Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on June 4, 2023 by Mark Hobin

My appearance on UK-based talkSPORT radio (Sunday, May 14th) where I talk about movies. I review BLACKBERRY, an origin story about the smartphone. Also, the French drama ONE FINE MORNING with Léa Seydoux is available to rent on various streaming platforms. My review begins 4 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 26 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on June 4, 2023 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, May, 7th I was on UK-based talkSPORT radio. The summer movie season kicks off with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 in theaters. Also PETER PAN & WENDY on Disney+. My segment begins 3 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 27 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

The Mother

Posted in Action, Thriller with tags on May 31, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

On the heels of Mother’s Day 2023, Netflix blessed all moms with a gift, a violent R-rated action thriller starring Jennifer Lopez as a beautiful badass. The film immediately shot to #1 and stayed there for ten days. It’s still in the Top 10 as I write this. I wasn’t planning to watch it, but I kept seeing it on the main page of the streaming service; Dear Netflix, your marketing works.

Actress Jennifer Lopez briefly ditches rom-coms to be a military operative. The woman with no name is a “killer” mom because she really cares, but she’s also a highly trained renegade. When she discovers two nefarious associates are involved with child trafficking, she approaches FBI Special Agent William Cruise (Omari Hardwick) as an informant. She names SAS Captain Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes) and arms dealer Hector Álvarez (Gael García Bernal) as suspects, each a former ex.

Things don’t go as planned. Lovell finds out and attacks the safe house. In a gruesome development, he stabs the mother in the abdomen. We are shocked to discover she is pregnant but luckily gives birth to a healthy baby girl. Obviously, her life is too risky for a newborn baby. Out of a sense of selfless love, she gives her baby up. Flash forward 12 years later, and Jennifer Lopez hasn’t aged a day. Totally believable because that mirrors the star in real life. Anyway, Mom must come out of hiding to protect Zoe, the daughter she gave up years before from dangerous men.

It’s odd to see the director of an original picture like Whale Rider (2002) now helming such a generic Hollywood product. But hey, New Zealander Nikki Caro (McFarland, USA, Mulan) is getting work and making money, so that’s worth celebrating. Her talents as a filmmaker are not in question. The pacing is reasonably enjoyable. However, the screenplay by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, and Peter Craig, from a story by Green, is hackneyed and unspectacular.

Jennifer Lopez has a particular skill set and puts those to good use. She can be glamorous sporting a furry coat in Alaska but also convincingly depict a sniper with deadly aim. Mama trains Zoe in survival skills, which include shooting and driving a car. Interactions are tense, given the unresolved mother-daughter issues. It’s clear she loves her child right from the get-go. Deep down, you know Zoe will ultimately come around, although actress Lucy Paez is less compelling. She has to look bewildered for much of the movie while pretending she doesn’t know who this woman is.

The Mother is a pedestrian action thriller. The problem is the account plays it completely straight. It needs humor or some suggestion of a weakness. Her aim is precise; she’s emotionally deadpan. She dominates every situation with confidence and aplomb. J.Lo has been hired to affect the part of an assassin, and we never feel like she is in danger. Therefore, there are no stakes. We’re here to see a gorgeous actress portray a tough mama for 118 minutes. If that’s all you require, it delivers.


The Little Mermaid

Posted in Adventure, Family, Fantasy with tags on May 27, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

When critics lament the lack of creativity in modern entertainment, Disney’s habitual reliance on live-action remakes is usually exhibit A. I was surprised to discover Wikipedia lists ten made since 2019. I tolerate these pictures. Every so often, one will break through and captivate me. The 2015 adaptation of Cinderella remains the best because it felt like its own creation and, in some ways, improved upon the source. The two most recent examples, Pinocchio and Peter Pan & Wendy are some of the worst offenders. They bypassed theaters and went directly to Disney+ on streaming. The fact their existence is already forgotten is some consolation, given the unmitigated inferiority of those films.

It was only a matter of time before the studio would get their hands on The Little Mermaid. The classic cartoon kickstarted the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s. The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast were created during this period. Their live-action reimaginings were merely adequate but highly profitable. Both grossed a billion dollars worldwide. This big-budget production is getting a massive global release in theaters. The picture is expected to be one of the biggest — if not the biggest — hits of the summer. The new interpretation is competent, and while the movie has its moments, the magic is largely missing.

The good: A couple of the performances shine through. Halle Bailey is pleasant as Ariel. She has a beautiful singing voice and conveys the wide-eyed innocence needed for this part. Also, Melissa McCarthy is an effective villain as Ursula, the evil sea witch with octopus tentacles. She’s channeling actress Pat Carroll, who voiced the character before. McCarthy rises to the challenge of the campy part. She’s having fun. The production design is appealing, and whenever developments are happening underwater, things go swimmingly. Although nothing comes close to the breathtaking effects of last year’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

The bad: Everything is a dutiful exercise in copying something that already exists in a better form. It’s too frigging long. The animated feature was a breezy delight that didn’t waste a second in a scant 83 minutes. This update adds another 52 minutes to a patience-testing runtime. Every single scene in this bloated film is expanded until it overstays its welcome. Plus, three forgettable new tunes are added. The remainder of the cast (not Halle or Melissa) spans a spectrum of fair to not good. Pointless to list everyone else. I’ll simply highlight: Ariel’s ocean friends Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle were captivating characters with big personalities. Now observe these nature-realistic reproductions of a crab (Daveed Diggs), a fish (Jacob Tremblay), and a bird (Awkwafina). They are not cute.

The best — dare I say sacred — element has always been the songs. Yet even those have been manipulated and changed. Fundamental lyrics have noticeably been removed or altered to affect a less offensive worldview. My favorite (and most iconic) line: “And don’t underestimate the importance of body language!” from “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” is gone. Why someone thought the antagonist had to convey more positive language is a complete misunderstanding of the character’s motivation. How the songs are performed is occasionally different too. In the original “Under the Sea” number, the entire ocean floor of organisms is a rocking band that participates with backing vocals. Not here, though. The creatures dance around, but they don’t play instruments. Only Sebastian sings, with Ariel joining him at the end to sing in agreement. Huh? I thought she didn’t want to stay “under the sea.”

The Disney formula for these reworkings is to stick closely to the source for the sake of nostalgia but gently tweak a few details in superficial ways. If you’re taking kids to see this first before ever having shown them the 1989 release, the obvious question is, Why? The original blows this version out of the water. Children and some adults may be dazzled by what it is: an expensive spectacle. For everyone else, it’s hard to shake that this was done infinitely better 34 years ago. The animated model prevails as the standard.


Love to Love You, Donna Summer

Posted in Documentary, Music on May 24, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Donna Summer is the Queen of Disco. “Hey, it’s nice to be the queen of something,” she remarked, even though she never fully embraced the title. Dance may have been the style for which she was best known, but she covered so much more than that. Rock, Pop, R&B, even Inspirational, winning five Grammys in four different categories. She was a superstar unlike any other. Despite all her accomplishments, Love to Love You, Donna Summer is not a documentary content to assert Donna’s place in music history.

This is a fresh perspective from those closest to her. Brooklyn Sudano is on a mission to shine a light on what made her mother tick. She co-directs with Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams (documentary short Music by Prudence). They assemble a personal portrait from unreleased home movies, photographs, and interviews. We learn the singer struggled with both sexual and physical abuse, suicidal thoughts, and motherhood as she rose to stardom.

Hearing people speak about the woman they knew is invaluable information for any fan. Brooklyn persuades various family members to open up. These include Donna’s siblings, husband, singer-songwriter Bruce Sudano, and daughters Amanda Sudano and Mimi Sommer (with first husband, Helmuth Sommer). Even ex-boyfriend Peter Muhldorfer briefly appears to express regret over his abusive behavior. Donna is heard from as well. One quibble, though. Subjects often speak in voiceover narration, so it’s occasionally difficult to tell the difference between newly recorded interviews and archival footage.

Donna Summer was, by all accounts, a private woman. Fans were shocked when she passed away from lung cancer in 2012 at age 63. The singer did not reveal her diagnosis or treatment to anyone but family and doctors. But then again, the dichotomy between her public and private persona had always been a study of contrasts. “Love to Love You Baby” was an iconic 1975 hit. It lends the title to this biography. That revolutionary single was a loop of undulating sighs and moans in sexual ecstasy over a backing track produced by Pete Bellotte and co-written with Giorgio Moroder. The full 16:50 minute version on the album was edited down into a 4:57 single that kickstarted her career. That record was a far cry from the woman who grew up singing in church and later became a born-again Christian. This account acknowledges that 1979 announcement was made at the peak of her fame. It alienated some supporters. Controversial statements allegedly made at a 1983 concert in Atlantic City are also addressed and then refuted.

This is not a portrait for people unfamiliar with Donna Summer’s hallowed place in music history. As an admirer, I was hoping for a deeper dive into her achievements. There’s some concert footage, but the inspiration and creation that went into those songs is rarely discussed. Giorgio Moroder receives 5 minutes. He and other key figures, like Casablanca Records co-founder Neil Bogart, and producer Pete Bellotte, get short shrift. Songwriter Paul Jabara, who penned “Last Dance” and “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” is never mentioned.

Still, it’s hard to quibble with spending 107 minutes with one of the greatest singers who ever lived. “Review the movie for what it is and not what you want it to be.” Viewers do get to hear some of her most influential tunes. “I remember when ‘I Feel Love’ came on at Studio 54, you just stopped in your tracks, you thought, what is this?” narrates Elton John. Yet this is less about the music and more about the woman. Peer behind the curtain of a performer that was a bit of an enigma then…and remains a mystery today.

Love to Love You, Donna Summer is available to stream now on HBO and Max.


Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on May 20, 2023 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, April 30, I was a guest on UK-based talkSPORT radio. I discussed BIG GEORGE FOREMAN, the sports biopic about the famous boxer. Also, SUCCESSION is in its final season, so why not talk about how great that HBO TV series is? My segment begins 7 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 28 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on May 20, 2023 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, April 23rd, I was on UK-based talkSPORT radio. I discussed indie thriller HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE (in theaters) and screenlife mystery MISSING (now a digital rental in the US). My segment begins 2 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 28 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast X

Posted in Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller with tags on May 20, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fast X is an outlandish chapter in a series overflowing with ridiculous entries. The template was well-established long ago. Take a beloved group of individuals working for a mysterious government organization known as The Agency. Have them jet off to far-flung areas of the world and participate in various death-defying action stunts against some evil baddie. Remove anything that approaches realism. Treat everything and everyone like a cartoon.

Even given these loose parameters, Fast X is a sloppily constructed picture. Louis Leterrier directs from a screenplay by Dan Mazeau and original director Justin Lin (who left after a “major disagreement” with Vin Diesel). The adventure opens with the heist from Fast Five. Even the writers acknowledge the franchise hit its peak when the gang dragged a heavy safe of money through the streets of Brazil. They lifted it from crime boss Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). In a bit of retrofitted history, the script asks us to accept that his son Dante (Jason Momoa) was watching it all from a bridge. Hernan dies, but Dante is knocked off the platform and safely lands in the water. He wants revenge naturally.

Every Fast & Furious entry boasts a unique antagonist. This one has a doozy. Jason Momoa isn’t the “best” villain (that’s Jason Statham), but he’s definitely the most memorable. Dante Reyes doesn’t want to kill Dom; he wants him to suffer. Dante is a preening sociopath that wears his hair in pigtail buns and paints his fingernails in pink and lavender hues. His twisted spa day of drinks with corpses that have their eyes taped open is the most disturbing scene in the entire decalogy. I wish I could unsee it. Momoa stands out in an ensemble packed to the gills with stars. I considered listing them all, but (1) this is a “fast” film review, and (2) being surprised by random celebrities who pop up is one of this picture’s few joys. Vin Diesel still unites it all in the role that defines his career. He’s as inextricably tied to Dominic Toretto as Stallone is to Rocky or Arnold is to the Terminator.

Fast X isn’t a coherent story but an assemblage of action spectacles strung together—most of which recall things we’ve seen before. The gang goes on a bombastic tour of the globe, where death and destruction follow them wherever they go. Dom, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) fly to Italy to apprehend Dante Reyes. There they confront a massive bomb on fire, rolling through the streets of Rome like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. A lot of other crazy things happen. It’s a blur. Precious little of it makes sense, including the physics of the stunts, who is working for whom, and why people are doing what they’re doing. I’m still amazed their ever-expanding “family” keeps absorbing past antagonists. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Jakob Toretto (John Cena), and now Cipher (Charlize Theron) are all serving a team they used to oppose.

Fast X uses the Roman numeral for 10, but it could well stand for X-treme. The end is in sight. We’re twenty-two years in, and the series finally appears to be packing its bags with an eye on the finish line. But ever so slowly, mind you. This installment is allegedly part one of a climatic trilogy. So be forewarned that the movie ends abruptly on a cliffhanger with the bad guy on top. Speaking of bad guys, if there’s a common enemy in every flick, it’s restraint. This has always been a franchise where more is more. At $340 million, it’s the most expensive of the Fast & Furious releases by a wide margin. It could have been the longest as well but F9 narrowly exceeds it by a mere two minutes. Fast X just feels the most exhausting. I did enjoy the film, but I can’t defend it. Let’s say it’s not good, but it is fun.


The Artifice Girl

Posted in Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction with tags on May 18, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic. Writer/director/star Franklin Ritch presents a thought-provoking reflection on a timeworn idea. What if a computer became sentient? The consideration has been handled countless times. Ex Machina is a successful interpretation. M3GAN less so. In this account, a software engineer has written a program of a digital child to snare criminals who prey on minors in chat rooms. He’s created his own version of the Dateline NBC show To Catch a Predator.

The narrative is structured as a chamber play of three acts that cover the past, present, and future. It begins in an interrogation room. Special agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Girard) angrily cross-examine a suspect named Gareth (Franklin Ritch). (In an alternate universe of lookalike actors, Susan Sarandon and Domhnall Gleeson would portray Deena and Gareth). The interrogators believe Gareth is exploiting a preteen (Tatum Matthews). They discover Cherry isn’t a real girl but software the vigilante has created to bait and trap online predators. He then feeds the information he acquires anonymously to the authorities in an altruistic desire to stop their nefarious activities. There’s a deeper reason why he’s doing this. The moral and ethical concerns over manipulating a program that looks and acts like a human child will also be addressed.

The Artifice Girl is dense with words. The production vacillates between fascinating dialogues and sluggish exposition. The saga begins rather promisingly. However, each subsequent chapter is less captivating than the one prior. Ninety minutes of people having a heated discussion in a room can grow tiring. Tatum Matthews stands out as the perceptive Cherry. There’s a point where the program reveals herself to be more advanced than previously thought. At that moment, I was giddy with the possibilities. Perhaps the story would focus on her technology. We might even see how Cherry was designed to execute her purpose. That is never dramatized or even suggested. However, we do get star Lance Henriksen as the elder version of Gareth in the third act, where he is reprimanded by his own creation. That conversation is a depressing end to a promising start.

Film is a visual medium, but occasionally, a high-concept sci-fi movie will impress with grand ideas despite its low-budget constraints. Primer (2004), Coherence (2013), and The Vast of Night (2019) are examples. A dialogue-driven dissertation where people simply talk in a single location can be engaging. Still, your actors better be as witty and intelligent as Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory for that to work.

The Artifice Girl is available to rent on digital platforms (Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Redbox, etc.)


One Fine Morning

Posted in Drama, Romance with tags on May 15, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Director Mia Hansen-Løve’s biggest box office success ($4.97 million worldwide) was the 2016 release Things to Come starring Isabelle Huppert. Hansen-Løve has always been more of a critic’s darling. Despite her many accolades on the festival circuit, it may surprise some that this is her eighth feature. The filmmaker’s approach is understated, naturalistic, and deeply personal. Her latest fits well within her oeuvre.

One Fine Morning is an account of a widowed mother named Sandra, played by Lea Seydoux. Sandra is a busy gal. She raises a preteen daughter while attending to a sick father (Pascal Greggory). Georg suffers from a neurodegenerative disorder that causes vision and memory loss, so he often gets disoriented. During this period, Sandra also reconnects with a friend she hasn’t seen in a while named Clément (Melvil Poupaud).

The chronicle is an engaging character study of a woman increasingly overwhelmed by life. She balances motherhood, working as a translator, and trying to make the right decisions for her dad. Georg is becoming less and less of the person she remembers. Socializing with a male friend from her past reawakens feelings she had long since suppressed. The approach is very French, mixing sweet, tender family interactions of the aging patriarch with explicit love scenes showcasing her affair.

The French New Wave is a significant influence on Mia Hansen-Løve. Directors François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol are an inspiration. The performances, especially Léa Seydoux, are quite good. I felt her sadness, so the actress made an impression. The same goes for actor Pascal Greggory who — as her elderly father — effectively coveys an academic, losing his cognitive abilities as the film progresses. He is the heart of the tale. I’m not sure I connected with the melancholy rhythm of the story. The narrative thrust is a like a leisurely-paced stroll without a destination. The ambivalent ending conveys the emotional power of a shrug. “Life happens. Accept it.” However, the portrait does feel authentic and natural. I appreciated that.

One Fine Morning is available to rent on digital streaming (Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Redbox, Google Play, YouTube, ROW8, Vudu, etc.)