movie reviews

My Spy review at Mountain Xpress

Dave Bautista is officially a movie star. He demonstrated his comedy talents in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and in Blade Runner 2049, he showed he could be good with dramatic roles.

But successfully headlining a family-friendly action-comedy will take Bautista to another level and he’s done that with the surprisingly fun My Spy, available on Amazon Prime.

I reviewed the movie for Asheville’s Mountain Xpress:

My Spy wouldn’t be nearly as fun without Dave Bautista carrying the entire venture on his formidably muscled shoulders. Any doubters who dismissed Bautista as another pro wrestler trying to be a movie star like Dwayne Johnson were likely silenced by the comic timing he showed in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Bautista has continued to use that talent for deadpan humor in comedies like Stuber, and with My Spy, he’s taking the step to family-friendly action star, which elevated the careers of Johnson, Vin Diesel and John Cena. (Bautista is also a producer here, showing he knows this is the right move, balanced with his roles in upcoming spectacles such as Dune, Army of the Dead and a third Guardians movie.)

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movie reviews

Looking back at ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’

With the premiere of Bao Nguyen’s Bruce Lee documentary, Be Water, on Sunday (as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series), I thought it would be worth revisiting 1993’s Lee biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.

I’ve always been a Lee fan, though couldn’t call myself a diehard. But I certainly remember watching his movies on TV as a kid and marveling at an Asian guy kicking everybody’s ass (including Chuck Norris). Even my mother sat down to watch with me, and she never had much interest in the stuff I enjoyed.

However, my memory of Dragon — which I saw in theaters when it was released in 1993 — is that it wasn’t very good. My rewatch confirmed that opinion, maybe even more so now that I often watch movies with a more discerning eye.

I wrote about rewatching Dragon for Awful Announcing. An excerpt:

The kindest description of Dragon is that it’s a fairy tale telling of Lee’s story which takes significant dramatic license with real-life events and essentially turns his biography into a Bruce Lee action movie. That’s not to say that the film isn’t entertaining. But it strains believability to think that Lee (played by Jason Scott Lee) engaged in major action set pieces throughout his life.

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movie reviews

Lucky Grandma review at Mountain Xpress

Honestly, I wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic ended my days of getting paid to write movie reviews. Not only are movie theaters closed, but Asheville’s Mountain Xpress, where most of my reviews run, had to pare down due to a lack of ad revenue.

But indie theaters have been showing movies virtually, with part of the rental fees going to those venues, providing publications with films to review. And thankfully, the budget to pay for those reviews is opening up again.

So I was eager to review Lucky Grandma when given the opportunity:

Director Sasie Sealy (who co-wrote the script with Angela Cheng) builds her feature debut around a memorable grouch, Grandma Wong (Tsai Chin), whose fortune changes when a huge amount of money literally falls into her lap.

Lucky Grandma is a clever spin on the crime caper genre, thanks to Chin’s wonderfully cranky performance and Sealy trusting her warped morality tale to play out to its natural end.

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movie reviews

Bloodshot review at Mountain Xpress

[UPDATE: Bloodshot is getting an early digital video on-demand release next week since its theatrical run was cut short. You can see the movie at home beginning March 24 and then come back and read this review!]

As I was sitting in the theater before Bloodshot began (preceded by about 25 minutes of trailers, of course), I realized that this could be the last movie I’d see in public for a while. Even before chain and independent theaters implemented social distancing measures, then closed entirely, major releases had been pushed back for months (at least), so we wouldn’t have been getting new movies for a while.

So if Bloodshot was the last new movie I’d see in theaters until maybe — maybe — the summer, did Vin Diesel send us into self-imposed isolation on a high note? Well, sort of.

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movie reviews

The Way Back review at Awful Announcing

Releasing a basketball movie in March, when so much real drama and joy is on TV with college hoops, seemed kind of risky. But The Way Back isn’t entirely a basketball movie, which may surprise some viewers.

Sports movies — portraying sports in pop culture and media — fit solidly into Awful Announcing’s beat. So I reviewed the movie for the site. Here’s an excerpt:

Some viewers might prefer a more predictable, more conventional sports movie with an uplifting message. But director Gavin O’Connor and Ben Affleck know life isn’t that simple and a tidy resolution doesn’t often make for a good story. What feels more gratifying is that viewers can determine how this story ends. Maybe it goes exactly as you would’ve predicted. But maybe not. Being trusted as an audience to deal with the many possibilities at hand makes it worth seeing. This isn’t the movie you think it is.

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