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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Rarely have movies ignited such fan furor, either in support of or opposition against, than does the Star Wars franchise.  People have long since romanticized the original trilogy so much that nothing that comes after it can ever measure up, no matter how good it is.  Most see the prequels as a giant step backwards, and many have felt that this latest trilogy is somewhere in-between.  For me, I don’t look at it as lore that must be followed, which is why this trilogy has been fun for me.  This movie is no exception as I enjoyed it immensely and give it 4.5 Icees.  At the time of this writing, the professional critics have it at 57% and the fans at 88%.  That’s not too surprising as this is not the artsy Academy Award nominee that critics typically like.  It’s just a fun Star Wars movie for Pete’s sake.

This movie is not perfect and I’m not giving is such a high rating because I am saying it is.  I am giving it this rating because I just plain enjoyed myself and after all, isn’t that what movies are for?

The pluses of this movie are many.  The entire movie is well-paced (no real dead spots).  The action scenes are plentiful and exciting.  The one-liners are few but when they do show up, they are funny.  The shout-outs to movies from the past are obvious and sometimes forced, but surely will please the die-hard SW fans.  The light saber fights are very well-choreographed.  The special effects (except for one bad CGI moment) are amazing.  Once you learn **spoiler** you understand how Rey was able to use the force so quickly in the previous movies, which has been a personal issue between me and my brother from another mother.  He will probably say he hates this movie but will buy it immediately the first day it comes out.

The minuses are few, but do exist.  For one, this movie pretty much invalidates much from The Last Jedi (you may like that, I don’t know, but I didn’t), especially what the last scene represented, but to say how it does so would be a spoiler.  If you’d like to find out how, simply shoot me an email or use my Reviews By The Don Facebook page and post the question there.  The plot is thin and for the most part predictable, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun.  Also, the way Palpatine comes back (you’ve heard his voice in the trailers so this isn’t a spoiler) is very nonchalant and you just have to accept it and move on.

Since I judge each movie on its own as best I can, I confidently proclaim that I really liked this one.  In fact, I’m seeing it again on Saturday!  I’m sure some will hate it and some will love it, but most will probably fall somewhere in the middle.  But as long as you enjoy yourself, that’s all the really matters, isn’t it?

No scenes during or after the credits.


Richard Jewell

This movie is a stong one, thereby earning 4 Icees out of 5.  Although a majority of the movie seems to be based in fact, there is a firestorm over one thing that is portrayed in the movie, but more about that later.

This movie is about the 1996 bombing at Centennial Park in Atlanta right before the Olympics started.  When I saw that the movie was Rated R, I thought that would be due to very graphic or bloody scenes, but that is not the case.  It must be more about the language, because I’ve seen more blood on regular TV than I saw in this movie.

I think that Paul Walter Hauser does an amazing job of portraying the title character.  How accurate that portrayal is, nobody except those who knew Richard can say, but I believe his performance is very believable, as is the always good Kathy Bates.

Oliva Wilde does a good job of playing Kathy Scruggs, but unfortunately one important scene in the movie has stirred quite a controversy.  You can check it online if you’d like because to tell you what it was here would be a spoiler.  Suffice it to say her name is the lead in the byline that named Richard as the focus of the FBI investigation.  Anything beyond that may or may not be Hollywood taking its usual liberties.

The FBI agents were portrayed a little too cartoony in my opinion, and I don’t know how close to accurate that portrayal was.. but something tells me it wasn’t quite like that.

All-in-all this is a good movie that I would recommend to all, just know that although the movie is based on a true and tragic story, Hollywood often takes liberties so do some research before you form strong opinions about the major players involved.

There is some information that is given shortly before the credits start, but nothing after that.


Jumanji: The Next Level

This fun-filled movie is a great addition (3rd movie) in the Jumanji franchise.  As long as they can continue to have interesting twists, I hope they keep making them, and if the money keeps coming in, they probably will.  I liked this movie as much as the original, perhaps for different reasons… but it gets the same rating I gave the first – 4 Icees!

If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the general concept.  Jumanji is back in play but instead of the normal foursome, we have Grandpa (Danny DeVito) and Milo (Danny Glover) taking over a couple of the characters in the game.  That is a great source of comedy throughout the movie, especially with commentary from the other two.  What about the remaining two originals?  Well, if I told you about them, it would be a spoiler and I don’t do that.  Let’s just say that it all works, and works well.

I like that Karen Gillan seemed to have a larger role in this one because it made it seem different, and that’s not bad at all.  The “Fridge” character was also hilarious.  There were times during the movie where the audience was literally laughing out loud.  Also, since the general premise was set in the last movie, this one was able to get into the story a bit quicker and that’s always a good thing!

The action scenes are just as fun as in the first film as is the banter.  The plot, well that may seem somewhat familiar but actually, that’s ok.  Fun is fun and this movie is just that…  fun!

There is a scene shortly after the credits start (worth seeing) and an audio clip at the very end (not worth sticking around for).


Knives Out

This entertaining Whodunit gets 4 Icees for telling a story in a different but effective way.  You take an all-star cast (Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and more!) and pair them with a solid script and you get an entertaining movie.  It’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as the trailers may lead you to believe, but it’s still a good movie for a genre that has been dormant for far too long.

The way that Daniel Craig (my least favorite James Bond) portrays the private detective in this movie kind of reminds me of Peter Faulk as Columbo.  Quirky, but effective.

Just a moment ago I said it wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the trailers may lead you to believe, and that’s true… but there are moments that will get you to laugh.  Who knew that some of these actors could deliver one-liners so well.

In any event, this is a movie I would recommend, and if you don’t believe me both the critics (96%) and audience (94%) on agree with me.

There is something as the credits end that isn’t worth sticking around for, but if you email me at I will let you know what it is.  Nothing other than that.


Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, A

This heartwarming tale gets 3.5 Icees from this reviewer!  This is a good movie, inspired by a true story regarding a friendship between Fred Rogers (aka, Mr. Rogers) and a journalist.  In the movie, the journalist is named Lloyd Vogel but it is based on Tom Junod. There are different articles out there that talk about how much poetic license the filmakers took, but for the most part, the tone of movie appears to be very accurate, and that’s awesome.

This movie is about the famous children’s show performer who apparently was one of the nicest people to ever walk the face of the earth (no, he wasn’t a former Navy Seal) and Tom Hanks performs it as well as you’d expect one of the best actors of our time to do…  exceptionally.

Also doing a fantastic job is Matthew Rhys, playing Lloyd Vogel.  He doesn’t play a one-dimensional character but instead portrays the character like a real person with real issues.

I also like the storytelling method of this movie, which bounced back and forth between being an episode of the show and telling the story.

So why only 3.5 Icees if I liked this movie so much?  That’s a great question.  Although I enjoyed this movie and do recommend it, I can’t say that it really blew me away or that it was something that I would ever watch again.  It’s just a good movie that I am glad I watched.

There is a scene as the credits start, but nothing afterwards.


21 Bridges

The critics hate it (48% on and the audience loves it (91%)… enter The Don.  This is why I do this blog, to let you know what a ordinary person, not “trained in the arts” thinks about a movie.  When it comes to this one, I really liked it and give it 3.5 Icees out of 5.

If I “really liked it”, why did I only give it 3.5 Icees?  Well, before I go into that, let’s talk about the positives, shall we?  First, Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) did a great job, but I have to admit I kept waiting for him to speak in a Wakandan accent (yes, I know Wakanda is not a real place).  There was good action, and good acting from Chadwick, Sienna Miller and J.K. Simmons. Also I was happy to see that we also got good acting from Stephan James, who I had never heard of before but hope to see more from.

Okay, so if the acting was good and the action was good… why only 3.5 Icees (which by the way is not a bad rating).  Simple, this movie is way too predictable.  The “twists” could be seen a mile away and that’s just bad writing.  I hope to see more from everyone on this cast, just with a better script to work from.

Again, this movie is worth seeing, but it could have been better.

No scenes during or after the credits.


Ford v Ferrari

This very interesting movie gets a solid 4 Icees from this reviewer.  The movie, based on true facts (of course with some poetic license, but not much) has people talking about awards.  I don’t know about all that, but I did find the movie interesting throughout.

I had no knowledge about the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1966 prior to this movie, but did do some reading afterwards and with the exception of a few details, the movie seems to be pretty much on point.  Matt Damon (aka Jason Bourne) and Christian Bale (aka Batman) both give convincing performances as the main two characters.

The movie at 2.5hrs is a bit long, and slow in spots, but it makes up for it with some good driving scenes, including carnage (get it?  car-nage) during the Le Mans race. The chemistry between the two main characters is believable, as is the corporate image of Ford as portrayed throughout the movie.  Another admirable performance is given by Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles and I liked how the movie explored their relationship.  An “acceptable” performance given by Noah Jupe as their son Peter, with solid support by Jon Bernthal (The Punisher) as Lee Iococca and Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II.

I thought the character development was pretty good.  They gave us just enough without going too long to give us the backstories on the primary characters and the situation that led to Ford wanting to get into Le Mans racing. Overall, this is a good movie, period.

As there are many choices during this T-day timeframe, I get it if this doesn’t rise to the top of your list, but if you don’t see it in the theaters, I definitely recommend you watch it when it comes out on video.

No scenes during or after the credits.


Charlie’s Angels

This fun reboot (sort of) of a popular franchise gets 4-Icees from this reviewer.  I know that may be higher than you are seeing from some, but I enjoyed myself while watching this movie and really… isn’t that why we go to the movies?  If you like girl-power movies, I think you’ll enjoy this.  Is it campy?  Yes.  Is it absolutely the best action movie you’ll ever see?  No. But it’s fun and has just enough twists to keep you guessing.  The best advice I could give would be to ignore your inner critic and just sit back and enjoy…

Surprisingly, the actress I most enjoyed in this movie was Kristen Stewart.  Perhaps that’s because she isn’t playing a brooding teenager, or a brooding Snow White, or a brooding…. well, you get the idea.  In this movie, she’s upbeat and really, really funny.  Throw in Naomi Scott (Aladdin) and the tall and combat-trained Ella Balinska and you have a trio of ladies that are capable of just about anything.  Oh yeah, let’s not forget Elizabeth Banks (still rocking it at 45) who also directed this movie!

It does have some violence, but it is closer to PG than PG-13.

Another thing that I liked is that this isn’t a true “reboot”, but you’ll understand what I mean when you watch the movie.  If I were to tell you, that would qualify as a spoiler and I don’t do that.

The movie can be a tad slow at times but makes up for it with good fight scenes and funny one-liners.  I really hope that this does well enough at the theaters to get a sequel.

There are some scenes during the credits but nothing afterwards.


Terminator: Dark Fate

I have heard this movie called, “The best Terminator since T2”, which isn’t really all that much of high praise since T3-5 weren’t really good.  So, was it?  Was it the best T since T2?  YES!!  This movie has everything you could want from a Terminator movie and then some and gets a solid 4 Icees from me!

One thing that helps to know going in (sorry if some of you consider this a spoiler, I don’t)… this movie is a direct sequel from T2.  You learn about 5 minutes in that is a movie that can’t follow T3-5, and that’s ok.  T3-5 weren’t that memorable anyways.

This movie is one that the studio execs hope will kick off another trilogy, and I think it does so quite nicely.  You have a new “Sarah” in the mix in the form of Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who wonders why things are from the future are trying to kill her (sound familiar?).  Along the way she meets Grace (an excellent performance by Mackenzie Davis), Sarah (an not-well-aged Linda Hamilton) and Arnold in a role that I won’t define here.  Of course, there is a new version of Terminator out to kill her in the form of Gabriel Luna, who isn’t even listed on IMDB at the time I am writing this review… that’s just not right.

This movie has great action, intermixed funny one-liners, and most important for me… a decent explanation of how this was reconciled with the first 2 Terminator movies.  I hate it when things between movies in a franchise aren’t consistent (like the X-men movies) and this movie doesn’t have that problem.

No scenes during or after the credits.



Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Sometimes you enjoyed the first movie so much and are looking forward to the sequel with such anticipation that it ends up being a bit of a disappointment.  Okay, so that happens more often than “sometimes”.  Well, it is the case with this movie as it just never measured up to the original, which is why I have to limit this to 3 Icees out of 5.

Yes, Maleficent is back and this time she has the moniker of “Mistress of Evil”.  Wait. Didn’t she actually save people?  Isn’t she the one who woke the princess?   Wasn’t that just 5 years ago?  Well, they explain all that away in the first few moments of the film (closest to a spoiler you’re going to get from me).

This cinematography in this movie is beautiful, especially the Moors.  Angelina Jolie is as good as ever.  Unfortunately, that is where the compliments ends… but was good enough to get 3 Icees.  For the most part, the movie is incredibly predictable and that’s just sad.  I thought throwing in Michelle Pfeiffer would be great, but her performance was overdone (at best) and wasn’t supported much by Elle Fanning or Harris Dickenson… all of which seemed to mail it in.

If you loved the first movie, you’ll like this one enough (hey, I did give it 3 Icees after all), but otherwise I would recommend waiting until this is out on video.

No scenes during or after the credits.


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