The Spy Who Dumped Me


The Spy Who Dumped Me

Directed By: Susanna Fogel
Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Hueghan, Gillian Anderson, Lolly Adefope, Ivanna Sakhno, Hasan Minhaj, Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B-

After being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of nearly a year, Audrey lets her best friend, Morgan, talk her into getting rid of the things Drew left behind by burning them. After Morgan, as Audrey, texts Drew to let him know of their plans, he finally returns her messages by asking that she not destroy his things, and that he’ll be there the next day to retrieve them. Before Audrey can meet up with Drew, she is approached by Sebastian, who claims that both he and Drew are secret agents. When she finally meets up with Drew, Audrey asks Drew what’s going on, and he confirms that he works for the CIA, and tells her that one of the items she almost burned contained information relevant to national security, and asks her to help him deliver it to the proper people. However, before the plan can be fully set, Drew is killed by rival spies, which throws Audrey and Morgan into a dangerous, trans-European adventure where they can never be sure just who they can trust.

This was a fun movie to watch. With the recent trend of female-centric buddy/action comedies, it was only a matter of time before spy movies were spoofed. The acting is pretty good, given the material, and the fact that most of the actors play their characters straight not only adds to the comedic situations, but also helps in showing how out of their depths Audrey and Morgan are as the story progresses. Only Kate McKinnon, who plays Morgan, tends to ham it up and chew some of the scenery, but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

The effects are all well done. There isn’t much beyond bullet strikes and a couple of explosions, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

As stated before, this is a fun movie. Anyone looking for a laugh should enjoy it. It may be a little violent for some, and there’s a brief instance of full (male) nudity, so the R rating it earned in that respect.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is currently not available free to stream, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Wrinkle In Time


A Wrinkle in Time

Directed By: Ava DuVernay
Starring: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: C

Four years after the sudden disappearance of her scientist father, Dr. Alex Murry, Meg is still deeply affected by his absence. One night, a strange woman calling herself Mrs. Whatsit that her brother, Charles Wallace, claims to know appears in her family’s living room and tells them all that Dr. Murry’s theories about tesseracts are correct before disappearing again. The next day, Charles Wallace brings Meg and a classmate of hers, Calvin O’Keefe, to meet another strange woman, Mrs. Who, in a seemingly dilapidated house. After learning that they are meant to be warriors of light and to embark on a journey to find Meg’s father, they meet Mrs. Which in the Murry’s backyard, who tessers them to a distant planet to begin the journey to find Dr. Murray and defeat the darkness, called the It, which is rising in the universe and trying to destroy all light.

First things first, I haven’t read the Madeline L’Engle book that this movie is based on. Though, from the few things I’ve skimmed, that may be a bit of a blessing. I am largely unaware of the changes made from the source material, and therefore can’t comment on them. One thing I did notice was how off the pacing was. The movie seemed to go from 0 to 100 without allowing the story to progress naturally. It seemed that they wanted to get to the search for Meg’s dad as quickly as possible, and would then back-fill as they deemed fit in oddly-placed flashbacks. The story itself seemed to have potential (I’ll have to obtain a copy of the book to read), and the acting was decent. I’m not a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t in enough of the movie for it to make much of a difference in my opinion. The acting was pretty good, and the actors playing the kids will probably do well in the future.

The effects are all well done. The alien worlds have brilliant colors that contrast nicely with the somewhat muted colors shown on Earth. The background filler is unnoticeable.

As long as you haven’t read the book, I’m sure that this movie is at least tolerable. As stated before, the storyline has potential and the visuals are interesting to look at. Younger children would like it, and if they really want to see it, it would probably be worth it to rent.

A Wrinkle in Time is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and it can be also rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Best of 2018

That Girl’s Favorite Views of 2018

Since the new year is upon us, it was suggested to me that I give a list of my favorite movies from the last reviewing year. At first I was worried that it would be all super hero movies, then I started to think some more, and realized that wasn’t true. I mean, I probably could make a list of entirely super hero movies. I certainly watched enough of them to do so, but that wouldn’t be much fun.

10) Baywatch

A farcical take on the corny 90s TV franchise, in which head lifeguard Mitch Buchanan attempts to stop a drug smuggler with his co-workers, knows how ridiculous it is and runs off with it. With nearly every actor engaging in over-the-top scenery chewing, it’s easy to tell that everyone had a blast making this movie. It’s a solid B-grade, so-bad-it’s-good way to spend a couple of hours.

9) Game Night

This movie about a staged kidnapping for a game night between friends that turns into an actual kidnapping is a real, and funny, take on a ‘What If’ scenario that manages to balance out the humor of the plot with the sometimes grave circumstances the characters get into. The storyline is solid and enjoyable, and the laughs are plentiful.

8) Thor: Ragnarock

The most recent, and possibly final, movie in Thor’s MCU franchise sees the God of Thunder losing his father, his hammer, and his home when his previously unmentioned sister, Hela, escapes from the prison she had been kept in for millennia. Despite the dour plotline, this is easily the best, and funniest, movie featuring Thor. It’s nice to see the actors be able to loosen up a bit, and makes for palate cleanser to watch before Infinity Wars.

7) Ocean’s 8

In this gender-flipped sequel to popular Ocean’s Twelve reboot franchise we find Debbie, the sister of recently deceased Danny Ocean planning to steal an expensive, one of a kind necklace off a starlet at the annual Met Gala. While the actual plot may run a little thin, it’s still an entertaining take that breathes a little bit of new life into the franchise.

6) Deadpool 2

The sequel to the 2016 movie finds Wade Wilson adrift after the tragic death of his fiancé, Vanessa, briefly teaming up with the X-Men, and eventually forming the group X-Force in order to save a young mutant destined to become super villain. Just as funny as the original, but with a more cohesive story, this sequel is a great follow-up and adds a few more characters to the mix that should be fun to explore in future installments.

5) Coco

This beautifully animated tale of a young boy who wants to follow his passion for music so badly he risks going to the spirit world to gain approval from the man he believes to be his long-lost great grandfather is heartfelt and touching. One of Disney/Pixar’s best movies to day, and also the first to center on Mexican heritage, this movie manages to both educate and entertaining viewers of all backgrounds.

4) Girls Trip

Four college friends decide to have a no-holds-barred, ladies-only trip to New Orleans during the Essence Festival, where one of the women is scheduled to speak, in an attempt to rekindle their strained friendship. This was a fun, funny movie with a storyline that’s nearly universally interesting (if you like slightly-raunchy comedies).

3) Black Panther

Newly crowned King of Wakanda, T’Challa attempts to locate and bring to justice Ulysses Klaue, who killed several Wakandans and robbed the country of some of its main resource, Vibranium, and in the process runs across Erik Stevens, a long-lost cousin who’s come home to claim the throne for himself. This movie is part of the new standard for super hero movies. It’s a great storyline, and has fantastic actors. It’s also the first major super hero movie to feature an all-black main cast.

2) Avengers: Infinity War

In an attempt to bring balance to the universe, Thanos attempts to collect all of the Infinity Stones, which will make him the most powerful being in the universe, but his plans are complicated when some of the galaxy’s greatest heroes attempt to thwart him. This movie, which marks the beginning of the end for the current era of the MCU, is a nonstop ride filled with adventure, heart, and nearly every hero we’d been introduced to up to that point.

1) Annihilation

A team of five women, a mix of scientists and military personnel, enter into a pocket alien world sitting on the United States’ east coast, and soon find that the further they travel into the area, the more dangerous and unusual things become. This taught, sci-fi thriller may not have the humor or adventure of some of the others on this list, but the almost relentless storytelling and superb acting by the cast make this an unforgettable film that’s worth the time and effort to see.

What were your favorite movies of 2018? Comment share what you loved.

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Directed By: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Shree Crooks, Frank Grillo, Anna Torv, Jonah Beres, LaSaundra Gibson, Samantha Smith
Rated: R
Grade: B-

Seemingly abandoned after a strange global crisis and the death of her older brother, young Stephanie is doing her best to survive, despite the malevolent force that seems to be targeting her home. On the brink of giving up completely, her parents suddenly reappear and apologize for leaving her alone for so long. Still worried about the force that stalks their home, her father begins building a fence to surround the yard, and her brother’s decaying body is finally buried in the orchard beyond. Although things seem to be returning to normal, the force continues to appear. After a particularly violent attack, it’s revealed that Stephanie herself is the source of the chaos. After desperately trying to save their daughter, they run out of options and make one last attempt to stop the thing controlling her.

This locked room thriller, in which a stuffed turtle named Francis gets more screen time than the actors playing Stephanie’s parents, manages to remain interesting despite the fact that the first 20 minutes or so is showing Stephanie going about daily routines in her attempt to survive long enough for her parents to return. Shree Crooks does a wonderful job with the material, and she handles the range of emotions well. The actors playing her parents have a decent chemistry, though the movie doesn’t dedicate much time to exploring it since their return marks ramp up in the action and story progress. The story itself is interesting with a decent twist.

Most of the effects seem to be done practically, with CGI being used sparingly. What little CGI is used seems to be well done, and the background filler isn’t very noticeable.

Fans of thriller movies should enjoy this. There isn’t a lot of gore or language, so the rating is mostly for the intense sequences and some violence towards the end. Anyone who enjoys horror/thrillers wouldn’t be disappointed to spend the money to buy or rent this, and it should hold up for repeated viewings.

Stephanie is available free to stream through Netflix, and can also be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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House With a Clock in Its Walls


The House With a Clock in Its Walls

Directed By: Eli Roth
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchette, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle McLaughlin, Renée Elise Goldberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Vanessa Ann Williams, Lorenza Izzo, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: A-

After his parents die in a tragic accident, 10 year old Lewis Barnavelt is sent to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan in New Zebedee, Michigan. Upon arriving in his uncle’s house, Lewis begins noticing strange things, like a stained glass window that keeps changing, and his uncle wandering around the halls at night knocking on walls. Unable to keep the secret from Lewis much longer, Jonathan admits that he and his neighbor, Florence Zimmerman, are a warlock and a witch, respectively, and that the house Jonathan is living in once belonged to an evil warlock named Isaac Izard who built a clock inside the house as part of a plan to destroy the world. Desperate to fit in at his new school, Lewis tells a popular boy about the magic in the house, and in an attempt to keep the boy’s favor, casts a dangerous spell with dire consequences.

Although based on a series of children’s books, the movie definitely doesn’t pander to children, which likely has something to do with the fact that the director, Eli Roth, normally makes horror films. The acting is well done, and you can tell that the older actors are having fun. The younger actors hold their own against their more experienced counterparts. The story itself is interesting and manages to keep pace throughout the run time.

The effects are all well done, and seem to be a mix of CGI and practical. The background filler is well done also, and isn’t glaringly obvious.

This is a movie that should appeal to most ages. Some of the parts may be a bit too much for small children, and those without a sense of whimsy may find it to be ham-handed to be worth their time. It may not have quite the scope and spectacle of Harry Potter, but it has potential and room to grow.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Directed By: Howard McCain
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Cliff Saunders, Aidan Devine, Patrick Stevenson, Ron Perlman, John Nelles, James Preston Rogers, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

When his ship crash lands on Earth in Iron Age Norway, Kainan, a soldier from a distant planet, attempts to find the creature he was chasing so he can kill it once and for all. However, when a local tribe of Vikings believe Kainan to be responsible for a spat of recent killings, they capture him and hold him prisoner. In an attempt to gain their allegiance, Kainan tells Hrothgar, their king, Freya, his daughter, and Wulfric, their military leader, that he is from a distant island to the far North, and that the creature responsible for the killings is a Moorwen, a fire-breathing animal that is nearly indestructible. Slowly gaining their trust, Kainan convinces them to fight alongside him to destroy the creature and protect their village.

Despite the title, this movie has nothing to do with the wildly popular television series or the books it’s based upon. Originally conceived as an update to the Beowulf legend, Outlander is a surprisingly interesting sci-fi action movie that manages to include both futuristic technology and a period setting. It’s also not predictable to the point where the main hero is guaranteed to survive through the end of the movie. The acting itself is alright and the actors all seem to work well together. The story is also relatively simple to follow, and remains engaging.

The creature effects have held up surprisingly well over the years. There’s nothing too obvious that would date it. The background filler is also well done and not too obvious.

Fans of action movies should enjoy this, since the sci-fi elements aren’t too overwhelming. The story is interesting and, as stated before, it relatively easy to follow. It’s definitely worth the cost of a rental, especially if you’re a fan of the genre.

Outlander isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The First Purge


The First Purge

Directed By: Gerard McMurray
Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Patch Darragh, Marisa Tomei, Luna Lauren Velez, Karen Solis, Rotimi Paul, Mo McRae, Jermel Howard, Siya, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C+

In the not-too-distant future, crime, overpopulation, and unemployment threaten to destroy the United States economy, and their best hope is to try an extremely unorthodox social experiment called The Purge, which would allow citizens to rid themselves of all violent impulses over a 12-hour period. Using New York’s Staten Island as the base of operations for the first trial run, they use a cash incentive to get citizens to remain during the test. Nya, a Purge critic, stays to help others who stayed behind just for the incentive money. Meanwhile, her brother, Isaiah, secretly stays behind to get revenge on a drug addict who threatened Nya’s life. Dmitri, a local gang leader, stays with his lieutenants to protect to business assets. Watching all of it is the Chief of Staff for the newly elected president, put into office by the New Founding Fathers, as well as Dr. Updale, who created the archetype for the Purge, and who becomes suspicious after previously unseen gangs of killers suddenly appear toward the end of trial period.

This prequel to the massively popular Purge franchise is another entry into the horror-by-association category, and once again goes more for the urban action format instead of a true horror/thriller. There’s also very little new information presented in this movie. Those who had seen the previous installments already knew that the NFFA was using the Purge as a means of population control and thinning out the lower classes, who couldn’t always afford to properly secure themselves in their homes. And that they would send out their own kill squads to ensure a ‘successful’ Purge. The acting is middling, with Tomei seeming to be an out of place acting choice since the other actors aren’t necessarily immediately recognizable. Despite this, the characters all work well together, and the actors have decent chemistry.

There are a few effects beyond the typical background filler, but the technology isn’t quite as futuristic as seen in the previous installments, since it’s supposed to take place closer to the present.

Anyone who liked the previous installments should like this one as well, and since it’s an origin story of sorts, the uninitiated shouldn’t get too confused if they decide to watch. You shouldn’t feel too bad about spending the money on a rental if you decide to go that route, and it’s not tedious enough to grate on repeat viewings.

The First Purge isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The Accountant


The Accountant

Directed By: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Andy Umberger, Alison Wright, Jason Davis, Jeffrey Tambor, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B

Math prodigy Christian Wolff does most of his business balancing books for criminal organizations and corrupt corporations, and in his downtime supplements his income with a legitimate accounting firm in a small town strip mall. When he takes a legitimate job looking for an embezzler in a company called Living Robotics, he meets Dana Cummings, the accountant who first noticed the discrepancy, and immediately feels a connection to her. As Christian and Dana attempt to unravel what’s going on in Living Robotics, they learn that their lives are in danger as they’re being pursued by an assassin hired to keep knowledge of the fraud under wraps. Also pursuing Christian are Treasury Department agents, one of whom has been searching for him since an incident some years earlier when they crossed paths while the agent was investigating a mafia family.

While meant to be something of a tour de force for Ben Affleck, his portrayal of Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic, he comes off more as dour and unaffected rather than the slightly quirky but still serious you can imagine he’s going for. Though this may have been more excusable had they spent a little more time showing his father’s tough-love conditioning that was supposed to have turned both Christian and his brother into highly trained killers. Affleck’s chemistry with Anna Kendrick, who plays something of a love interest in the movie, is evident, though a bit underwhelming. They never seem to lose that edge of uncomfortable unfamiliarity, even after they’ve been through a few firefights together. One of the real standout performances belongs to Jon Bernthal, who plays his character with a slight edge of sociopathy that seems to be just a hair away from total loss of control.

Most of the effects are limited to bullet strikes and background filler, and are all fairly well done.

While not a great movie, it’s also not terrible. Despite Affleck’s odd acting choices, the storyline is solid and keeps a relatively quick pace. It’s probably not one where you would mind spending the couple bucks to rent it, or even purchase it if it’s cheap enough.

The Accountant isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp

AntManAnd Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Directed By: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, Abby Ryder Fortson, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A

Several days before his two-year house arrest resulting from his participating in Captain America’s fight against Iron Man, Scott Lang is ready to start living his post-superhero life. However, when he suddenly has a memory of his time in the Quantum Realm, he reaches out to Hope and Hank, from whom he’s been estranged during those two years, and quickly finds himself sucked back into a quest to find Hope’s mother, who’s been lost in the Quantum Realm for nearly 30 years. However, shortly after they begin their rescue mission, they find that they’re being pursued by a mysterious figure that can seemingly phase in and out of the Quantum Realm at will, as well as a shady businessman who wants to sell Pym technology to the highest bidder, and the FBI, who are determined to send them all to jail for violating the Sokovia Accords.

This movie was the first one the MCU released after Infinity War, and there was a lot of speculation about how it would address the end of that movie. For the most part, there’s no mention of the events that took place in Infinity War. Scott is in his own world as he awaits the removal of his ankle monitor, and once the action starts, no one really takes the time to check out what’s on the news. All of the actors from the first movie, save for the villain, returns for this installment, and the new characters fit in just fine. Despite the daunting task of coming up with compelling storyline in the wake of Infinity War, they managed to find something that works and adds to the overall universe as well.

The effects are all well done, as is typical with Marvel movies. There are no explosions, but there are plenty of other effects used, which all fit seamlessly into the movie, and the sequences in the Quantum Realm are beautifully done.

Marvel has managed to deliver another worthy entry into their MCU. The Ant-Man movies tend to be a little more light-hearted than some of their counterparts, but it doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the film. It also serves as a palate cleanser from the gut-wrenching Infinity War.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Dirty Book Club


The Dirty Book Club

Written By: Lisi Harrison
Published: October 2017
Grade: B+

M.J. Stark thinks she has built the perfect life in the wake of losing her mother, father, and sister in a tragic accident. She has a gorgeous doctor boyfriend, a fantastic Manhattan apartment, and is a shoo-in to take over running New York’s City magazine when her boss retires. However, when her boss informs M.J. that, due to her asocial way working, she’ll have to share her promotion with another coworker, M.J. impulsively decides to take her boyfriend up on his offer to join him in California. After weeks of self-pity, M.J. decides to bring a thank you gift to a neighbor after Dan, M.J.’s boyfriend, borrows their patio furniture while they’re out of town. There she meets Gloria, a sassy older woman with a taste for strong martinis and juicy gossip. After Gloria’s husband dies suddenly, Gloria decides to pack up and move to Paris in honor of a decade-old pact with her friends, leaving M.J. alone and friendless. Then, shortly after Gloria leaves, M.J. is sent an invitation to a secret club, along with a date and time for her first meeting. When she arrives, M.J. meets the other members: Addie, a women’s clinic nurse with a healthy sexual appetite; Britt, an overworked mother of two who’s tired of husband’s lack of interest in her; and Jules, a hopeless romantic who’s blissfully ignorant of her husband’s affairs with other women. Together they learn the purpose for the club: to read quote/unquote dirty books and cultivate a lasting friendship. Intrigued, the four women decide to give the club a try for the summer before returning to their own, hectic lives. However, as the group begins reading the selections and the letters the original group wrote to accompany them, they find they have more in common than they originally though, and learn that sometimes the strongest friendships are forged in the most unusual circumstances.

While author Lisi Harrison usually write for the YA set, her adult novel debut is solid. Her characters are well-developed, including the original club members, whom we mostly learn about through the letters they wrote to accompany the books. While M.J. is clearly the main character, the book is written in the third person and rarely deviates from her, though it would have been interesting to read firsthand what we learn about as the information is being relayed to her.

Chick lit is usually a safe bet for authors, as there are many who enjoy a light, simple read. I was able to finish the novel in a little over a morning without missing any of the information. The plotline manages to hold your interest and doesn’t read like it was originally meant for teenagers.

Anyone looking for a fun, easy read who doesn’t mind books gear towards women should enjoy this. It’s a little jarring in the beginning to start with Gloria and her friends and then jump over to M.J. I spent a little time wondering if M.J. was somehow related to one of the original club members until I figured out that she wasn’t, but aside from that, the book is easy to follow.

Check your local library or bookstore for availability, or purchase through any participating on-line retailer.

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