America: The Motion Picture

Director: Matt Thompson
Writers: Dave Callaham
Staring: Channing Tatum, Bobby Moynihan, Simon Pegg, Olivia Munn
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: June 30, 2021

“A chainsaw-wielding George Washington teams with beer-loving bro Sam Adams to take down the Brits in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the American Revolution.”

Okay, objectively speaking, America: The Motion Picture is not a great movie. However, this raunchy, utterly inaccurate retelling of America’s revolution is entertaining…possibly against its better judgement.

The joke that raised this movie literally a full grade is the 3/5’s joke near the end of the movie. I don’t want to do a full spoiler, but it is really clever.

America: The Motion Picture tries to blend the over-the-top debaucherous comedy with the smart one-line quirks.

One can tell that this movie is from the creators of Archer, which was an amazing show but has dwindled off the past couple of seasons. Judy Greer, who plays a sexy Martha Washington in the movie, is a familiar voice to those who know her from the show as Cheryl Tunt, Charlotte and Cherlene.

STANKO RATING: B (3.5/5 Stars)


Fear Street Part Two: 1978

Director: Leigh Janiak
Writers: Zak Olkewicz, Leigh Janiak, Phil Graziadei
Staring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Gillian Jacobs
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: July 9, 2021

“Shadyside, 1978. School’s out for summer and the activities at Camp Nightwing are about to begin. But when another Shadysider is possessed with the urge to kill, the fun in the sun becomes a gruesome fight for survival.”

The second part of the Fear Street trilogy, Fear Street Part Two – 1978 brings the audience into the narrative story told by the elder C. Berman…also better known as Ziggy.

So for spoilers alert, at the end of Fear Street Part Two – 1978 it is revealed that Gillian Jacobs is not Cindy Berman…rather she is C. Berman…AKA Catherine Berman…AKA Ziggy. So here is my question: was this a surprise to anyone?

From the get-go, if you watched the initial trailer for the trilogy as a whole…this seemed really obvious. They would not staff Sadie Sink as young Ziggy Berman for a one-off.

Fear Street Part Two – 1978 has received more praise than the first of the trilogy, Fear Street Part One – 1994. This is where I have to respectfully disagree.

Fear Street Part Two – 1978, while it still pays solid homage to the horror movies of the time, does not have the same personable touch as the young kids in the early 90s.

Benjamin Flores Jr. as Josh, Julia Rehwald as Kate are two indelible parts of the initial movie and added some different personality compared to the two main parts of Deena (Kiana Madeira) and Samantha (Olivia Scott Welch). There are development and cemented resentment between Sunnyside and Shadyside in the 1994 story as well.

The least interesting part of Fear Street Part Two – 1978 came when Cindy Berman (Emily Rudd) and Alice (Ryan Simpkins) where galavanting in the cave after Tommy Slater (McCabe Slye). The acting of the movie falls at the fear of Emily Rudd. Terribly sorry, hate to pin the blame, but didn’t love her portrayal of the goodie tooshoo.

In the end, Fear Street Part Two – 1978 was perfectly fine and had some great looking shots to make up for the subpar acting. They story opened up the world of Fear Street a bit which is exciting, but the scares and charms didn’t have the same expanse.

STANKO RATING: C (2.5/5 Stars)


Jaws

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb
Staring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Streaming: Peacock
Release Date: July 20, 1975

“When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

What is there to say? Jaws is awesome. Jaws is iconic. Jaws holds up on every level.

On my most recent viewing on Jaws, my girlfriend saw it for the first time and that was an awesome experience. She enjoyed it and she didn’t laugh at the mechanical shark. (She laughs during Silence Of The Lambs (1991) so nothing is off limits).

Roy Scheider plays the hero Brody, but Robert Shaw steals the movie as Quint. The shark hunter is magnetic in his egotism. Quint’s introduction is incredible with the shrieking fingernails and his confident “you need me” speech. Just amazing stuff from Shaw.

I plan on reading (or listening on Audible) to Peter Benchley’s book Jaws in the coming year.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)


Legally Blonde

Director: Robert Luketic
Writers: Amanda Brown, Karen McCullah, Kirsten Smith
Staring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: July 13, 2001

“Elle Woods, a fashionable sorority queen, is dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to follow him to law school. While she is there, she figures out that there is more to her than just looks.”

To personal shock and horror, Legally Blonde was not on my movie list, even though I KNOW I had seen it many many times before. Just a complete oversight by yours truly, but was happy to rectify it this week and put in officially on the excel spread sheet.

The main takeaway from Legally Blond has to be that Reese Witherspoon must have had an absolute blast making this movie. Playing the part of Elle Woods is an excuse to be loud, confident and funny. Sure there are some cringe scenes here and there, but the entire atmosphere of the movie is great.

A major shoutout to the two side characters that steal the show. Oz Perkins as Dorky David and Holland Taylor as Professor Stromwell. Two characters that have few lines and moments, but make the most.

The unsung funny moment I realized this viewing is that Dorky David is wearing classic dad Nike sneakers with his suit when he is walking with Elle Woods into the court prior to the climatic scene.

STANKO RATING: B (3.0/5 Stars)


No Escape Room

Director: Alex Merkin
Writers: Jesse Mettelstadt
Staring: Jeni Ross, Mark Ghanime, Hamza Haq, Kathryn Davis
Streaming: Netflix
Release Date: October 6, 2018

“When an escape room attraction turns from a fun bonding activity to a dangerous paranormal experience, a father and daughter must flee from an angry spirit.

No Escape Room starts with more promise for a SciFi channel original than one would have expect. However, it’s not about how you start, it’s about not mangling the ending. No Escape Room takes a nose dive over the final 20-30 minutes and ends up with a uninspiring ending.

If you are looking for an Escape Room movie with a bit higher budget and more salvageable parts, then tune into Escape Room (2019). No Escape Room is skippable and a cheap ticket.

STANKO RATING: D (1.5/5 Stars)


The Return Of The Living Dead

Director: Dan O’Bannon
Writers: Rudy Ricci, John A. Russo, Russel Streiner
Staring: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Beverly Randolph
Streaming: HBO Max
Release Date: August 16, 1985

“When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.”

Horror comedy is a tough genre to get right without going into “so bad it’s good” category, and credit to The Return Of The Living Dead for getting it right.

If you are a horror movie or a zombie movie fan, then you have heard of this classic. The campiness from the top sets the tone and when you get to the first “BRAINNNSSSSS” utterance then you know you are in for full cheesiness.

Comedy is suggestive and not everything about The Return Of The Living Dead clicks with me. With that being said, The Return Of The Living Dead has a confidence in itself that forces you to but in. Laugh at the stupidity of the humans and let the swarms of zombies eat your heart out.

STANKO RATING: B- (3.5/5 Stars)


Sharp Objects

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writers: Ariella Blejer, Gillian Flynn, Dawn Kamoche, Marti Noxon, Scott Brown, Vince Calandra, Alex Metcalf
Staring: Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen
Streaming: HBO Max
Release Date: 2018

“A reporter confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder.

Amy Adams. Damn. You can act. Also, Patricia Clarkson…you evil bitch.

We have to start with Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson), the mother of Camille Preaker (Amy Adams). These two actresses give absolutely standout performances. If I had to give the edge to one in terms of performance, the scale tips towards Clarkson. She is able to convey so much evil in such a soft spoken way. The sit down between Adora and Camille on the porch of her home and a mother tells her daughter that she never loved her…it is soul crushing.

Adams was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress at the 2019 Emmy Awards and she was joined by Patricia Clarkson in the Supporting Actress category. Another one of the nine Emmy nominations is David Rubin for Outstanding Casting in the Limited Series and the key to that nomination is nailing the selection of Eliza Scanlen as Amma Crellin.

Crellin has all most sides to her in the movie having to play two visible personalities while illuminating scarier subconscious emotions. She is maniac but always in control till her life choices and lifestyle starts strangling her possibilities.

The twist at the end of the show is good. It got me. If you have seen it then you know. If not, watch it and experience it.

A couple last note to anyone who plans on watching Sharp Objects. 1.) It is filmed very uniquely by Jean-Marc Vallée with lots of flashbacks and sudden cuts. It is tough to be on your phone during this movie. 2.) Sharp Objects is very hard to binge. It is HEAVY stuff.

Can we talk about how HBO doesn’t miss when it comes to miniseries? They seriously dominate the genre. A quick power rankings of those I have seen…my top five:

  • Chernobyl (2019)
  • Band Of Bothers (2001)
  • Watchmen (2020)
  • Mare Of Easttown (2021)
  • Sharp Objects (2018)

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)


The Tomorrow War

Director: Chris McKay
Writers: Zach Dean
Staring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Sam Richardson
Streaming: Amazon Prime
Release Date: July 2, 2021

“A family man is drafted to fight in a future war where the fate of humanity relies on his ability to confront the past.

The Tomorrow War is going to get a crap ton of views to start but fizzle out fast. The movie itself is filled with action and some quick hit humor bits…but a horrendous story and cheesy AF dialogue take what could be a very good science fiction movie and drag it down to a non-rewatchable.

*Spoilers* How freaking obvious was it that Yvonne Strahovski’s character is the elder version of Dan Forester’s daughter? It was beyond obvious from the first trailer when it came out. Can we have a little bit of originality please? The same laziness goes for the father silliness. Throw in a scene at the beginning showing the fray in the relationship and then close it out happily in the end. Blehhhh.

The first half of The Tomorrow War is better than the second half. It’s the conclusion of that killed the movie. I don’t care if it was somewhat enjoyable with the action. You need to stick the landing. The Tomorrow War did not.

The final 30 minutes seems rushed and has the sole purpose and trying to create a franchise out of this one movie. Also it is ABSURD that a high school kid has all the volcanic knowledge to help Dan Forester (Chris Pratt).

This is where movies are subjective. The Tomorrow War is going to be very entertaining for many people, but it requires you to utterly shut your brain off. If you have a hard time doing that then go watch The Edge Of Tomorrow (2014).

STANKO RATING: C- (2.0/5 Stars)

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