Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World (2015)

Directed: Colin Trevorrow  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 2h 4m  Studio: 

Screenwriter: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, BD Wong, Vincent D’ Onofrio, Judy Greer

Jurassic World is built on the foundations of the Jurassic Park Trilogy. “Welcome to Jurassic Park” is one of the most iconic lines in a movie in the past thirty years. Audiences’ love of this franchise has endured because it’s a solid, fun story. The bar was set high for Jurassic World.

Now, you don’t need to have seen the original films to enjoy this one, but some moments and scenes pay homage to them. This film dives right into a dinosaur theme park that’s been open for years. Thousands of people have come and gone. In this premise alone, this film exceeds its predecessor. Yet, it was the most logical place to continue this franchise. One of the attributes that work in this series favor is that no one has copied it or tried to reboot it in three decades. That makes the opening/title sequence of this film so smile-inducing. The music, imagery, and font are iconic and give the audience a taste of what’s in store. 

The Indominus Rex from ‘Jurassic World’ Image: Universal Studios via

Viewers get to see this lush, detailed, rich island theme park environment with attributes that would absolutely pull in customers if it were real. Despite the obvious concerns of such a park, emulating the hallmarks of resort theme parks, visually and practically, makes it a huge step up from John Hammond’s original park. 

While it’s not essential, per se, to the plot, I have questions. What happened to the remains of the original dinosaurs, the first-generation ones that died out? How long did that take based on the lifespans of the varying breeds? Jurassic World has been open for years; how long is that? They needed time to survey, tear up old structures, build new ones, and create the new dinosaurs. With all the time involved, how did no one learn from the events of the last three films? 

Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins in ‘Jurassic World’ Image: Universal via

A tremendous benefit of new technology and CGI advances is that the animals look much better! More realistic. It allows the actors to interact more efficiently with what ends up being added after the fact, all the things that chase them. BD Wong is back as Dr. Henry Wu, the curator/creator of the resurrected dinosaurs. Here his character is evolved, given greater scope. In the first film, he’s a younger lab man who’s not truly part of the plot. In Jurassic World, his inclusion is one of the story’s main threads, granting the franchise a more robust continuity. BD Wong is a talented actor with a range of characters depicted in his filmography, and I’m glad they could get him back to reprise this role. 

I love Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, the director of operations of Jurassic World. She’s polished refined, but with grit. Her performance, energy, and presence as the work-a-holic auntie-in-charge of a workplace gone sideways are brilliant and fun. Her chemistry with Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady works too. He’s the perfect mix of sassy and ‘those things will eat you alive, keep your shit together’ employee you’d want to work with. Once upon a time, people wanted to dig up dinosaur fossils as a career with more earnest; now, in a world with living dinosaurs, you can train them, like Owen. Specifically, he trains raptors. The methodology behind this practice on-screen is believable enough not to be questioned, letting the viewer enjoy its idea. 

Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins in ‘Jurassic World’ Image: Universal Studios via

You can’t have a theme park without kids, so of course, Jurassic World has a few of its own. Claire’s nephews Zack (Robinson) and Gray (Simpkins) visit the park as everything goes wrong. They add a needed layer of youthfulness and extra characters to be at multiple places on the island. Their addition helps immensely with pace and permits more settings, dinosaurs, and action sequences. 

Jurassic World is an example of what happens when you ignore history-it will repeat itself. Denial may get you eaten. This installment of the Jurassic franchise has more people, more teeth, and more spectacle. It’s a fun movie worth a place on your watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)

The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019) Directed: Gideon Raff  Rated: TV-MA  Runtime: 2h 9m  Studio: Netflix/Bron Studios Screenwriter: Gideon Raff  Cast: Chris Evans, Alessandro Nivola, Greg Kinnear, Haley Bennett, Michiel Huisman, Michael Kenneth Williams, Ben Kingsley, Chris Chalk, Mark Ivanir, Alex Hassell

The Red Sea Diving Resort is an inspirationally touted film that forgot to include anything inspiring. 

The film opens with a voice-over, narrating the scene and thus explaining the story’s point. The voice is Kebed’s (Williams), one of only three black characters who have a meaningful, yet minor, role. This opening scene highlights (immediately) two of the biggest problems with The Red Sea Diving Resort. First, Raff must explain every detail he thinks you won’t understand. Second, white people are the saviors of the black Jews fleeing Ethiopia. 

This movie is based on actual events. Mossad agents did spend years in Sudan using a previously abandoned seaside resort to smuggle black Jews to Isreal. Raff’s problem (as writer and director) is that he only told one side of the story. He included nothing of meaningful resonance of these Beta Jews (as they are known). And there were opportunities to do so. With a story as significant, meaningful, and layered as these missions were for all involved, it’s a repulsive display of systematic racism. To gloss over the black characters as much as he did, propping them up only to facilitate white characters is repugnant. How did Netflix find this a good screenplay? 

Michael Kenneth Williams and Chris Evans in ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’ Image: Marcos Cruz/Netflix via

Gideon Raff is Israeli but couldn’t find any of his people to star in this film? Did he look? Did people say no? That’s a red flag. So enter the American-sounding and looking beach chic Ken and Barbie (Evans and Bennett). Mixed with a British actor (Kingsley) who uses non-Jewish slang (calling people’ chaps’) all while not even trying to lose his own accent. 

Raff depicts Mossad as this spy agency with a cowboy mentality likened to the American wild west in a story whose premise is built upon the necessity of teamwork and planning. It’s okay when trouble pops up; Ari’s (Evans) got it. As if positive thinking alone will save anyone from certain death if they’re caught. There is a team of agents with Ari, but none are fleshed out, well-rounded, or have satisfying arcs. As members of the white savior club, you think they’d be important, but they’re not. 

Chris Evans and Haley Bennett in ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’ Image: Netflix/Marcos Cruz via

The third black character with any significant lines or screentime is Commander Ahmed (Chalk) that Ari refers to as Colonel or nothing. He’s the leader of the Mukhabarat, a “military organization” that terrorized Sudan. None of that information is touched on, or the underlying reasons the Beta’s flee in the first place. Nor the call to action that involved Isreal in the first place; you won’t learn about that in this film. So you must take at face value that Chalk’s character is the physical manifestation of why these people are fleeing Ethiopia. Yet it doesn’t do the depth of their reasons justice. For such an important character, you think it would have been easy to figure out the character’s name or the actor who plays him. You’d be wrong. I had to turn on my closed captioning feature to find out Chalk’s character’s name, which isn’t even uttered until near the film’s end. I had to look through articles on this movie for the actor’s name to find it. Chris Chalk’s part in this film is not included under a Google search for the cast of this film, nor on (I’m not affiliated with either). Chalk’s character is another example of Raff’s poor filmmaking skills or Chris Chalk’s wanting everyone to forget he was in this movie. It’s sad because Chalk’s performance was one of the few that displayed any effort or emotion. 

Ethiopian Jews fleeing Sudan in Netflix’s ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’ Image: Netflix via

Now Gideon Raff is the same man who gave the world Homeland and the limited series The Spy. Raff won awards for these; perhaps he should stick with just television.

The Red Sea Diving Resort is a grossly missed opportunity to take a story with two already entwined entities and tell a whole and compelling story. As it stands, the black characters were depicted as poor, desperate, violent, or greedy. This depiction may have been the reality of the time, but Raff gives none of these characters any form of agency beyond their choice to flee. Those missed opportunities for nuanced realism are tragic. It’s an injustice to those this story is supposed to also tell. 

A poorly written script with no character development and lackluster acting is worth no one’s time, especially one that systematically snubs half of this story’s reason for existing. The Red Sea Diving Resort isn’t worth your time or a place on your watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Official Secrets (2019)

Directed by: Gavin Hood  Rated:Runtime: 1h 51m  Studio: Entertainment One

Screenwriter: Sara Bernstein, Gregory Berstein, Gavin Hood

Cast: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, Adam Bakri

How often do you follow a moral compass?

Our world is diverse in so many ways, politics in particular. Government structure varies by country, but in democratic ones, the people expect to have a voice. What happens when they don’t? What is the outcome when suppression and morality collide? 

Official Secrets is a well-shown re-telling of real-life events of that collision. Keira Knightley stars as Katharine Gun, a former analyst for the British government at the government communications headquarter (GCHQ). There she interpreted and transcribed information passed down to her. 

Matthew Goode and Matt Smith in ‘Official Secrets’ Image: IFC Films/Allstar via

In January 2003, her department received an email, a forwarded memo that openly requested that the United Kingdom aid the United States NSA in spying on members of the United Nations. Soley to obtain blackmail to use against specific smaller nations to secure votes at an upcoming UN vote to go to war with Iraq or not. 

Spying on her people was okay with Katharine because it could prevent a terrorist attack. Spying on others, for another country especially to use as blackmail to go to war-hard stop. 

Official Secrets is a well-written script, with outstanding direction of its talented cast. Everyone’s performances were on point, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen Keira Knightley do. Her measured emotional responses to each sequence are believable. It made me feel for the real-life Katharine. 

Keira Knightley in ‘Official Secrets’ Image: IFC Films/Allstar via

Even with the director adding original media footage, which added a layer of realism, this story is still illuminatingly powerful two decades later. That the need for transparency and morality exists so deeply within governments that people like Katharine Gun and publications like The Observer need to take risks, still, today keeps her story a relevant and cautionary tale. 

Gun’s human rights lawyer, Ben Emmerson, is played by the superb Ralph Fiennes. Opposite him is Jeremy Northam, who portrays Ken MacDonald, the director of public prosecutions. MacDonald was the one who decided to charge Katharine or not, to make an example of her or not. 

Keira Knightley in ‘Official Secrets Image: IFC Films/Allstar via

It’s Ken MacDonald’s position on Gun’s actions, his visceral disdain for her or those like her that personifies how petty and spiteful the British government is. The government established in the Queen’s name. That screams volumes. 

Official Secrets is an easily watchable film that shows you the most vital points in real-life events based on morality, lies, and suppression. Official Secrets belong on your watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Directed by: Garry Ross  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 1h 51m

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures  Screenwriter: Garry Ross, Olivia Milch

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Akwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter

What would you do for a cut of 150 million dollars? 

Debbie Ocean (Bullock) took five years, eight months, and twelve days to plan out the biggest heist of her life. Now that she’s out of prison, all she needs is to assemble the best in each area she needs to get the job done. First, she starts with her number two, Lou Miller (Blanchett), then moves on to a jeweler (Kaling). Next up, a street con (Akwafina), the mom next door (Paulson), a fashion designer (Bonham Carter), and a hacker (Rihanna). 

Ocean’s Eight is an action-comedy built upon its Ocean franchise predecessors. The lead of an almost all-male cast was Danny (George Clooney), Debbie’s brother. A nice attribute about this movie is that you don’t need to watch the previous ones for anything to make sense. Ocean’s Eight isn’t the first heist caper, nor the last-yet its all-female cast (of a solid group of actresses) gives it a welcoming freshness. This ensemble of seasoned actresses is an exceptional collaboration of funny, serious, and nuanced. I loved the fresh take on a museum theft. Plenty of places or people have been robbed in movies, but I’ve never seen anyone try to do so at The Met Gala. 

Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Akwafina, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson in ‘Ocean’s Eight’ Image: Warner Bros. via

The chemistry amongst the cast is energetic and makes the film that much more fun to watch. It’s cohesive and well-directed, with only a few plot questions about Debbie’s plan that jumped out at me. Ross utilizes music in the background to establish pace and tone throughout the movie. 

Ocean’s Eight isn’t overly serious or trying to reinvent this type of film, except for where it moved women from secondary characters to the primary ones. The playful nature of the setup to robbing The Met Gala is fantastic. It allows the audience to sit and enjoy a well-dressed movie with no other purpose than straightforward enjoyment. 

Sarah Paulson, Sandra Block, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, Akwafina in ‘Ocean’s Eight’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via

Every movie is meant to be enjoyed or appreciated; why watch otherwise? Ocean’s Eight is the confident, smooth reality break you didn’t know you wanted to see. A movie like that should be on your watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Red Notice (2021)

Red Notice (2021)

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber  Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 1h 55m

Studio: Netflix  Screenwriter: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Cast: Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson

Red Notice aims to hit the mark as a fun international heist caper but misses the mark. 

The film is full of clichés and overused tropes such as “the muscle,” “wisecracking loudmouth,” and “a stunning woman.” Such stereotypes are tired and unimaginative, like Johnson and Gadot’s performances and on-screen chemistry. 

Red Notice tries for an Indiana Jones feel with its plot that hoped to infuse light-hearted humor as in The Mummy with Ryan Reynolds casting but failed to deliver. Johnson plays John Hartley, an FBI profiler who ends up teaming up with art thief Nolan Booth (Reynolds) to catch “The Bishop” (Gadot), who sets them both up. 

There is no thrill while watching this treasure hunt, full of escapades, double-crossing, and uninspired fight scenes. This movie was doomed from the moment it was green-lit because its casting choices are the only thing propping up the story’s weak execution. All three of the main cast can give better performances than Red Notice’s script provides. Red Notice may be Netflix’s most-watched film in its history, but it in no way should have cost 200 million dollars! It was an interesting story concept with a cast full of people audiences love to see, so why wouldn’t anyone expect it to be a hit? Especially after Covid restrictions were lifted in many places. While adorable Gal Gadot doesn’t do it for me as a believable baddy, Johnson is just too stiff. John Cena could have pulled off being an irritated FBI agent, better matched against Reynolds quips, and physically able to make more believable facial expressions at Gadot. 

Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds in ‘Red Notice’ Image: Netflix via

The focus of critiquing the casting here is because it’s all Netflix used to sell this film as watchable in theaters (where it did terribly) or on its streaming site. So I’m left to ponder how long Dwyane Johnson can keep getting type-cast in Hollywood as the ‘attractive muscular leading man?’ What does he have left talent-wise as time goes on when he can’t throw people down or jump from high heights from helicopters anymore? Couple that with Gal Gadot’s less than solid filmography as anything other than ‘the hot woman doing something’ (despite her outstanding Wonder Woman performance) and her talent abilities are to called into question. Everyone expects so much from them, yet films like Red Notice smoother any chance for either’s potential to shine. 

It’s no surprise then that Ryan Reynolds is the best thespian of this trio. Yes, he usually does the wisecracks, the comedic-often raunchy characters, but he still has the most range. Like Johnson and Gadot’s characters, Reynolds displays as tired as if they know their characters are reaching too hard-all under fake smiles, sunglasses, and chest-puffing. 

Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot in ‘Red Notice’ Image: Netflix via

Writer and director Rawson Thurber created a story that takes itself too seriously in its execution despite a bit of cheese. Nothing sets this over-hyped movie apart from others in its genre, except its MacGuffin title and overuse of the color red. 

Red Notice truly is nothing special and not worth your time or spot on a watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Blue Bayou (2021)

Blue Bayou (2021) Directed by: Justin Chon Rated: R Runtime: 1h 52m

Studio: Focus Features Screenwriter: Justin Chon  Cast: Alica Vikander, Justin Chon, Mark O’Brien, Sydney Kowalske, Emory Cohen

Blue Bayou is a poignant film about love, family, and the ties that bind; in an unjust society full of bigots and legal loopholes. 

Antonio LeBlanc (Chon) was adopted as a toddler from Korea by a family from a small Louisiana town. Who gave him up after six months—left to be raised by the foster care system for the rest of his youth. After a lifetime of small-minded people, he meets Kathy (Vikander), the love of his life. He marries her, helping raise her daughter, Jessie (Kowalske). They’re his whole world. 

In Blue Bayou, Antonio struggles to make ends meet, like so many people with or without baggage. Yet Antonio’s obstacles are things he can’t check at the door or put in a closet. He’s a convicted criminal-worse in Louisiana; he’s Asain. Constantly asked, “where you from?” despite a thick Cajun accent. It’s the smallest example of racism his character endures. He’s always the outsider with no nuclear family growing up and nothing of pride to hold on to of his Korean heritage. 

Alicia Vikander, Sydney Kowalske, Justin Chon in ‘Blue Bayou’ Image: Focus Features via

Small-minded bigotry is as common as breathing in the deep South of America, and prejudice and authority make a terrible combo. It is this mindset that sets off the plot and story. 

A run-in with Ace (O’ Brien), Jessie’s father, and his police partner (Cohen) at a store ends in Antonio’s arrest and subsequent detainment by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The legality of Antonio’s adoption from Korea is called into question and sets the wheels in motion for his deportation. 

Chon’s set locations, the lush, quiet bayou hideaway, and sunsets over the water juxtapose Antonio’s reality. That’s what this film is at its core, emotional resonance. The shared body language between Antonio and Kathy, or his honesty and bonding efforts with Jessie, all speak to the little moments we all have. For better or worse, those real human moments are layered with abuse and ridicule bubbling near the surface for Antonio, constantly. And now, through legal loopholes, he could lose it all-the only places he’s ever called home, through no fault of his own. 

Sydney Kowalske as Jessie in ‘Blue Bayou.’ Image: Focus Features via

Illegal immigration/entry into the United States is a very polarizing topic. Still, Chon has honed in on this overlooked slice of the issue. Despite anyone’s thoughts on immigration into America, one burning question is this: why are all adopted children from other countries not automatically citizens? The truth is illuminating. 

Blue Bayou is a realistic, raw look into a topic and people’s reality on the subject of international adoption, racism, and the strength of the vows “for better or for worse.” If ever an indie film deserved a place on a watchlist, this one does. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Matrix: Resurrections (2021)

The Matrix: Resurrections (2021)

Directed by: Lana Wachowski  Rated:Runtime: 2h 28m  Studio: Warner Bros. 

Screenwriter: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jonathan Groff

The Matrix: Resurrections, director and creator Lana Wachowski take to heart the motto of House Greyjoy from the TV show Game of Thrones “what is dead may never die.”

As the film’s title might suggest, characters make a comeback in the fourth installment of the Matrix franchise, and the trailer gives it away too. If you haven’t seen any of the original three Matrix films, don’t read this review. By default, it will spoil them, which I am against doing. However, Resurrections is chalked full of flashbacks, references, and actual clips from all three of its predecessors, so it would be impossible to review this without bringing them up. 

I like a film where I can try to figure out the plot versus having it spelled out for me because some filmmaker or studio thinks I’m too ignorant to follow along otherwise. You understand my meaning if you’ve ever seen a Christopher Nolan film. The Matrix: Resurrections, on the other hand, is the cinematic mind fuck of the other variety. The one where I ask myself what did I watch? Usually, that doesn’t happen in the first ten minutes or less, but this film did. I’m pleased I didn’t pay to see this in theaters.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne Moss in ‘Matrix: Resurrections’ Image: Warner Bros.

In typical Matrix-style, there’s too much talking with an overload of technical jargon that many viewers won’t understand. In the film, they use the term modal/window pane. This term can have a few meanings, mostly mathematical and dealing with web pages. Its rationale is thrown out in a ten-second line that if you miss or don’t understand, you’ll be confused about what’s going on. That, of course, makes it hard to watch a movie when you’re busy trying to figure out what you missed. So, allow me to explain a bit if you want to watch this film and don’t understand webpage technical speak. 

When a game developer, for example, wants to add new content or fix something with an existing product, they do so on computers in what is referred to as a sandbox. That way, they can’t inadvertently crash a server, think of playing a game online with others, or cause errors they can’t fix. The sandbox keeps all the testing contained until the developer wants to let it become a part of the program. I hope that makes sense. That is what they mean by a modal in this film. Bugs (Henwick), the new white rabbit, observes something that she understands as truth, something from the past, yet knows it’s wrong. That leads to the question of why? Enter the plot. 

Jessica Henwick as Bugs in ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ Image: Warner Bros. via

We learned man made machines and artificial intelligence in the trilogy, duh. At one point, the AI of machines went to war with mankind, and we lost. Machines took over the Earth. With no method of producing power the same way for themselves, the machines decided to grow human beings and use them as batteries. The Matrix was constructed to keep the billions of podded humans subconsciously oblivious to reality. In that, they allowed two main programs to run the system. That was, of course, a big reveal, the whole point of the second movie- getting to the architect. Culminating in the third film where Neo (Reeves) has a choice (not really.) Any of his options have a list of outcomes the machines find calculatedly acceptable, even wiping out Zion and starting over with a select few “freed” people. Those people won’t remember any of it, like wiping a hard drive and starting over. It’s a sick outlook on the ideas of fate, destiny, and free will. That no matter how hard you try, especially if you don’t know you’ve already lost, you are fucked. That twist about mankind’s chances was like a slap in the face. On the one hand, it was a good ending, as far as non-happy ones go. Yet, what was the point the Wachowski’s seemed to give the finger to everyone after creating all that?

Carrie Anne Moss as Trinity in ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ Image: Warner Bros. via

A viewer needs to remember those points about the original trilogy when watching the fourth installment. That no person has a choice, free will doesn’t exist. And the machines can wipe you like a computer, which is what the human brain is essentially, and put in what they want. That is how we find Neo again—saved by the machines and re-podded. In retrospect, he was carried off in the third film; he could have just been unconscious. Why fix his eyes, though? So Neo is reverted to being Mr. Anderson, another blue pill of the Matrix. Trinity (Moss) had rebar through her; she was dead! So I questioned while watching this how human was she? How much of her was synthetically replaced? The movie doesn’t address that at all; that’s an observation. Or why neither is, visually, 60-years older.

The logic, the construct for Neo/Thomas’s place in the Matrix again, isn’t original. I get the rationale; it’s a fitting “role” to put Thomas’s persona into after two decades. So he needs to be “freed” again. Yet this time, the Matrix is different. It’s gotten smarter about how to keep humans from wanting freedom. Sure it’s a reflection of people today being compliant and jacked in more to portable devices; straying from that is the architect of this. Well, he’s not an architect anymore; he’s an analyst. The parallel of an analyst and a psychiatrist is amusing, but Neil Patrick Harris does it so convincingly. 

Neil Patrick Harris as the analyst in ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ vs. Helmut Bakaitis in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ Image: Warner Bros. via

While the addition of Henwick and Harris are well placed and logical, those of Mateen’s Morpheus and Groff’s Smith is not. The logic is that Morpheus and Agent Smith’s characters were the cause and effect of Neo/Mr. Anderson’s freeing and growth in the original trilogy, therefore he would need a representation of them again. Except that Smith was obliterated, purged, deleted, whatever, and Morpheus is long dead too. Yet, “what is dead may never die” springs up again because Lana Wachowski has a problem letting go. While Mateen is an exceptional actor, his Morpheus comes across as a cheap knockoff, a poor duplicate of the original with none of the commanding presence Lawerance Fishburne gave to the character. Groff’s Smith is an off-putting show of bad acting, or what I imagine it was like for him at his casting call audition. Like a drunk guy at Comicon embarrassing himself in front of Hugo Weaving. Yet, the Matrix (the system) seemed to get off on its display of a toxic work environment with a boss who was completely comfortable, causing an employee with known PTSD to be triggered. Yes, that’s an evident and well-deserved middle finger to Warner Brothers by Lana Wachowski. 

Jonathan Groff in ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ Image: Warner Bros. via

The script for this film sucked. The story’s entire emotional resonance rests on how much you liked the Neo/Trinity love story in the first place or The Matrix trilogy in general. A script should be like the soul of a project, and The Matrix: Resurrections feels like a ghost. Reeves and Moss look tired, like their hearts were not in this project; others were utterly forgettable. In terms of entertainment, there is little meaningful purpose to be found in this movie. 

The plot has holes and questions that are never addressed, let alone answered. This lack of attention to detail creates an uneven pace far from seamless or cohesive. That, of course, is a significant reflection of the structure of the film, the direction. It highlights how much Lana needed Lily’s help with this project. The messages and themes crammed into this film go way beyond an excellent philosophical discussion creator. It’s a hot mess. Like throwing too much shit into the blender for a smoothie and thinking it will taste fine. Sure, there’s conflict and resolution, but how it’s propped up and how you get to the end is a gigantic waste of time and brain cells. 

Human batteries in ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ Image: Warner Bros. via

Visually it was fine, the sets, costume, etc., a far departure from the look of 1999. The music was as expected, fitting and relevant- except the Rage Against the Machine cover during the credits. What kind of mood were they trying to elicit with that? 

When The Matrix first debuted, it was visually ground-breaking for others in cinema regarding what they could do with special effects. It’s part of what made The Matrix such a hit, things like bullet-time. Twenty years later, with nothing like that to hold it up, Resurrections highlights just how vital a great script is and how much nostalgia alone doesn’t matter in cinema. Resurrections is a rampant display of why “what is dead may never die” should very much have stayed dead from all parties involved. The Matrix: Resurrections shouldnever be on anyone’s watchlist, and I wish there were a blue pill to make me forget I ever did. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Happy Anniversary!

It’s been a whole year since I started blogging here on WordPress! Yes, there were those few months of sabbatical in the middle, but let’s ignore that- I posted twice a week for the majority of the year; that’s still a lot to say about movies. 

I intended to post twice a week this past summer, and one of my posts each week would involve me working my way through the MCU film roster before ‘Black Widows’ release. That worked out well. I may finish what I started with that mini project but mainly, at this point, if I need something quick to review in a pinch. 

Part of my growing pains involved constant glitches with WordPress and their “happiness engineers” not providing much happiness. So my blog layout started one way and has changed a few times to work around some of those glitches. The problem I have is that I hate the way my blog looks. I can’t imagine others like it much if I can’t stand it myself, but we often are our own worst critics. However, I would like to take this opportunity to ask what you all think about it or what doesn’t work for you, especially on mobile devices. The comment section is at your disposal, or click on the “contact me” tab and send a message that way. If someone can’t read my posts without difficulty, then what’s the point? 

Writing reviews without spoilers is a challenge, but I like the idea of talking about films without spoiling them. After a year, I recognize that my posts are a little all over the place in terms of form. Sometimes I’m overly analytical, and occasionally I full-on rant. If I were paid to do this by someone, there would be guidelines for writing, why, and what. So I’m still trying to find my voice, if you will, how I’m most comfortable and proud to say what I say about any given film. 

I stay away from reviewing TV shows, but I watch a fair amount of them. So, in honor of my first year (and since Covid gave us all a limited amount of content in terms of films), I am listing fifteen TV shows I feel are worth watching or re-watching. In alphabetical order, they are: 

  1. After Life
  2. Bones
  3. Broadchurch
  4. Doctor Who
  5. Game of Thrones
  6. Justice Leauge/Unlimited
  7. Killing Eve 
  8. Lost in Space
  9. The Crown
  10. The Handmaid’s Tale
  11. The Marvoulus Mrs. Masiel
  12. True Blood
  13. True Detective
  14. Westworld
  15. Young Justice

Mini-series honorable mentions: Chernobyl and Wanda Vision 

Thank you all for joining me this first year and being as interested in movies as I am. Happy viewing!

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

This Means War (2012)

This Means War (2012)

Directed by: McG  Runtime: 1h 38m  Rated: PG-13  Studio: 20th Century Fox

Screenwriter: Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg

Cast: Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon

A happy working environment is what many hope to find at some point in life, alongside a profession we love. In This Means War CIA operatives, Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine) live their best lives in a job they excel at, as they are lifelong friends. Who better to have your back? One is a ladies’ man, and the other, more reserved, but when the same woman catches their respective eyes, all bets are off. This is the premise of McG’s romantic comedy. 

What unfolds instead is an absurd bromance between childhood friends, now spies. As farces go about the American government, the CIA is a lukewarm placeholder in terms of relevance. The subplot was stale, adding nothing more than white noise to the background. The execution of this promising plot fails with the grace of a gymnast blunder posted on YouTube. 

The best on-screen chemistry is between Hardy and Pine. It might have been a funnier movie if Witherspoon had been a faceless woman, start to finish. Why? It’s not all that funny and certainly not romantic. Unless relentless stalking, abuse of work resources, and taking shots at one another like a game of wack-a-mole is your idea of true friendship and romance. This film promised to be a fun popcorn flick with an exceptionally talented and attractive cast; however, nothing could save this pointless screenplay from being anything other than a pig with lipstick.  

 Tom Hardy and Chris Pine in “This Means War.” Image credit: Kimberly French/20th Century Fox

These three actors all have a plethora of films between them that are better to watch than this. Watch any of them. Watch anything that doesn’t involve McG or Timothy Dowling, and you roll the dice with Simon Kinberg. This flop has no place on your watchlist. 

-A Pen Lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

Directed by: Michael Showalter  Runtime: 2h 6m  Rated: PG-13

Studio: Searchlight Pictures  Screenwriter: Abe Sylvia

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Vincent D’Onofrio

Throughout the 1970s and 80s in America, Jim Bakker (Garfield) and his wife, Tammy Faye (Chastain), were the Kardashians of Christian televangelism. Starting as humble and timid in their pursuits to bringing the love of god to everyone via a traveling church show, later making their way on to TV became so much more. In the end, Jim Bakker was trying to create a Christian theme park to give you an idea of his ambitions. After creating a tv network that reached over 20 million views worldwide at the time of his arrest. 

After escaping the brainwashing of a religious upbringing, as an adult, I stay clear of the subject, by and large. As a child of the 80s, I don’t need a trip down memory lane, except maybe I did. 

Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were huge with adults for decades, a perspective I couldn’t understand as a child. Still, why should I watch a film on a topic I dislike? Jessica Chastain. She brings to life the layers, demons, and superficial complexities of the self-professed, big-hearted clueless wife. Her performance, depiction, and commitment to the role of Tammy Faye are nothing short of Oscar-worthy. 

Andrew Garfield and Vincent D’Onofrio in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Image: Daniel McFadden/Searchlight Pictures via

Chastain and Garfield are energetic and believable together as this ever-changing couple, with clear character arcs. The script is all right, as it’s easy to construct one when based on two highly public figures/events. When a film must cover many time periods, the plot’s pace can get bogged down, but Showalter does reasonably well considering. An audience can easily see the conflict to resolution and the origins of these people/characters, which is needed in a bio-drama. Nothing feels missing as this story notes the rise and subsequent public fall of the Bakker’s. 

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a visual display of big hair, lavish outfits, materialism, and makeup. All while dripping with the love of god, asking people to open their wallets. Again and again and again. I adore Andrew Garfield as an actor. But if not for Jessica Chastain, I’m not sure another actress could have pulled me in to endure the recreation of the Bakker’s Christian televangelist propaganda. 

Jessica Chastain in ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Image: Searchlight Pictures via

If, somehow, you’re not a fan of Andrew Garfield or Jessica Chastain, take a pass on this embarrassing reminder of American behavior. Otherwise, I’m on the fence on whether or not to recommend it for your watchlist. It comes down to your tolerance of the 80s or religion. I saw it; Chastain is amazing, yes. But I’ll never watch The Eyes of Tammy Faye again. 

-A Pen Lady