My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.


The Black Phone (2022)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Top Gun: Maverick may be getting most of the theatrical attention but this creepy horror/thriller also warrants leaving the couch for a trip to the cinemas. The trailers for this film made me anxious for a smart suspense movie, a rarity these days, and I was not disappointed.

Based on a short story by Stephen King’s son, The Black Phone shares a lot of DNA with the famous author’s work. Like Stand By Me and It, our heroes are kids. Like Misery, we’re treated to a freaky story of captivity. Like nearly all of King’s worth with a few “realistic” exceptions, the film explores the supernatural. All that being said, it feels like Joe Hill may have inherited many of his father’s best traits and shows a lot of promise for future horror adventures.

The acting by all the child talent is top notch. Yes, Ethan Hawke is good but his role is the more obvious one whereas Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw have the weight of the film on their shoulders and carry it with incredible skill. I should also make note of a fine performance from Jeremy Davies as the abusive father who I still couldn’t help feeling sorry for.

The only thing I would have done different is to avoid the physical appearance of the supernatural. I strongly believe the movie would have been stronger if we’d only heard that element, leaving more to the imagination and possibly adding the question of the protagonist’s sanity.

Regardless, it’s an excellent, well-written and directed thriller that stands out in a sea of bad entries in the genre.

Watched at Galaxy Theaters in Tucson.


Let Him Go (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This film seems to have received high praise from critics and then disappeared through the cracks. Released during the pandemic, it did not get the recognition it deserves.

What we have here is a slow burn, modern Western thriller with yet another great late-career performance from Kevin Costner. He proves once again that he has matured into a far better actor in his older years than he ever was as a young movie star. Now he carries the weight of experience that allows him to play quiet, troubled men in a believable and moving way. He’s joined by Diane Lane, who unsurprisingly also gives a good performance. I can see some being frustrated with her character (my dad was) but the actress commits to the role whether her troubled grandmother character always makes sense or not.

The film had me on the edge of my seat and not because it’s filled from beginning to end with action. It’s incredibly tense because it feels so grounded in reality. The trouble of losing their grandchild and daughter-in-law reminded me of real life stories I’ve directly heard about family members getting sucked into cults. Though there is a different enemy here, it gave me the same sickening feeling. The movie truly captures the fear of such things happening in a way I haven’t seen since the great, also underrated thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene.

When the action does come in the final act, it’s brutal. If this film slipped through the cracks for you, I highly recommend changing that.

Watched on HBO Max.


12 Angry Men (1997)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Is this TV movie remake as good as Sidney Lumet’s classic? Of course not. Is it still worth seeing? I’d say so just for the incredible ensemble cast, including a few actors who sadly are not with us anymore.

I mean, you’ve got everyone from Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, James Gandolfini, Ossie Davis, Friedkin-veteran William Petersen, Edward James Olmos, Tony Danza, and many more. Everyone is stellar and regardless of the material it’s worth a watch just to see them all in the same room together. Director William Friedkin is arguably the best director for this kind of material. I think there’s better filmmaker for play adaptations and one-room settings, proven time and time again throughout his career. Though the film becomes a little too much of a shouting match at times, he holds the tension with a master hand and provides enough camera movement to keep things fluid.

For me, the film is bigger than an exploration of the jury experience. It’s really microcosm for issues in American society and an overall question of fairness. It also shows that though it’s the law the land, humans deeply struggle with the concept of innocent before proven guilty and that’s something more relevant today than ever.

Watched on Tubi.


Postcards From the Edge (1990)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

I incorrectly assumed this movie would be an over-dramatic experience filled with lots of shouting. To my surprise, it’s a low key exploration of Hollywood lifestyle and a mother-daughter dynamic. I appreciated how Nichols handled the material, with a light touch when he could have ruined it with a heavy hand.

The real reason I watched this film in the first place is Gene Hackman, my second favorite actor. His role is pretty much a cameo but his two scenes are also the best in the movie. The first is a hilarious portrayal of how strong directors used to behave on set and the second shows the actor’s incredible range and hidden tenderness. It’s no surprise I related to the filmmaker portrayed by Hackman and this was confirmed when my girlfriend tuned in and reported, “It is you.”

Maybe not great but this film is well worth seeing even if just for another peek at the moviemaking process.

Watched on Tubi.


Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Humor is the best weapon humans have to combat everything from nonsense to depression. This Richard Pryor stand-up session may not be as good as his others but it still provides some big laughs and great insight into human existence. Pryor would be canceled today for his blunt comments or worse… he’d get slapped by sissies like Will Smith or stabbed by the anti-free speech maniacs. It’s also funny to hear him comment on the President of the time and gender identity. He had no idea of the times to come…

Watched on Tubi.