Review: Dolittle (2020)

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I have been dreading this movie, even moreso than other potential disasters like Cats. Each time the trailer came on (and I had to see it many times), it became more like a doctor’s appointment that I really didn’t look forward to. But people will be curious, so I saw it as my job to take one for the team.

The gist.

Robert Downey Jr. stars as Doctor Dolittle, an eccentric veterinarian who can speak to animals. In this movie, his prime has already come and gone, for we find this version of Dolittle to be secluded and locked away after a personal tragedy. A boy (Harry Collett) arrives at Dolittle’s mansion at the same time as a girl (Carmel Laniado) who asks Dolittle to come investigate why the Queen of England has gotten sick. This triggers a series of events that takes Dolittle to an island of bandits and pirates led by King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas) and Dolittle must dodge and escape a competitor (played by Michael Sheen) who is racing him to the end goal. The various animals we meet are voiced by Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, and many more.

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What doesn’t work?

You can see from that list of cast members, that people thought this movie might turn out okay. Oscar-winning talent signed on here. What this movie became, most of them are likely ashamed of.

Let’s start with our lead, Robert Downey Jr. He plays supposedly a Welsh character but this accent is all over the place, most of the time nonexistent. He tried to play this eccentric character but it doesn’t really work. The drama behind him doesn’t work, his humor doesn’t work, it’s overall just a mess and unfortunately Downey tends to be at the center of it.

We zoom out and look at the script. He had to have read this beforehand. The amount of fart jokes, hits in the balls, and other obscene and potty humor jokes… it’s unbearable. I had to look up the director Stephen Gaghan and I expected to see a resume with movies like Wild Hogs or something. This guy directed Syriana starring George Clooney and Gold starring Matthew McConaughey. These were serious films, so I expect he got in over his head with Dolittle and instead of acknowledging “I don’t know how to do this,” he instead tried and failed. The final climax of the film has been spoiled all over the internet, but I won’t spoil it here. It’s wild though. If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.

The visual effects aren’t horrible, but they’re ruined by the ‘animals talking’ conceit which looks completely absurd here. And also… they speak in modern slang, like the voice actors aren’t really acting at all. John Cena plays a polar bear who continually calls people ‘bro’ in this mid-1800s era. An octopus actually says the phrase ‘snitches get stitches.’ It’s very very weird.


This is a disaster. I can see why they released it though, because this cast was not cheap at all, so they’re hoping to at least recuperate some of its ~$175 million budget. This isn’t good for kids, it isn’t good for adults. It has no redeeming qualities. Go see Cats instead.


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Review: Bad Boys for Life

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Bad Boys for Life.

It’s been 17 years since Bad Boys II. Our heroes Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are still detectives in Miami, when a dangerous woman named Isabel (Kate del Castillo) escapes from prison and triggers a series of events that puts our leads in mortal danger. Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) has launched a new division of Miami PD called A.M.M.O. that must work with our heroes, including Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig (Vikings), Charles Melton (Riverdale), and Paola Nunez.

What works?

I was worried. I was thinking this would be another Dumb and Dumber To sort of thing, where the original cast finally come back for strictly a payday. Let me reassure you, this is not that.

What we get here is actually something really interesting. The typical Michael Bay-isms of the franchise have given way, with new directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah taking the helm. These guys have a fresh new perspective, with this being their first Hollywood film. The movie felt more like a John Wick than it does a Bad Boys.

Let’s talk about Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. They’re both perfect here, resembling the machismo characters they played 17 years ago but with a lot more depth. Martin Lawrence is funnier here than I ever remember him being, I was laughing nonstop. And Will Smith gets plenty of moments, both emotionally deep moments and some incredible action sequences. His recent movies have been tumultuous, with the relatively unseen Gemini Man and Spies in Disguise, so this is a good move for him.

And when I say this movie feels like a John Wick, let me explain what that means. This movie is vibrant and colorful and has some incredibly striking locations. The action is intense and surprisingly innovative, with some killer hand-to-hand fight sequences, some massive shootouts, and several intense helicopter battles. The action had me on the edge of my seat and delivered quite a few moments that struck me as unique and new.

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What doesn’t work?

While there is a lot going for it, there’s also some amateur mistakes made along the way that keep this movie from absolutely nailing it.

Most of these mistakes would have been easy fixes, if someone would have noticed. For example, some of our characters wear the same clothes even though days and even weeks might have passed. We meet the A.M.M.O. team and then we see a montage of the bad guys doing stuff, then we cut back to A.M.M.O. and they’re wearing the same clothes but now reacting to this series of events.

Likewise, we have an incident that triggers a ‘six months later’ title to pop up, yet the story has not progressed for our team of detectives, they’ve made no progress on things that, in logical sense, they should have probably figured out by now.

These are minor qualms but things that stick out once you notice them.

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You can breathe a sigh of relief. Bad Boys for Life is a really good time, with plenty of laughs and surprisingly refreshing action sequences. It’s got some twists and turns you won’t see coming and some hiccups resulting from amateur filmmakers, but ultimately this is a fun ride that you won’t regret seeing on the big screen.


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Review: 1917

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It’s World War 1. We join a British company on the French frontline fighting the Germans. We quickly learn that the Germans have retreated and a British force plans to follow them, but this retreat is a trap. Two soldiers (Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay) are sent to quickly travel to this British force about to attack and deliver news that it is a trap and to hopefully save thousands of lives. This journey is incredibly deadly, even though the battlefield is supposedly empty of troops. This is based loosely on real events passed down from the director Sam Mendes’ grandfather, though these characters and exact journey are fictional.

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What works?

This movie will join the ranks as one of the best war movies ever made, it does everything it seeks to do, to incredible effect.

Our two leads are absolutely incredible but the majority of the heavy lifting falls to George MacKay, who delivers a surprisingly nuanced performance and whose arc is tragic and yet inspiring. For both of these men, we don’t get a lot of history but their characters are slowly fleshed out over their journey, through stories and mannerisms and how they interact with others. We only follow them for less than a day, but we still get a very detailed look at their entire lives.

Speaking of only following them for less than a day… This film is shot to seemingly be one-take (or at least, very few takes). While this technique keeps us in the action, they also play with this mechanism in terms of time. An eight-hour journey is sped up, as traveling from city to city only takes minutes, even though the camera never cuts. It’s a perfect mix of realism and efficiency. The action never stops and this one-take structure makes you feel the burden and the never-ending onslaught of problems, yet we don’t ever have to endure long stretches of silence as they travel from place to place. Artistically, it works perfectly.

This is an action film and these sequences are thrilling. Explosions will have you flinch. Gunshots feel like they’re literally all around you. You feel in the midst of this journey with our heroes and the action sequences all feel incredibly high stakes, especially since we don’t quite know how this story will end. I would encourage you to see this in the biggest and loudest theater near you.

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What doesn’t work?

The only thing that didn’t work is part of the marketing campaign, specifically the trailers. So if you haven’t seen the trailers already, stay away. There are huge moments featured here that forecast the ending of the film and spoil big twists and turns. I was waiting for moments to happen, which can really undercut the suspense. This movie would be best with no prior knowledge.


This movie absolutely nails it. We have a very small cast, yet the time is used wisely to become familiar with them. The action is absolutely incredible and the ‘one-shot’ method used to shoot the film makes us feel like the war is truly nonstop. Our leads deliver incredible performances, especially George MacKay. If you’re in the mood for an intense and riveting war movie, you won’t find better than 1917.


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Review: Just Mercy

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Just Mercy.

Here we follow the story beginning in 1988 of a man named Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) who has been sentenced to death, even though he’s innocent. A young lawyer named Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) has just started an organization to help with exactly this, alongside his first employee Eva (Brie Larson). The District Attorney (Rafe Spall) is convinced that McMillian is guilty, based on the testimony of a white felon (Tim Blake Nelson). On death row, McMillian has made friends with two other men (Rob Morgan and O’Shea Jackson Jr), whom Stevenson also tries to help.

This is based on a true story, based on the book written by Bryan Stevenson himself.

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What works?

I hate January, let me tell you why. We’re finally getting films that opened in 2019 but in limited release so that they could qualify for the Oscars. I already did my top 10 of the year and then I find a movie like this, that is absolutely incredible, and it’s too late to include it.

Just Mercy is a powerhouse, absolutely full of thrilling and suspenseful drama, with gutwrenching performances. Our leads, of course, deliver excellent performances, highlighted by Jordan and Foxx. Brie Larson is convincing, but my favorite standout performances go to supporting actors Rob Morgan and Tim Blake Nelson. Rob Morgan, who’s played supporting roles on Stranger Things and in The Defenders series on Netflix, does something incredible here. In just a few scenes, he becomes such a sympathetic character that awaiting his execution becomes a tragic and tearful journey. And then we have Tim Blake Nelson, who plays the felon responsible for pointing the finger at McMillian. The sort of persona he develops here is incredibly detailed, full of tics and mannerisms that make this character leap from the screen. I’d love to see both of these men get Supporting Actor nods, if there was indeed any justice in the world.

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Aside from the performances, this movie’s story is incredibly enthralling (helped by the ‘true story’ element). You’ll be relieved (or maybe saddened) to hear that this is a mostly accurate account, including all the ups and downs. The end credits include a lot of ‘what happened next’ information so wait until the crawling credits begin. The movie does a weird thing where a few names pop up, then another “And this person went on to do xyz.” But most of the theater had left already! So wait until the long crawl of credits begins.

Without spoiling anything, I also appreciated how this film handled our white villain characters, including the District Attorney (why is Rafe Spall always a villain?). Some of these various characters show signs of change but they don’t receive a redemption arc that would’ve undercut this story’s message. It’s not about that redemption, you know?

What doesn’t work?

Very little. The pacing was perfect, the emotional moments hit like a brick, and there was enough suspense to have you second-guessing how the movie might play out.


What a film. It’s rare for a movie to have this many Award-worthy performances. Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, and Tim Blake Nelson could all receive nominations and no one would bat an eye. You pair those performances with a gripping story of hope, you end up with something truly special. This is a must-see for everyone, be it in the theater or added to your queue to rent at home eventually.


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Top 10 Films of 2019

In 2019, I saw over 70 movies in theaters. While I didn’t give any 1-star reviews this year (maybe I was too nice to some of these films), I did have a handful that got the stellar 5-star rating. So now that 2019 is over, let’s review and count down my 10 favorites of the year! I say favorite because “best” is a hard thing to determine and we all have different tastes.

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Runner-Up: The Upside

Coming out in early 2019, you might have forgotten this gem. Bryan Cranston is just as good as you’d expect, but the real surprise is an amazing performance from Kevin Hart. If you’re looking for something with some charm, plenty of laughs, and some killer performances, this should do it.

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Number Ten: Bombshell

Still in theaters, Bombshell is the story of a sexual harassment case involving higher executives at Fox News. Charlize Theron carries the film, though all three lead women deliver stellar performances. If you’re interested in true story films like this (The Big Short, Vice, Wolf of Wall Street), this is an obvious choice.

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Number Nine: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Now available on Amazon Prime, this is the story of a woman attempting to turn her life around by deciding to run a marathon. Jillian Bell is hilarious in her first lead performance, though this is much more than a typical comedy. There’s heart and there’s depth, so don’t shrug this one off and give it a chance.

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Number Eight: John Wick III (Parabellum)

The John Wick franchise brought to the genre of ‘gun fu’ to the forefront and this third entry capitalized on everything they’ve made before and managed to create an exceptional action film that revolutionized the genre of action in general. We’ve got swordfights on horseback, brutal library fist fights, and some incredible sequences with killer dogs. If you’re an action fan, you need to make sure you’ve seen these.

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Number Seven: Shazam

The DC Extended Universe really tried to replicate what worked with the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it never really worked. Wonder Woman is probably the best film under the umbrella right now, but Shazam is a definite contender for that spot. This film is a light-hearted comedy, mixed with some incredible fight sequences and a charming performance from our lead Zachary Levi. I cross my fingers that they try to weave Shazam into the larger DC universe, he may be the breath of fresh air needed to unite the heroes together.

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Number Six: Spider-Man – Far From Home

Tom Holland continues to be my favorite Spider-Man and this film is such a joy to watch. The visuals are incredible, with some action sequences that really showcase what this character can do. With the addition of Jake Gyllenhaal as the character Mysterio, this film does everything right.

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Number Five: Hotel Mumbai

This story is chilling, re-telling and likely exaggerating the events of a terrorist attack on a popular hotel in India. Dev Patel delivers an incredible lead performance but the star of the movie is the location itself, with the hotel feeling like a character here, as we spend two hours trying to navigate the hotel to safety. It’s thrilling and suspenseful, and is streaming now for Hulu subscribers, at least in the United States.

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Number Four: Little Women

Consider me surprised. I wouldn’t have guessed that this film would’ve cracked my top ten but it turned out to be absolutely phenomenal. Our leads are all powerhouses, anchored by Saiorse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Emma Watson. The story is engaging, the world is dynamic… this movie really delivered the entire package.

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Number Three: Joker

Joaquin Phoenix delivered one of the best performances of the year here, beautifully bringing to life this tragic character. The story is grim and maybe unnecessary, but his performance alone floats this film to the top. It will make you absolutely uncomfortable but you’ll be captivated the entire time.

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Number Two: The Peanut Butter Falcon

This film, even just by thinking about it, makes my heart smile. It’s incredibly uplifting and charming, with a great performance from Shia LaBeouf and the incredibly likeable debut of Zack Gottsagen. This journey is educational, heartwarming, and full of surprises. I don’t think any of you will find this film disappointing.

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Number One: Avengers – Endgame

It had to be Endgame right? This film is ten years in the making and has done something that no one else has been able to replicate. 20+ films culminate in this massive adventure, that not only packs a punch with one of the most epic climaxes in superhero film history, but also has performances that will bring you to tears. It has visual effects that are truly cutting edge, manages to juggle a cast of dozens and dozens of A-list actors, and delivers a story that manages to twist and turn until the credits roll. This is my favorite film (again, maybe not the best, but my favorite) of the year and something that I never believed possible.



Thanks for checking out my list! Hopefully 2020 brings just as many stellar films as we had in 2019!

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Review: Uncut Gems

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Uncut Gems.

This is going to be a tough one. Critics are absolutely loving this movie and spoiler alert, I definitely didn’t. If you tend to be more ‘artsy’ and you might want to check out something really odd, that’s one thing. I feel like most of the people reading this however are more casual, heading to the movies every so often for escapism. This review is for them.

The gist.

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) owns a jewelry store in New York, where he struggles to make ends meet. He’s gotten in a bad habit of gambling and pawning his goods to try to eventually make more money, so he’s unfortunately gotten himself in a bit of debt. One day, one of Howard’s connections Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) brings in the Boston Celtic player Kevin Garnett (played by himself). Garnett gets his eyes on a brand new piece of merchandise, a rare jewel from Ethiopia, and decides it must be his. This triggers a series of events in which Ratner (Sandler) must pursue this endless cycle of gambling and to hopefully sell this jewel for the millions that it’s worth. We also have Idina Menzel, Julia Fox, and the artist The Weeknd.

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What works?

Yes, Adam Sandler is being applauded for this performance because it’s so unlike every role he’s ever played. So it’s a drastic change and for the most part, he really sells it. Maybe even award-worthy, he’s already won plenty of smaller awards for his performance here, so that trend may continue into Oscar season.

What doesn’t work?

For me, most everything else. I don’t know if I went into this movie with different expectations or maybe I wasn’t in the right state of mind for this… but I found Uncut Gems to be an absolute pain to endure. From the opening scene, even the score alone made me cringe, in dissonant tones and sci-fi sound effects. The movie is gritty and dark, not in the way that we’d want, but rather in a visceral way that made my stomach turn.

It doesn’t help that the plot is entirely downhill. Sandler’s Howard is an irredeemable guy, throwing his life away and making mistake after mistake. He then gets punished for it, emotionally and physically. This is two hours of stressful torture of this guy who clearly deserves it. Now yes, Sandler sells it, so his performance is top notch, but I still ask Who wants to see this? The movie is incredibly anxiety-inducing, my heart racing from start to finish. I didn’t enjoy the experience of watching this film.

I compare this mentally to Nocturnal Animals, another film a few years back that I disagreed with a majority of critics on. That movie won plenty of awards, but I still would never recommend it to someone, especially someone looking for escapism. Uncut Gems, like that film, is for a very specific audience: people that appreciate a darker sense of art, the gritty realism of a man in trouble. I don’t think that’s most of you. My job isn’t to review films that other critics might enjoy, but rather let you know if this movie is worth your time.


I’m going out on a limb and hopefully some of you will appreciate this. Uncut Gems is a hard to watch film, dark and depressing and hopeless. If you’re a fan of that, if you want something tragic, then yes, you might enjoy this film. For most of you, you won’t. Sandler’s performance is the best he’s ever done, unfortunately the movie he’s in won’t be a pleasant experience for any of you.


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Review: Little Women (2019)

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Little Women (2019).

Here’s my history with Little Women: Nada. I’ve never read the book and haven’t seen any of the many films and miniseries that have been made. I had no idea what I was getting into, while many of you might know what’s coming a mile away. For me, this was a fresh and new experience. What did I think?

The gist.

We follow four sisters, in the aftermath of the Civil War in the United States. Their father is away, so their mother (Laura Dern) and grandmother (Meryl Streep) take care of them mostly. Jo (Saoirse Ronan) wants to be an author, so spends her time writing and rewriting short stories to sell to local newspapers. She doesn’t see herself marrying, though a boy named Laurie (Timothee Chalamet) has become quite fond of her. Meg (Emma Watson) is the oldest and wants a more traditional life, so she seeks a husband. Amy (Florence Pugh) wants to become an artist, so spends time in France learning to paint, though finds that it is difficult for a woman to earn her own income in this world. The youngest daughter Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is a piano prodigy but finds herself too shy to really perform.

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What works?

This movie is absolutely incredible. I didn’t think this movie would hit every note for me, but it definitely did.

Let’s talk performances. Saoirse Ronan continues to prove that she’s a powerhouse, again reuniting with director Greta Gerwig (after Lady Bird). But you know who really surprised me? Florence Pugh (Fighting with My Family, Midsommar) did an incredible job here, especially in her dynamics with Saoirse’s character. These two had an incredible love and hate chemistry that you couldn’t peel your eyes away from.

I also really appreciated Timothee Chalamet here. I’ve only seen him in intense dramas like Beautiful Boy, so it was quite a 180 to see him so lively and carefree here, providing some of the movie’s best comedic moments. Him and Saoirse shared some intense sequences together and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a supporting actor nod for him come Oscar season, in addition to several of the women from the cast to be sure.

Something I don’t usually comment on but I really appreciated here: the tone and warmth of the cinematography. There are multiple timelines here and the past was always lush and vibrant, with lots of reds and earth tones. Then it’d cut to the ‘present’ of the film and it’d be a pale bluish hue. Beautifully done and helped us, as an audience, keep track of this timeline.

And since I didn’t know anything about this classic tale, it was a roller coaster. The film was suspenseful, charming, hilarious, heartbreaking, and more. It was a perfect combination and resulted in undoubtedly one of my favorite films of 2019.

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What doesn’t work?

Absolutely nothing, this is an incredible film. It may not be for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, this is a very solid pick.


I’m a convert. Is there a Little Women fanpage I can join? A Facebook group? I’m still thinking about this movie and how much it impacted me. I cried out of happiness, I cried out of sadness, I laughed many times, I was completely invested in this film and I want you to feel the same. Head to the theaters now and reward good behavior.


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