Image courtesy of Roadshow Attractions

“JOE BELL”

2 STARS

There’s a soul-baring and detrimental dialogue exchange in Joe Bell between a husband and wife played by Mark Wahlberg and Connie Britton that epitomizes the chief flaw of the movie itself. Wahlberg’s title character is asked whether he’s doing his cross-country walk for awareness or forgiveness. His answer reveals his, the movie’s, and the actor’s misshapen perspective.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men, the upcoming King Richard) and based on actual events written by Brokeback Mountain Oscar winners Diana Ossana and the late Larry McMurty, there’s a fair story to share here. The real Joe Bell…


“JUNGLE CRUISE”

3 STARS

Seeing the throwback characteristics of Jaume Collet-Serra’s Jungle Cruise, folks are quickly applying the “swashbuckler” label, calling upon the good juju of Michael Curtiz, George Lucas, Stephen Sommers, and Gore Verbinski that came before him. That understandable descriptor fits a bit like a slightly oversized hat. The chapeau in question is certainly stylish and attention-getting, but the head underneath doesn’t quite have the full bluster to fit the look the definition calls for. Might I say, that’s a bit surprising considering the presence of headliner Dwayne Johnson.

LESSON #1: THE DEFINITION OF “DERRING-DO” — Instead, I’ll offer “derring-do”…


A man stares in disbelief on a beach.

“OLD”

2 STARS

There was a phrase I used in my review of Glass two-and-a-half years ago about the vibe of M. Night Shyamlan’s movies that is necessary for me to painfully regurgitate for his hotly-anticipated new film Old. I said there was a “portending promise for something greater.” Even while adapting someone else’s work instead of shoveling his own dreck, Shyamalan has not improved. He takes another electric cocktail napkin concept and hammers it into the ground, well, sand this time instead of rain-filled potholes with forced overcomplication. …


A man holds a stuffed animal and pleads with his wife.
Image courtesy of Saban Films

“LONG STORY SHORT”

4 STARS

Rafe Spall’s Teddy shares a lovely line to his best girl Leanne, played by Zahra Newman, towards the beginning of Long Story Short. He says “I love you more than I did yesterday and not as much as I will tomorrow.” I adore that line. It speaks with such intentional optimism. If only we all lived our lives as honestly and as purposefully as that little mantra. …


James peers through the shadowed foilage at a threat.
Image courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

“EDGE OF THE WORLD”

3 STARS

In a 2016 interview with the politically-minded website Dirty Movies, esteemed British filmmaker and two-time Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach doubled-down on comments he made with BBC News earlier that year about the “fake nostalgia” of history being broadcast in TV and film that “puts your brain to sleep” about his country’s sometimes rurthless history. Loach stated:

“The British Empire was founded on land conquests, enslaving people, transporting them to other countries, stealing people’s natural resources, exploitation, brutality, concentration camps. We do need to tell the truth about that. I’m not saying we should wallow in guilt. This…


Regan shows a map to her mother on the trail.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“A QUIET PLACE PART II”

4 STARS

Treading down the homemade sound-muffling sandy paths of eastern New York again for A Quiet Place Part II roused a chin-rubbing line of inquiry for this very writer. Now that we’re into a second film of this creature feature scenario, can John Krasinski’s movie still get away with holding back basic details? In 2018, not entirely knowing what the threat was about to the Abbott family was a large portion of the heady and suspenseful appeal that made A Quiet Place a tremendously vivid film and successful box office winner.

LESSON #1: HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO…


Image courtesy of Disney Enterprises

“CRUELLA”

3 STARS

Strutting through much of Cruella as the true villainess of the picture, Emma Thompson’s callously evil Baroness declares at one point that “gorgeous and vicious” is her “favorite combination” of character traits. That great line and pairing is also a fitting description for the movie and its turbulent pendulum. Much of Cruella’s ambitions arrive at spiteful and malicious, wholly suitable given the title character’s historical mystique and the 49 listed synonyms for “evil” on Thesaurus.com, of which “cruel,” curiously, does not make the list.

Jointly so, “gorgeous” is the proper baseline for descriptors necessary to commend the many…


Usnavi stans on a chair and sings in an alleyway.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

“IN THE HEIGHTS”

5 STARS

LESSON #1: VERBALIZE YOUR GOALS — There is a certain peremptory call-and-response urged early on by the storytelling protagonist of In the Heights. In speaking to curious kids with rapt attention, he pronounces, “Say it so it doesn’t disappear!” when sharing the name of their neighborhood, Washington Heights. Hearing that imperative command, this school-teacher-by-day film critic can’t help but think of Edgar Dale’s old Cone of Experience theory where learners are said to only remember 10% of what they hear versus 70% of what they say and write or 90% of what they actively do.

This central Dominican-American…


Gunner and Jo look back down a path is surprise.
Image courtesy of RLJE Films

“THE WATER MAN”

4 STARS

In the final scene of David Oyelowo’s directorial debut The Water Man, a teenage son looks to his father and asks him a purposeful question: “Would you want a short life with someone you love or a long life without that someone?” The teenager asking isn’t clueless anymore to life’s finality. He doesn’t need to be coaxed into an answer by the parent. He knows his heart now and his chosen preference. When his father offers his matching answer, that agreement is a spiritual bond of shared experience bigger than any academic or religious indoctrination.

Before this review…


Emma and Charlie smile towards family nearby
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

“HERE TODAY”

4 STARS

There’s a very pleasing moment, one of many in Here Today, right around the middle where Billy Crystal’s decorated comedy writer character Charlie Berns is sharing a sidebar with a fledgling new talent named Darrell, played by Andrew Durand in his film debut. In a scene that could very well echo or mirror the gap of the stature between the two actors themselves, Berns is trying to help the young man discover a little more depth in his material with the notion that “comedy is encouragement” and that there’s a “music” to it. …

EveryMovieHasaLesson

Don Shanahan of “Every Movie Has a Lesson” is a middle school educator who writes film reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.

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