Archive for the Comedy Category


Posted in Biography, Comedy, Drama on May 11, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Capitalism is hot. Earn the highest profit by producing the best good or service at the most competitive price. 2023 has already seen its fair share of movies that tackle the subject—First Tetris, then Air, and now Blackberry. However, not all tales of entrepreneurial determination have the same approach. While the first two were uplifting sagas of can-do spirit, the latest is decidedly less inspirational. The accelerated rise & disastrous fall of the first smartphone is the subject of this exhilarating but sad account.

I take biopics — which blend fact and fiction — with a grain of salt. The screenplay is adapted from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s book Losing the Signal. According to this, BlackBerry started with two nerds. Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) has an idea and starts a company with his buddy and fellow geek Douglas Fregin. Actor Matt Johnson (who stars as Douglas) also directs from a script co-written with longtime collaborator Matthew Miller. The messy hair, headband-wearing Douglas manages the engineers but is just as focused on scheduling weekly movie nights for the staff. John Carpenter’s They Live is a favorite.

Mike and Douglas are schooled in technology but not in the ways of business. Their Waterloo, Ontario-based firm, Research In Motion (RIM), has a product called the PocketLink, “a pager, a cell phone, and an e-mail machine all in one.” It’s going nowhere. They’re a couple of minnows in a world for sharks. They need an aggressive personality. Enter corporate fast talker Jim Balsillie. Star Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is almost unrecognizable as the balding businessman. Antagonistic and overbearing, the actor gives the performance of his career thus far. He’s incredible and believable as the tycoon who leads their enterprise — for better and for worse — into a 50% market share and $20 billion in annual sales.

BlackBerry is a narrative of contrasting ideologies and bruised egos. Despite being extremely intelligent, Mike and Douglas were innocent and naive children in a world of adults. This is a Canadian saga told by Canadian filmmakers. Yet the film perfectly captures the lackadaisical style that characterizes Silicon Valley tech companies like Google and Facebook. Jim is a different fit altogether. The volatile mix would prove both advantageous and detrimental to the corporation’s success. Also, Steve Jobs’ launch of the iPhone in 2007 didn’t help. Mike initially insisted users would prefer their tactile, clicking keyboard. Of course, Jobs’ revolutionary keyboardless design would ultimately become the industry standard. Although the movie simplifies things considerably by making it seem like Jobs’ announcement was an immediate death knell. In reality, Blackberry would continue gaining users until 2013 before gradually losing to Apple in the cell phone arena.

Competition is ideal for encouraging the finest products at the lowest price people are willing to pay. The downside is that one company’s triumph often means another’s defeat. This is one of those “true” tales of capitalism that inspired me to delve deeper when it was over. How they came up with the name of their device is never even explained. (Someone thought the tiny black keyboard resembled the surface of the fruit). While certain developments feel fictionalized, it blends a heady amount of facts to be highly informative. The chronicle brilliantly melds comedy with truth into a thoroughly entertaining (and depressing) mix of history and fun. Blackberry is a fascinating account of “that thing you owned before you got an iPhone.”

BlackBerry is a limited release in theaters on May 12.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero with tags on May 8, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 caps off a trio of films nine years in the making. I’ll cut right to the chase. The 32nd chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a touching and satisfying end. It’s the most consistent trilogy in the MCU (Spider-Man and Captain America are contenders too). It may not compete on a level with the original Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but I teared up several times. I wasn’t expecting that.

Our ragtag team of intergalactic mercenaries is just settling in their new headquarters. We see that Peter Krill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and Cosmo the Space Dog (Maria Bakalova) are all there. Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) will appear later, but she, well, uh, her reemergence requires more explanation. Anyway, they are suddenly attacked by a powerful being named Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). In the ensuing fight, Rocket is injured to the point where his very life is at stake. Now the team must search for a cure which leads them to a wicked scientist named The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).

We learn in flashback that Rocket was part of a cruel genetic experiment by this man. We meet other animals, an otter with mechanical arms (Linda Cardellini), a walrus with wheels for legs (Asim Chaudry), and a rabbit (Mikaela Hoover) with robotic attachments that make her look like a spider. They are strange in appearance but have sweet and cuddly personalities, giving Rocket emotional strength. What sets this episode apart is the sentimental component. Sure, we get a big-budget extravaganza boasting a curated soundtrack full of songs that I love, but it’s in the narrative’s quieter moments that truly shine. Rocket Raccoon is the focus, and his backstory is truly affecting.

This PG-13 release pushes that rating to its limit. The High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, is a sadistic villain full of Shakespearean intensity. He is a degenerate with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The account can be violent. “Kill ’em all!” Star-Lord instructs when faced with an unholy army at one point. Or could that be the Earthling’s favorite Metallica album? Director James Gunn’s casual disregard for life is troubling. However, it’s the scenes involving animal cruelty that have garnered the most discussion. Some of it is a bit much.

The various incidents — even the traumatic ones — inform a narrative with real stakes. Ok, so yeah, there’s a surplus of characters, and it’s overstuffed with plot. Nevertheless, I’m now convinced MCU films need over two hours to excel. Thor: The Dark World is the shortest and arguably worst entry. Vol. 3 presents a thrilling saga with action spectacles that deliver. The production design is a dazzling display of sets and costumes with an eye toward humor. Nathan Fillion appears as Master Karja wearing a suit that looks like it was borrowed from the production of The Fifth Element. That’s exalted praise. Throw in a genuinely poignant tale that tugs at the heartstrings. Rocket’s origins are explored in depth, and his past is tragic, to say the least. There’s a lot going on. Developments can get visceral, but the story’s intentions are noble. Animal testing is wrong, and good wins out over evil. This beloved group goes out with style. I couldn’t ask for a more hopeful sendoff than that.



Posted in Comedy, Fantasy, Horror with tags on April 17, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Renfeield is a modern update of an old tale. This version is based on characters from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, but it also relies on the visual look of the 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi. Nicholas Hoult is R. M. Renfield, the obedient servant of Count Dracula. Nicolas Cage embodies the legendary vampire from Transylvania and Renfield’s demanding boss. The premise is that Renfield has had enough of procuring his master’s prey and doing his every bidding. It’s been centuries, but he’s ready to break free from this life of servitude.

The initial concept is creative, and given the two thespians involved, I was excited to see this. The duo has moved from Transylvania to New Orleans. Renfield attends meetings there to help deal with his codependent relationship with a cruel boss. I was enjoying this at first. Unfortunately, an auspicious beginning is unnecessarily complicated by a major detour involving a mafia-style mob family pushing drugs into the city. The Lobo family is an organized crime empire in New Orleans that controls everyone in the police department. Awkwafina portrays a traffic cop named Rebecca. She may be belligerent and irritable, but at least she is not on the take. Although Renfield and Rebecca have zero chemistry, their interactions inexplicably lead to a blossoming romance. Oh, and when Renfield eats bugs (spiders, ants, etc.), he unlocks the ability to fight like Bruce Lee. Nothing makes sense.

The screenplay — written by Ryan Ridley (Cartoon Network TV series Rick and Morty) from a story by Robert Kirkman (AMC TV series The Walking Dead) — begins with a rather clever setup. Renfield plans to use his group therapy sessions to identify abusive people. He’ll hunt less virtuous souls for Dracula so he feels less guilty about their deaths. That’s funny. I appreciated those bits, but the developments vacillated from light comedy to extreme brutality. The schizophrenic shift between the two is awkward.

The bloodshed includes savage casualties with stomachs sliced open, entrails spilling out, human limbs being ripped off, and liquid blood spurting out like a volcano. I could go on, but you get the idea. The excessive gore is meant to be hilarious because it’s so outrageous. Trust that the violence is somewhat amusing in small doses. When a character uses severed arms as weapons, it is laughable. But after a while, the sheer amount of carnage is oppressive and overbearing. I didn’t relish the gratuitous displays. A good introduction is undone as the humor fades, and a generic plot with routine fights takes over. Renfield is indeed horrifying. However, it’s the gap between idea and execution that is most appalling.


The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Comedy with tags on April 13, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want. This is sometimes necessary when adapting a video game into a feature-length film. A collection of references only a connoisseur could appreciate satisfies a fundamental requirement. The Super Mario Bros. Movie honors the original entity, which makes it far better than the infamous 1993 adaptation Super Mario Bros. It checks all the boxes as fan service at its most effective. Why did this take 30 years?

It’s a basic hero’s journey that the youngest viewer will understand. Based on Nintendo’s popular video game series, the chronicle concerns a pair of Italian-American plumbers from New York City. Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) leave their employer Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco), to start their own plumbing business. While fixing a leaky pipe in a Brooklyn sewer, the duo is sucked into a portal and separated into alternate dimensions. Luigi plummets into the Dark Lands, ruled by a ruthless fire-breathing Koopa King named Bowser (Jack Black). Meanwhile, Mario arrives in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). There he also meets an anthropomorphic mushroom named Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). They all join forces. Mario’s goal is twofold: find his brother Luigi and save the world from Bowser.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is centered on the platform game of the same name with a long history. Developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was first released in Japan in 1985 before making its way to the rest of the world by 1987. However, a myriad of spin-offs featuring the Mario character exists. Even oldsters (Hello, me!) will recall this all started with Donkey Kong in 1981. The premise here is to celebrate the totality of all the various iterations in the franchise and reward knowledgeable viewers.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a Nintendo lover’s dream. Early on, the brothers appear in a commercial for their new plumbing business. They don yellow capes a la Super Mario World. The brothers sprint lively through Brooklyn in the classic side-scrolling manner of the computerized game. In her empire, Princess Peach shows him an obstacle course that alludes to Super Mario Bros. 2. The powerups are introduced, which include eating mushrooms. The gag is that Mario hates eating the fungi back in the real world, but in this realm, they allow him to grow by one foot and jump even higher. Later in Kong Kingdom, Mario must fight Cranky Kong’s (Fred Armisen) son Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), who throws barrels at him in the arena Super Smash Bros.-style. Mario rings a bell, giving him a catsuit (Super Mario 3-D World) to win. The heroes design their custom go-karts to go after the Koopas, and the display menus are lifted directly from Mario Kart.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is straightforward children’s entertainment presented as an amalgamation of nostalgia. The latest offering from Illumination — the studio that brought you the Minions — is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (animated TV series Teen Titans Go!) from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel (Minions: The Rise of Gru). The film isn’t deep. The script for The Lego Movie or Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers have significantly more substance for a film of this type. It’s simply a greatest-hits anthology. A compendium of “Easter eggs” designed to create as many “I remember that from the video game!” exclamations as possible in an efficient 92 minutes.

The rudimentary story is pitched more to children but gives a few nods to more mature viewers. A soundtrack features tunes that adults will recognize: “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (Beastie Boys), “Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler), “Take On Me” (A-ha), “Thunderstruck” (AC/DC), and “Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra). Even voice actor Jack Black gets to sing as Bowser in a tribute to the musician’s rock group Tenacious D. At one point, his character sits at a piano and croons a power ballad called “Peaches” to his unrequited love. The Super Mario Brothers is a colorful bit of undemanding fun that disappears from the mind a day later. I enjoyed it in the moment.


The Lost King

Posted in Comedy, Drama, History with tags on April 2, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

The above passage concerns the inner belief that God will fulfill all of His promises. It is taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, one of the books of the New Testament. Yet it could easily apply to amateur historian Philippa Langley and her tenacious mission to find the lost remains of King Richard III. The Lost King is a movie about faith.

Is Shakespeare’s play Richard III historical truth or a myth? Philippa’s real-life story begins after attending a performance of the play. She immediately identifies with the titular character, whom she feels has been unfairly misrepresented as a hunchback, child killer, and usurper of the throne. Feelings that he was a misunderstood monarch are the seeds of a burgeoning obsession. She stops going to work and even starts seeing his physical manifestation (Harry Lloyd) in real life. These visions fuel a decision to research the man. Her study suggests that the deposed monarch may not have been thrown into the River Soar but buried in what is now a social services parking lot. The search for his grave is designated as the “Looking for Richard” project. Lo! That would have made a catchier title. The fact that an Al Pacino-directed documentary already exists by that name made it less attractive.

Philippa Langley’s crusade is odd. She’s primarily driven by intuition and feeling. After entering a parking lot, she experiences a “strange sensation.” A giant painted “R” on the ground gives her pause. She inquires, and an attendant contends the letter stands for “reserved” (not Richard). These emotional qualities make the woman a dismissible figure by the stodgy academics at the University of Leicester. I’m not equipped to determine whether the negative presentation of the educational institution is accurate. However, deputy registrar Richard Taylor (Lee Ingleby) emerges as a most hissable villain–a self-seeker who elevates himself on the backs of others. Luckily Philippa does have some supporters. Archaeologist Richard Buckley (Mark Addy) eventually decided to support her venture. Meanwhile, this investigation seizes focus from a job that provides much-needed money for their two teenage boys. Nevertheless, ex-husband John (Steve Coogan) is surprisingly sympathetic to a point.

The portrayal of a passionate quest truly excels when the audience fully understands the protagonist’s fervor. Actor Steve Coogan co-stars and adapts the screenplay with Jeff Pope from the book The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III by Langley and Michael Jones. Coogan is working with director Stephen Frears, with whom he collaborated on Philomena (2013). The director is known for polished, literate dramas involving clearly defined characters that explore social class. The Lost King is a worthy addition to his oeuvre. Though I took no sides in the debate about the nature of the 15th-century King of England before this film, I grew to appreciate her ambitious undertaking. Philippa’s persistence and tenacity ultimately changed the course of history, making this mission an admirable pursuit.



Posted in Comedy, Drama, Sports with tags on March 30, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sports movies are prone to a certain predictability. When a grumpy coach eventually appreciates a rag-tag team of misfits after he leads them to excel, we can hardly be surprised. The Bad News Bears or The Mighty Ducks are but two of many cinematic examples. However, the inevitable success rewards viewers with that emotionally satisfying arc we crave. Champions is a touching drama tinged with comedy. It won me over despite its lack of sophistication. Simplicity is part of its charm.

Woody Harrelson stars as Marcus, a minor-league basketball coach who gets arrested for drunk driving. His sentence is to manage a squad of players with intellectual disabilities as community service. “The Friends” will teach him a valuable lesson along the way. A disorganized group learns how to perform better while the instructor grows to understand these individuals are more than just their athletic skills. The situation is admittedly manipulative, but the results are uplifting nonetheless.

Champions is fortified by a spirited cast. The Friends are a ten-player team that includes an assemblage of captivating personalities. All the athletes contribute significantly with various stories. For example, Darius (Joshua Felder) refuses to play for Marcus. His reasons will be revealed. Actress Madison Tevlin is a scene stealer as Cosentino. Rounding out the ensemble are Ernie Hudson as the boss who fires Marcus, Kaitlin Olson as a sassy love interest, Matt Cook as Marcus’ assistant, and Cheech Marin as the manager of the rec center where the Friends practice. It’s all of these interactions that elevate the narrative into a compelling account.

The screenplay by Mark Rizzo is based on the 2018 Spanish film Campeones. That Goya winning production was inspired by a real-life Special Olympics team from Valencia, Spain, which won twelve championships. Directed by Bobby Farrelly in his solo directorial debut. The filmmaker is half of the Farrelly brothers, who — together with his brother Peter — directed classic comedies like Dumb and Dumber & There’s Something About Mary. Bobby’s movie Champions is more virtuous and less crude. Incidentally, his sibling Peter hit it big in 2018 with Best Picture winner Green Book.

A saga can be made up of cliched elements, but it’s how those details are presented that ultimately win you over. I was skeptical about the setup, but I found myself embracing the tenderness and warmth of this chronicle. Even though the developments are formulaic, the story is genial and compassionate. Champions is unabashedly sweet. A great pizza may be composed of tried and true ingredients, but it still consistently satisfies my cravings. Likewise, so too does a good sports comedy with a lot of heart.


Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

Posted in Action, Comedy, Thriller with tags on March 23, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Director Guy Ritchie is known for energetic ensemble pieces overflowing with audacious repartee. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is another frivolous spy caper full of convoluted developments. However, it’s still an engaging escapade that offers hijinks and fun. Sometimes that’s all you need.

This amusing adventure delivers the goods. A mission coordinator (Cary Elwes) for MI6 hires Special agent Orson Fortune (Jason Statham). His mission: Retrieve a stolen doomsday device before billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), can sell it to the highest bidder. Orson’s operatives include Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone). Simmonds plans to host a charity event in Cannes. The team recruits Simmonds’ favorite movie star, Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett), to infiltrate the event.

Guy Ritchie has a facility for these mid-budget thrillers that mix comedy and action. He knows how to craft pure but undemanding entertainment. Recent examples include the Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Gentlemen, and Wrath of Man. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is a worthy addition to his filmography. This sprightly romp is immensely watchable.

Despite all this, the movie was a flop at the box office. Initially scheduled for theatrical release in the U.S. on January 21, 2022, the picture was delayed several times until March 3, 2023. Producers were allegedly worried that the baddies were of Ukrainian nationality. Regardless, the lack of marketing for the film didn’t help. I’ll concede this thriller isn’t particularly innovative, and that unwieldy title is terrible. However, the flick coasts along on wit and charm in under two hours. It’s well worth checking out.

Currently available to rent on digital platforms like Amazon Prime, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, and more.


Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero with tags on March 19, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

2019’s Shazam! was about children who metamorphosized into superpowered grownups. The chronicle was charming because the developments were fresh and new. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) was introduced as an orphaned teenager that received the abilities of the ancient gods from the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Whenever the teen yelled “Shazam!” he transformed into a muscular hero (Zachary Levi) in a red bodysuit with a lightning bolt on his chest. He possessed strength, courage, and speed, but his brain remained as a child. He was still fraught with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. He was aided by his adoptive siblings, with whom he shared the powers of a magical staff. They likewise became superheroes.

The “kids” are a powerful team of crime fighters in this sequel. They must face off against natural disasters in Philadelphia, like saving people on a collapsing bridge in the opening setpiece. However, their mission is complicated when confronted by the Daughters of Atlas. These villains include Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu). The sisters want to harness the power of the Wizard’s staff for themselves.

That would be enough story, but there’s so much more. Billy has turned 18. He’s concerned about aging out of the foster system. Billy is now an adult, and he looks it. He’s not the only one. Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) — his more mature and academically minded sister — has aged so much that she is portrayed by the same actress in her adult form. Meanwhile, Billy’s foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) falls for Anne (Rachel Zegler), a mysterious new girl at school who may not be all she seems. Together Freddy and Anne radiate a flicker of chemistry that I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is unbearably stuffed with gags. Sure, the first picture was light-hearted. That made it a refreshing change in a DC Extended Universe previously known for Zack Snyder’s gloomy worldview (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Justice League). Here the wisecracks are so relentless it’s oppressive. I never laughed. A series of jokes fashioned around multicolored candies are nothing more than a shameless advertisement for that product. Furthermore, Zachary Levi’s mugging performance is so tedious. The actor has dialed up the doofiness considerably. The actor smirks, sneers, grimaces, and giggles, contorting his face like never before.

Shazam is more than a manchild; he’s a complete doofus. And he blathers incessantly — rarely pausing for a breath. The rapid-fire cadence of words spewing from his mouth so fast you fear the chatterbox might pass out. His inane quips include the Fast & Furious franchise when speaking about family. Ugh! Do you ever think anything you don’t say? At one point, Billy uses a sentient pen to draft a negotiation letter. The enchanted stylus includes all the random thoughts he speaks out loud. When Helen Mirren, as Hespera, recites the letter for all to hear, it is admittedly an amusing bit. Ok, so I chuckled there.

The worst superhero movies take a simple idea and make it confusing, Shazam! Fury of the Gods is more! More people! More special effects! More plot! It has more everything but charm. It is an explosion of computer graphics and chaos masquerading as a narrative. When the Daughters of Atlas command a mythical dragon, the manifestation is so disconnected from anything resembling a logical development that it doesn’t even seem like a real threat. Explosions occur, and buildings fall. This is an exhausting display of destruction that happens to feature beloved personalities from the first movie. They do a bunch of stuff. Very little of which is interesting.


Cocaine Bear

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Thriller with tags on February 25, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In 1985 a 175-pound (79-kilogram) American black bear overdosed on cocaine. It all began when a drug lord named Andrew C. Thornton II was trafficking narcotics from Colombia into the United States. He dropped a load of 40 plastic containers of cocaine over Georgia’s Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The cargo was too heavy for his light twin-engine plane. Thornton also evacuated and died soon after when his parachute failed to open. On December 23, authorities in Georgia discovered the body of a black bear that had eaten the stimulant. The total amount consumed was 75 pounds (34 kilograms), valued at 2 million dollars. Those are the facts, and this is his story.

Ok, so the film has taken some liberties. The animal did not kill anyone and died immediately after ingesting the drug. However, that would not make an exciting movie. This is a silly comedy mixed with severe gore. The screenwriters have fabricated a tale out of whole cloth. The bear goes on a rampage and ends up killing many people in gruesome ways. That’s it. The chronicle is half-baked.

Cocaine Bear is the chronicle of a beast that goes on a coke-fueled frenzy. She — yes, the mammal is female — has a craving for more of that addictive white powder. The bear will mercilessly kill any human in her sights. The narrative is inherently a comedy first, so you are invited to laugh, with horror being a close second. In that capacity, it unapologetically offers vivid grindhouse violence — a severed leg here, a decapitated head there. One poor soul is subject to a literal stomach churning where his intestines are ripped out of his abdomen. The simple idea is mined continuously to the point of exhaustion. I longed for a twist, plot development, or anything that might break up the monotony. The picture is a mere 95 minutes and still feels too long.

What “bear-ly” saves this B movie is a colorful cast. The starry ensemble includes Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) as a drug kingpin named Syd in one of his last performances. His underlings are his grief-stricken son, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story), and O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton) as Syd’s second-in-command. Keri Russell (TV’s Felicity) is a nurse and the mom of a young girl portrayed by Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project). Christian Convery (TV’s Sweet Tooth) is memorable as her little friend. Margo Martindale (August: Osage County) is a park ranger who applies perfume to incur the affection of a wildlife inspector, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (TV’s Modern Family). Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Da 5 Bloods) is the policeman assigned to the case. Other actors depict teen ruffians, hikers, law enforcement, and ambulance workers. They all contribute.

Cocaine Bear is this generation’s Snakes on a Plane. It’s a passable time-filler — amusing in the moment and forgettable the next day. If the title is enough to make you chuckle, then see it. If not, steer clear. The saga will be “un-bear-able.”


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero with tags on February 18, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I feel like a newbie whenever I watch the latest superhero release. As a critic, I’ve seen every chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Yet I can never remember who did what to whom because I see so many movies, and comic book adaptations are a tiny part of that. My perspective is good news if you are a casual moviegoer and simply want an entertaining picture. Bad news if you’re a comic book aesthete who demands that a sequel correctly address the happenings and characters of the previous installment.

Phase 5 of the MCU kicks off with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. For those keeping track, it’s the 31st film of the franchise and the 3rd one to feature Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) as the central hero. Paul Rudd brings the carefree charm we’ve come to expect. He’s such a likable guy. I realize that every mention of Baskin Robbins is a shameless product placement, but Rudd sells it as comedy. I was amused. However, despite the title, neither Ant-Man nor the Wasp (Evangeline Lily) conveys the impression of being the star. There are a plethora of individuals that populate this sci-fi conflict in space. The story is a random assortment of events that feature a large cast. It’s overflowing with personalities.

Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is the real star of the tale because every major development involves her in some way. As the original Wasp, she was lost in the Quantum Realm for 30 years. Janet foolishly downplays her bad experiences there to family and friends. Even her husband Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is unaware of specifics. Meanwhile, Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) believes the universe in the Multiverse holds secrets to helping the world. Unfortunately, her experimental communication device indirectly gets everyone sucked through a portal. Now Cassie, her father Scott/Ant-Man, his girlfriend Hope/Wasp, and Hope’s parents Janet & Hank are all trapped in the Quantum Realm. They must find a way to escape. Let the fun begin!

Quantumania is a movie at odds with itself. Director Peyton Reed and screenwriter Jeff Loveness (Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Rick and Morty) fluctuate between two extremes: giving the audience serious stakes vs. buoyant fun. At its core, Quantumania is a silly space opera. When it leans heavily into camp characters, it’s a kicky blast. The dimension is a veritable Mos Eisley Cantina expanded to an entire planet. There’s William Jackson Harper as a reluctant mind-reader, martial artist Katy O’Brian as a fierce freedom fighter, and David Dastmalchian who voices a pink CGI slime creature named Veb. Oh, and I have yet to reveal the bad guys.

We are presented with three, count ’em, THREE separate villains. We discover that Janet van Dyne previously met a mysterious fellow named Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) in the Quantum Realm. He ultimately turns out to be the chief antagonist. Thespians Michelle Pfeiffer and Jonathan Majors are acting in a different — more somber — film than everyone else. They’re solemn, slightly dour, and full of self-importance. Before we meet Kang, however, we are introduced to a couple of secondary scoundrels that behave like his goofy minions. Bill Murray is a hoot as Lord Krylar, a wealthy and pompous governor that claims to have had a romantic tryst with Janet. There’s also MODOK (Corey Stoll), which stands for “Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.” The salvaged identity of Darren Cross/Yellowjacket possesses tiny arms and legs that sprout out of a huge misshapen head. His appearance is a visual gag every time he appears. Those two rogues are hilarious and add to the absurdity.

Quantumania is a fun, lighthearted popcorn flick. I’ll concede the narrative doesn’t feel as weighty, especially arriving on the heels of Wakanda Forever. But not every movie has to be a political statement. The saga includes everything you’ve come to expect from a Marvel release. It’s hard to tell where art direction, production design, and special effects begin and end, but kudos to them all. I liked the weird alien world. It looks like a 1970s album cover illustrated by Roger Dean. There are also epic action sequences, lively dialogue, and good triumphing over evil. If each MCU phase can be considered a 6-course dinner, this is the appetizer, not an entrée. Quantumania is tuna tartare in sesame ginger sauce served before the main course of pan-seared scallops with capers and brown butter. It may not be the central dish, but it is a satisfying starter.