out of a film like this.

Otherwise, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a decent action/sci-fi film. It’s nice to see Hamilton and Schwarzenegger together again. Arnold is in fine form playing against type as Carl discusses the fine art of interior design with Dani. Sarah and Grace dislike each other on sight and that makes for some entertaining threats of bodily harm. While her transformation from scared waif to badass warrior occurs a bit too quickly, Natalia Reyes gives Dani a nice grounding in reality. She’s a hard-working young woman, dedicated to her family and thrown into an impossible situation. Reyes gives the role some much needed authenticity. Having Mackenzie Davis’ Grace saddled with a clear weakness is a departure for the series. Of course, it shows up at the worst time but doesn’t it always. Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9 is more advanced and more dangerous than the other Terminators as he’s a better mimic of human emotion. Playing a Terminator may be a great job on your resume, but it probably isn’t one for the actor’s highlight reel as it doesn’t call for a great deal of emotional range. Luna is very good in a role that doesn’t ask much of his talent.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity. There are a great many deaths in the film from shootings to stabbings to car crashes. There is blood and some gore, but it isn’t over the top. Most of the fights occur between the two time travelers, with Luna’s Rev-9 having his liquid metal exterior peeled off in various violent ways. The nudity is when both visitors from the future arrive naked. We see mostly backsides and no frontal. Foul language is scattered.

There are several big action scenes and fights. A couple of military planes are destroyed, multiple cars crashed, a turbine at a hydroelectric dam is blown up and more. The fights between Rev-9 and Grace are mostly CGI and merely time fillers. We know both are going to be there at the end as that is how every version of the “Terminator” franchise has gone. Racking up worldwide ticket sales approaching $2 billion (unadjusted for inflation) means these films will keep coming. However, with an opening domestic weekend gross of an estimated $29 million (one of the lowest of the franchise) and a production budget north of $185 million, perhaps “Terminator” fatigue is setting in. Producer James Cameron is working on his 50 sequels to “Avatar” so he may not have had the time to fully devote to this project. Whatever the reason, perhaps this is a sign to let this franchise meet its dark fate.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” gets two stars out of five.

A family of grifters lives in their small, semi-underground apartment in a South Korean city. The oldest son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), hears of a job teaching English to the teenage daughter of a wealthy family. He gets his sister Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) to create documents on a computer to make it look like he’s in college and qualified to teach. Ki-woo is hired by Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) under the name Kevin to teach her daughter Da-hye (Jung Ji-so). Mrs. Park brags about the artistic ability of her young son Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon) and Kevin says he knows of a brilliant teacher named Jessica who is actually his sister Ki-jeong. Mrs. Park is impressed by Jessica’s stoic and disciplined teaching style and hires her immediately. Soon, the Kim’s get both Mr. Park’s (Lee Sun-kyun) chauffer and their housekeeper, Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun) fired, replacing them with Mr. and Mrs. Kim, both with fake names. The Park’s go on a camping trip celebrating Da-song’s birthday, and the Kim’s stay in the Park’s huge modern home, eating their food and drinking their alcohol. They party is interrupted by the arrival of the former housekeeper who says she needs to pick up something she left in the basement. That’s when everything changes.

“Parasite” is directed by Bong Joon-ho, the director of “Snowpiercer,” “The Host” and the Netflix film “Okja” among others. He’s a film maker that’s highly respected for his style and the ability to quickly and believably shift the tone of his films from common, everyday life to the absurd. “Parasite” is no different in this regard. While the family that’s the focus of the movie is shifty and looking to make a quick buck, they are nonetheless a regular family. It’s when a secret is exposed, and plans begin to unravel that the film takes a dark turn. “Parasite” might be the best film I’ve seen in a very long time.

You will be unable to determine the path of “Parasite” by watching the trailer. It looks like a slow-burn horror film, but it isn’t. It’s a domestic comedy focusing on class differences and the vapid nature of those wrapped up on their wealth, until it isn’t. Then it becomes a tense thriller, until it isn’t. “Parasite” is a film that must be seen to be believed, and even then, you might not believe it.

The entire cast is amazing. Choi So-dam plays the English teacher and is also the semi-leader of the family. Many of the grifts and cons the family attempt are his ideas and he prepares the family for their roles. Park So-dam plays the sister and she may be the most dangerous member of the family. She is cold, calculating, and has a level of anger just below the surface. While her brother is the brains of the operation, she is smarter and more conniving. The focus of the film is on these two characters and how their actions drive the story forward until it is all upended by a revelation two-thirds of the way through the movie.

There isn’t much I can tell you about “Parasite” as I don’t want to spoil it for you. There are twists and turns that must be enjoyed from ignorance. It is best to see the film with as little knowledge as possible so it can spring on you like a wild animal and change what you believe you know. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you and makes you think about it long after you leave the theater. I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.

“Parasite” is rated R for language, some violence and sexual content. The violence is minimal but is jarring as it is unexpected. There is some blood. There is a scene of a couple engaging in foreplay on a couch. There is no nudity, but there is some graphic feeling up and language. Foul language is scattered.

“Parasite” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in 2019. It has also won various awards for acting, writing and directing at other film festivals. However, the best reward it can get is at the box office where, worldwide, “Parasite” has earned over $106 million as of this writing. You should hunt it down in your community, ask management of a theater to show it if it isn’t in your town, or add it to a wish list on a streaming service. The film is in Korean, so you will have to read subtitles, but don’t let that get in the way of a rare and unique moviegoing experience.

While this review is short, it is not an indication of my feelings for “Parasite” as it is one of the best films I’ve seen all year and possibly ever. Move Heaven and Earth to see it. You won’t regret it.

“Parasite” gets five stars.

Four new films open this week and I’ll see at least one of the following:

Doctor Sleep—

Last Christmas—


Playing with Fire—

Listen to “Comedy Tragedy Marriage,” a podcast I do with my wife about life, love and entertainment. You can find it anywhere you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to