Is It Time to Boogie on Down to See ‘The Boogeyman’?

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I had a Bogey, man. (CREDIT: 20th Century Studios/Screenshot)

Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, David Dastmalchian, Marin Ireland, Madison Hu, LisaGay Hamilton

Director: Rob Savage

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: June 2, 2023 (Theaters)

Honestly? I would’ve preferred a full-length version of The Boogerman.

Grade: They Took a Little Boogie Out of It

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Keeps Running Right Through Every Iteration

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Tonight, we’re gonna Spider like it’s 2099 (CREDIT: Sony Pictures)

Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Shea Wigham, Greta Lee, Rachel Dratch, Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg, Amandla Stenberg

Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson

Running Time: 140 Minutes

Rating: PG for Mostly Mild Punches and Scrapes

Release Date: June 2, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) really relishes getting to be Spider-Man, but if he’s being honest, his life is far from perfect. He loves his parents, but he doesn’t know how to be fully honest with them. And he’s excited about a college-bound future, but it won’t fill the multiverse-sized hole in his heart. He met a bunch of really cool spider-people from other universes during his first big adventure, and he spends most of his days wishing he could get to see them again. Then a certain version of Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) shows up once again to let him know that the multiverse is facing a greater threat than it’s ever seen before. A seemingly infinite amount of spider-beings are recruited for the mission, but if he’s not careful, Miles might actually stand in the way of everything working out.

What Made an Impression?: When Into the Spider-Verse came out in 2018, it was a breath of fresh air. Despite the weight of its multiversal ambitions, it was light on its feet and disarmingly accessible. Across the Spider-Verse doesn’t have the benefit of surprise, and it threatens to tip over by going deeper, heavier, and longer, but it still manages to be just as compelling. It helps to have pizzazz. The various animation styles are just so astoundingly intricate that I simply can’t look away. I imagine some viewers might find this outing overwhelming, but considering how saturated our culture currently is with superheroes, the buy-in isn’t that difficult.

The conflict at the heart of Across the Spider-Verse is an age-old one about free will. The oft-told origin story of the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man hinges on the death of his Uncle Ben, and it turns out that every other spider-hero has endured a similar mortal trauma. Everyone, that is, except Miles. He insists on trying to prevent any tragedy he can, while those with more experience in these matters warn him about tampering with “canon events” that will lead to “anomalies.” This sort of struggle has been mined for so much drama in the history of fantasy and science fiction, and it’s no less powerful here.

A couple of warnings: certain segments of the sound mix made it difficult to hear some dialogue over the din of the insistent score. Unless that was an issue with the theater, you may struggle with this as well, so seek out a showtime with open captions if possible. And it’s also worth noting that another sequel, Beyond the Spider-Verse, is already scheduled to arrive in March 2024, and it’s only the mildest of spoilers to reveal that it has some loose threads to tie up.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is Recommended If You Like: Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman, Scarlet Spider, Spider-Et Cetera

Grade: 4 out of 5 Anomalies

‘BlackBerry,’ Eh?

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Which one’s Berry? (CREDIT: IFC Films)

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson, Saul Rubinek, Michael Ironside, Rich Sommer, SungWon Cho, Cary Elwes, Michelle Giroux, Mark Critch

Director: Matt Johnson

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 12, 2023 (Theaters)

I’m a BlackBerry Boy now! But only when it comes to the movie, not the phone, of course. Could you imagine, though? I’m making a motion for Research in Motion to stage a miraculous comeback in 2023! But let’s be kinder to each other this time around, please.

BlackBerry Beret!

Anyway, Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton were pretty much perfectly cast in this, and that’s all there is to it.

Grade: Fine Canadian Manufacturing

Why Not! Welcome to ‘The Machine’!

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More Machine Than Bert (CREDIT: Aleksandar Letic/Screen Gems)

Starring: Bert Kreischer, Mark Hamill, Iva Babić, Jimmy Tatro, Jessica Gabor, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Nikola Đuričko, Oleg Taktarov

Director: Peter Atencio

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 26, 2023 (Theaters)

If you’ve read some of my other movie reviews, you might have noticed that I sometimes like to ask, “Do I want to do/be The Thing in This Movie?” So now that Bert Kreischer has taken us on a tour of Russia… do I want to be The Machine? Honestly, I think there’s a little (or a big) Machine in all of us… and I like it! We aren’t all fated to party with the Russian mafia, but surely we are all fated to encounter dangerous fun in our own particular way. So here comes the rise of My Machine*! (*-Hopefully minus the part where I would call any women in my life the C-word.)

Grade: 400 Marks out of 700 Hamills

When Sebastian Maniscalco Calls His Movie ‘About My Father,’ You’d Better Believe Him

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Sebastian Maniscalco, next to his father (CREDIT: Dan Anderson/Lionsgate)

Starring: Sebastian Maniscalco, Robert De Niro, Leslie Bibb, Kim Cattrall, David Rasche, Anders Holm, Brett Dier

Director: Laura Terruso

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Mildly Off-Color Jokes and A Full Moon

Release Date: May 26, 2023

What’s It About?: Sebastian Maniscalco has now joined the time-honored tradition of comedians making movies about their very own lives. Ain’t that something? It certainly helps that he knows some memorable characters, including one in particular. That would be his Sicilian immigrant father Salvo, here played by none other than Bobby De Niro. Salvo values hard work and frugality above all else, except when it comes to cologne. You might not expect a guy like that to be a hairdresser, but he is in fact an undisputed master of the cosmotelogical arts. As for the plot, Sebastian is finally ready to propose to his girlfriend Ellie (Leslie Bibb) on a Fourth of July trip. He brings his dad along, but a little warily, because he’s not so sure about the impression he’ll make on Ellie’s upper crust family. If that sounds like a formula for gags involving peacock slaughter and accidental indecent exposure, then you know exactly what you’re in for!

What Made an Impression?: I’m fairly certain that the screening of About My Father I attended was mostly filled with Sebastian Maniscalco fans, and they were cracking up the whole way through. So if you count yourself a connoisseur of his comedy, then you should probably check it out as well. I wouldn’t say that he’s fully won me over, but I see the appeal, and it’s an enduring and pretty much universal hook. You don’t have to be Italian-American to understand his family’s immigrant story, and you don’t have to be a child of immigrants to have wacky relatives. About My Father doesn’t break the mold at all with its family dynamics. In fact, it’s as moldy as they come, but it knows exactly what it wants to do, and it pulls it off comfortably.

It certainly helps to have pros on hand who can sell the emotion and trust in the wilder flights of fancy. This isn’t vintage De Niro, but it’s not sleepwalking De Niro either. I imagine he caught some of Sebastian’s stand-up, cracked a smile, said “That’s funny,” and then knew exactly how he was going to play the part. Ellie’s generically conservative parents seem to exist totally divorced from any political reality, but David Rasche is comforting even when you hate what he’s doing, and Kim Cattrall of course cannot be denied. As Ellie’s brothers, Anders Holm is maybe a little too much of a hardcore country club douche (though that’s of course what you hire him for), while Brett Dier is a scene-stealer as a woo-woo positive energy seeker. In conclusion, everyone hits their marks on time, the laughs arrive efficiently, and we all get to go home after an hour and a half.

About My Father is Recommended If You Like: Mining new laughs out of old clichés

Grade: 3 out of 5 Colognes

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nicole Holofcener Re-Team for ‘You Hurt My Feelings,’ Which is Not for the Faint of Heart

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Will they hurt YOUR feelings? Let’s find out! (CREDIT: Jeong Park/A24)

Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Jeannie Berlin, David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, Zach Cherry

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for Angry, Hurt, Occasionally Petty Adults Being Annoyed with Each Other

Release Date: May 26, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Don (Tobias Menzies) is a therapist with some crotchety patients who make him question his effectiveness. His wife Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a novelist and writing professor who’s struggling through her own neurotic insecurities. They’re close with her sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins) and Sarah’s husband Mark (Arian Moayed), who are basically a less prickly version of Don and Beth. There are also check-ins with Beth and Sarah’s kooky mom Georgia (Jeannie Berlin) and Don and Beth’s grown son Elliott (Owen Teague), but it all hinges on the inciting incident of Beth accidentally eavesdropping on Don criticizing her latest book. And then it all unravels from there!

What Made an Impression?: As everyone’s emotions reached a fever pitch in You Hurt My Feelings, I wanted to scream, “Free yourself of the Good/Bad Binary!” Beth is so unrelentingly attached to the idea that she needs her husband to genuinely like her artistic output. He offers her unconditional emotional support instead, but that rings hollow to her, even though Don makes a convincing case for the fact that he might just not be the right audience for her. Quite frankly, this is what so many people need to hear. When it comes to art and creativity, there is no such thing as Objectively Good or Objectively Good. (Or at least, there’s no way to know those platonic ideals with absolute certainty.)

This is all to say, writer-director Nicole Holofcener has crafted quite the anxiety-inducing viewing experience. There are plenty of keenly observed character dynamics at play here that I’m sure will produce laughs in anyone who’s receptive to them in the right way. But instead of chuckling, I discovered that my innards were tied up like a pretzel that threatened to morph into bloating and constipation. I don’t mean that as a criticism, but instead an illustration of one particular emotional response to a deeply personal creative work. I didn’t exactly enjoy watching You Hurt My Feelings, but I appreciate it, and Holofcener has my full support.

You Hurt My Feelings is Recommended If You Like: Reading bad reviews

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Feelings

‘Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3,’ What Are Ya Doin’ to Me?

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Hey, Rocket Raccoon, what did you do? (CREDIT: Marvel Entertainment/Screenshot)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Sean Gunn, Linda Cardellini, Nathan Fillion, Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Debicki, Maria Bakalova, Nico Santos, Miriam Shor

Director: James Gunn

Running Time: 150 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: May 5, 2023

I nodded off a fair amount during Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 (post-half marathon recovery), which felt appropriate, because I think my subconscious recognized that I would have been too overwhelmed otherwise. There were A LOT of creatures being mistreated – my emotions can only handle so much!

With that in mind, I feel compelled to be more nakedly emotional than usual:
-Two and a half hours? Egads!
-Rocket, I feel so close to you now!
-Cosmo is such a good dog!

Grade: 275 Evolutions out of 400 Suburbs

‘Fast X’ Asks If This Can Really Last Forever


Family (CREDIT: Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Momoa, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson, Jason Statham, Daniela Melchior, Leo Abelo Perry, Scott Eastwood, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno

Director: Louis Leterrier

Running Time: 141 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Flying Cars and Bullets

Release Date: May 19, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: We’re ten* films deep now in the Fast & Furious franchise (eleven if you count the spinoff), and things are getting pretty X-treme! Of course, you might well reasonably note that extremity was this series’ m.o. from the very beginning. But this is the first time that an “X” actually managed to sneak its way into the title. And that’s not the only unique bit of business. Usually these movies are pretty self-contained, and the plot is generally besides the point, but Fast X calls back directly to a previous adventure. Luckily for anyone who needs a refresher, there are plenty of flashbacks to Fast Five, when Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew pulled off a heist in Brazil against drug lord Hernan Reyes. Now Hernan’s eccentric and sadistic son Dante (Jason Momoa) is out for revenge. He prefers to make his victims suffer, and for someone who values family as much as Dom, there are innumerable ways to poke at that nerve.


How ‘Hypnotic’ Is It?!

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I said-a hip, hop, hippy-hypnotic! (CREDIT: Ketchup Entertainment/Screenshot)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, J.D. Pardo, Hala Finley, Dayo Okeniyi, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeff Fahey

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 12, 2023 (Theaters)

Now that I’ve seen Hypnotic, have Robert Rodriguez and company convinced me that I would now like to be a hypnotic myself as well? Well, the ending kind of seems to imply that everybody in the world actually is a hypnotic already. (Spoiler Alert? LOL) Anyway, this movie is kind of like the younger brother that copies everything its older siblings do. In this scenario, those older sibs are head-scratchers like Memento or reality-is-just-a-construct puzzlers like Dark City. It’s pretty dopey, and I kind of dug it for that.

Grade: 7 Levs Out of 10 Dellraynes

Be Careful What Ye Seek in ‘Sanctuary’

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Who’s selling the Sanctuary? (CREDIT: NEON)

Starring: Margaret Qualley, Christopher Abbott

Director: Zachary Wigon

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: R for Hijinks That Might Require Invoking a Safe Word

Release Date: May 19, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Hal (Christopher Abbott) is a big-deal businessman on an important phone call. When Rebecca (Margaret Qualley) arrives in his hotel room, she starts conducting a job interview with some surprisingly personal questions about his bodily measurements and sexual history. As it turns out, she’s actually a dominatrix and he’s orchestrated this entire encounter. He’s one of her top clients, but he’s about to end their arrangement in the wake of acquiring his late father’s company. But instead of walking away quietly, she sees an opening to potentially re-negotiate their terms. Will this evening blow up everything between them, or will they find themselves closer than ever before?

What Made an Impression?: It was pretty hot and stuffy in the screening room where I saw Sanctuary, which felt thematically appropriate. I could never quite get comfortable or figure out where exactly Abbott, Qualley, director Zachary Wigon, or writer Micah Bloomberg were guiding us. Surely some of that was by design. But it didn’t make it any less unsettling. I spent the vast majority of the running time wondering if this battle of the wits was all just part of the script that Hal had written for Rebecca. The ambiguity was killing me! And I usually appreciate ambiguity.

I think the issue was that I was never entirely sure what the base reality was. We never see anyone besides Hal and Rebecca, and that claustrophobic setup can really warp your sense of reality. So whenever Hal freaked out the possibility of Rebecca exposing him, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Would that really be a big deal?” The answer to that seemed like it was supposed to be “Obviously, yes.” But also the Terms of Use kept shifting.

Still, this was quite the spirited presentation, with a particularly go-for-broke performance from Qualley. It’s kind of like a screwball-slapstick version of the 90s corporate sex thrillers that Michael Douglas specialized in. If you do check out Sanctuary, I recommend focusing on the pratfalls and not getting too hung up on the contracts.

Sanctuary is Recommended If You Like: Traipsing on the edge

Grade: 3 out of 5 Inheritances

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