Cocaine Bear

I mean a movie called Cocaine Bear, yeah we’re going to talk about it. Get Elizabeth Banks in the director/producer chair and I’m headed to the theater. Put me in a vocal audience that talks back to the screen and screams at all of the jump scares? Yes, please!

So the inspiration for this comedy horror film is the true story of drug drop that got lost in the mountains of Tennessee back in the eighties. An American black bear (“Pablo Eskobear”) gets into the cocaine and fatally overdoses. Banks takes this wild tale and hilariously imagines how this plays out with a backstory on the drug dealers and the escapades of the cocaine finders.

Trust me, parts of this are wayyy stupid. But come on, it’s there in the title: Cocaine Bear. And it isn’t about some chef who does lines to keep the kitchen in order. More like the apex predator has emerged from High-Bear-Nation! The laughs start with the first surprise demise and they never stop.

The characters are interesting and full of life (until they aren’t), and it’s a marvelous cast. Margo Martindale as Blood Mountain’s Park Ranger is especially witty, and Christian Convery as young Henry shines. The rest of the cast holds up as well, delivering plenty of one-liners and inside jokes that add to the fun. Of course, there are a couple of excellent needle drops including a Depeche Mode song accompanying my favorite scene.

If you’re into horror-comedies, Cocaine Bear delivers. There are a lot of body parts, gore, jump scares, and bad decisions. Try and see it in the theater with a fun interactive audience. Oh, and stay for the bonus scene.

2023 Best Picture Oscar Nominees

Hello, yeah…it’s been awhile. Not much. How ’bout you?” I fell out of habit with my weekly movie therapy visits. This happened mostly because my theater changed its hours and made it difficult for me to stick to the routine I liked. I was also putting a little too much pressure on myself to make it happen, and found it easier to let it go. Sometimes things just change. But not my love for the movies! Let’s get into this year’s Best Picture nominations:

All Quiet on the Western Front

For some reason I keep stumbling through this title – isn’t it called All’s Quiet or All is Quiet on the Western Front? Answer: No. Not even in 1930. What stood out for me most is the visually graphic brutality of the fighting scenes. The cinematography is expansive, dark, and yet very detailed. Loyalty, innocence, and youthful optimism are destroyed by the horrors of war, and the characters deliver this. You can see the change in their eyes from beginning to end, but this one is just not as memorable as other war films.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Well, I haven’t seen this yet. I get the feeling it’s more of the same. I did listen to an interview with James Cameron on SmartLess and I enjoy how passionate he is about these films, the environment, our water. And there’s apparently more to come. So that’s cool. I’ll catch up soon.

The Banshees of Inisherin

This movie strikes a chord for me because it’s told as an inane character drama, but it’s really reflecting so much of the world beyond. It focuses on a friendship in turmoil, without explanation, as the Irish Civil War rages across the water. There are people accustomed to live on the island of Inisherin, like Barry Keoghan’s brilliantly played Dominic Kearney, and a heroine desperate to break free from it. Even the donkey holds messages, while Colm (Brendan Gleeson) cuts off his fingers…you know, the things he needs to play his fiddle? So much beneath the surface, it’s up there for the writing prize for sure.


Austin Butler is great but Tom Hanks is too big of a distraction in this. Musical performances are sexy and powerful and I love the incorporation of modern music. Great costumes and set – and that word: charisma.

Top Gun: Maverick

What’s not to love? Nostalgia for an iconic film and the magnetic character Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) who hasn’t changed much pulls us in. Goose’s son Rooster (Miles Teller) setting up another heart strings angle of conflict within Maverick. High energy, real training, actual stunts, and incredible filming of professional aviators instead of a bunch of CGI. It feels like a blockbuster movie because it is one. I watched it twice and would do it again, such a great ride.

The Fabelmans

A beautifully directed ensemble that gives us a glimpse into Spielberg’s youth and family, all for the love of the magic of movies! I love that his mom is enigmatic and quirky, even with her faults. Creativity and imagination are survival tools to a budding filmmaker. Seeing others’ vulnerability and imperfections allows us to build whole characters. We laugh along in the hallway when he jokes about making a movie someday. I suspect he gets away with embarrassing truths by saying it’s semi-autobiographical. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t. Intimate and revealing, touching us with just enough comfortable nostalgia. The music is fabulous. Love Spielberg even more now.


Definitely takes a minute to get through the opening credits. Then, it takes awhile to get into the story. No denying Kate Blanchett is brilliant as conductor Lydia Tár, but we just wait for so long for something compelling to drive the story forward. The filter is a cold grey-blue, and the framing environmentally inclusive when it feels like we should be have a more intimate relationship with the characters. There are rarely close ups, and emotion is brushed off like her tics. The subtleties of plot make me feel as stupid as the opening interview when she kept name dropping famous composers and conductors. She seems to sit upon some high shelf where artists are only well-read and educated, not simply creative or passionate. Fine, Kate does great. But dang this is a long movie with so much condescending nuance, I just feel left out.

Triangle of Sadness

When this movie opens, it feels like we’re about to dive deep into the culture of male modeling. Cool, this is a new world to me. Then the story takes a wild nearly sadistic turn. I was shouting at the tv. What am I even watching? I’m laughing, but it’s uncomfortable, so I question my response. Themes of the absurdity of greed, influence, and wealth. I’m probably supposed to relate to one side or the other, but everything is so extreme I shrug off the societal divisions, which I think was the intent. Ending is abrupt.

Women Talking

This movie is mesmerizing. What feels like a historical account from many, many years ago actually takes place in 2010 in a closed extremely religious colony. The cinematography palette is colored in shades grey as the story is told of the abuse in this community. However, the more these women talk, I swear I saw the colors become richer, their skin tones rosy with life, like a filter is lifted. The score is beautifully full of pain and hangs on to hope. It’s striking that these women, even sheltered and uneducated, are able to consider self-preservation and change. It’s also very frustrating and leaves me angry, wanting to rescue them from their blind faith. The performances are impressive, they work with one another in what is almost entirely “women talking,” with some moving dramatic monologues. Kudos to director Sarah Polley for orchestrating that safe space. I liked this way more than I expected to. And, I watched it on International Women’s Day.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best original movie/screenplay I’ve seen in a long time. Made me feel so many things – more than I was ready to feel. A collision of art and experience and emotion. Read back on my original response here. This will win/should win Best Picture.


Amsterdam is packed full of amazing actors with good performances all trying to swim above a drowning storyline. It’s like they have no idea what movie they were making and the editors do nothing to help them out.

The first few scenes hold promise, especially with Christian Bale as Dr. Burt Berendsen. He’s a veteran of the war and constantly testing new medicines and procedures to help other ailing veterans. His injuries include the loss of an eye, and the need to wear a painful back brace. When lawyer Harold Woodman (John David Washington) calls on Berendsen to assist on an autopsy, it’s clear the two have a past relationship. However, we’re still uncertain where they’re headed now. Suddenly Taylor Swift appears as Liz Meekins. It’s painful to see her trying her best. Soon enough they have her singing an awkward song before she is abruptly removed from the plot.

What happens next is a messy whodunit mystery with so much starpower that every scene feels like a battle between leading actors. At least we get the pleasure of the flashback to Amsterdam where Berendsen and Woodman first meet Nurse Valerie (Margot Robie). If there is any magic that they hope to inspire, it happens here.

The rest of it? I mean when we’re back in current times we get Rami Malek as Tom Voze with dilated eyes and a creepy distant-to-the-scene vibe. Then his wife Libby (Anya Taylor-Joy), is stiff and a nuisance, really. Unfortunately most of the characters are unexceptional and so dry you really have to reach to get that they’re being funny. I have this sensation that they did scenes in one take.

The plot is full of too many themes to pick just one. There’s nothing satisfying about the story. Robert Dinero is great, of course. The three leads are good, just didn’t feel like they had much to go on. So many others in the mix, too- including Mike Meyers, Chris Rock, Michael Shannon, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough…what a wild cast! I expected more.

Don’t Worry Darling

The drama and controversy surrounding Don’t Worry Darling’s cast and director probably didn’t do this movie any favors. Rumors swirled around a train wreck of a shoot with shouting arguments on set, favoritism, and rifts between cast members. TikTok users fueled the off-the-rails press tour with scandalous commentary about who spit on who, and who won’t look someone in the eye. I mean, with all of this – of course we want to see this movie. However, so much hype can lead to disappointment at best.

So what’s Don’t Worry Darling even about? Well, it’s a familiar story you’ve probably seen bits of before. It takes place in an idyllic mid-century modern town called Victory where all the husbands uniformly drive off to work at the secretive Project Victory, (to change the world), leaving the desperate housewives home to cook and clean, shop, take ballet lessons, and gossip with the other ladies.

Visually, Victory is quite beautiful if you’re into that Edward Scissorhands kind of vibe, as I am. Also nice to look at are Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack Chambers (Harry Styles). The story focuses on their mostly satisfying life, yes she does the cooking, yes she does the cleaning…like every day. And she is there waiting, cocktail in hand, when he arrives home. Sometimes dinner can wait – or can just be shoved off the table for a gratuitous – yet very hot – lovemaking scene.

We get our first glimpse of Chris Pine as the charismatic leader of Project Victory at a cocktail party at his house. He’s gloriously menacing, awkwardly in control. It’s obvious to us something is off, but when one of the housewives questions him publicly, Alice takes notice. The more curious she gets, the more she spirals downward. She starts to hallucinate with a hot mess of haunting images that disrupt her routine alongside a tune she just can’t get out of her head.

Olivia Wilde plays Alice’s neighbor, Bunny and she also directed the film. Her character is mostly subtle until the predictable turning point near the end. I struggled with the random and disjointed imagery as the plot unraveled. You could call it a twist – but not in the sense of – Oh wow, I didn’t know that was happening! It’s more like – Wait, what? Why? Some scenes feel pushed together in post to over explain some anti-misogyny message which I already kind of had in the beginning. You know, because the title is Don’t Worry Darling. I get it. Also, I saw WandaVision and Stepford Wives.

Harry Styles? I was pleasantly surprised! Certainly did not feel like his first acting gig even with the oddly long dance scene. Gemma Chan (Shelley) is a force. A pregnant Kate Berlant (Peg) made me laugh especially with all of the cocktails and cigarettes. Florence Pugh though – she is bigger than this movie. Maybe that’s why everything got so heated. I can still hear her breath in my ear.

God’s Country

When I hear the phrase God’s Country, I lean into an image of an expansive and lush prairie with streams and wildlife and maybe a pretty mountain range in the distance. Instead, this film takes us to a cold, snow-covered small town in Montana. The kind of place you might escape to if you wanted to be away from people.

Thandiwe Newton plays Sandra, a professor at the local university. Her mother who she was caring for has just passed, leaving Sandra alone in the valley to wrestle with her past and tackle new troubles.

When Sandra discovers a couple of hunters using her land without permission, she is quietly discontent. She attempts to ask nicely for them to stop (once), but they continue to park on her property. This does not sit well with Sandra, and she invites a conflict that brings up unresolved issues she harbors with the notion of justice.

The film is an extremely slow burn with beautiful, wintry imagery. The tension is high and uncomfortable, as it seems like she should just let this go. Then there’s a situation at the university that doubles down on Sandra’s frustration when the right thing isn’t done. She reaches peak resentment with this system – this country – that has continued to fail her throughout her life.

So when the threats and harassment continue with the two trespassing hunters, Sandra hits a breaking point. Without spoilers, I wouldn’t call her actions satisfying. It’s mostly sad. I think the film is trying to magnify injustice, but because it all falls on one person’s shoulders, it seems petty. I imagine she probably could have made better decisions if she wasn’t dealing with so much built up anger. But I also think she could have just let them hunt on her property. I’m left feeling – eh. And reminded of the sentiment: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Gigi and Nate

Gigi and Nate is the story of a young man’s recovery journey as a quadriplegic with the help of Gigi, an adorable capuchin monkey. It’s based on true events and shares how service animals can make a huge impact on healing from life-changing events.

Full disclosure, I did work background on this movie, and it’s always fun to see the final result of the hard work of the cast and crew. And of course, it’s great to catch a glimpse of my friends and I on screen.

We get a good look at Nate’s (Charlie Rowe) fun personality and family dynamic early in the movie. There’s a lot of shallow character development before his accident. A time jump takes us to a frustrated and hopeless Nate in a wheelchair before he meets Gigi. His mom (Marcia Gay Harden) is instrumental in seeking support and providing hope when others (including Nate) seem to have just accepted life as it is now.

When Gigi finally becomes part of the family, Nate is awkwardly curious and optimistic about her. I expected him to reject her help, but he gets this like magnetism about him that relishes in the “coolness” of having a monkey as a service animal. His frustrations with physical therapy continue and without coaxing, Gigi finally steps in for the assist. It’s an overly sentimental moment, but it’s also very sweet. If you’re not rolling your eyes, you’re dabbing away the tears. Cue the music montage with all the things she helps him do as he makes his way independently through town. Awww.

The CGI Gigi is a little tough to watch sometimes – but it’s still a cute story. Charlie Rowe is charming and Diane Ladd is a witty delight as vodka-drinking Mama Blanche. A couple of scenes with Nate’s mom and Dad (Jim Belushi) are very touching. I’m a huge fan of Hannah (Riley) Alligood from Better Things, so I was happy to see her shine.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

The game Bodies Bodies Bodies has certainly evolved since I played it when I was younger. The movie is about a group of obviously rich twentysomethings that gather together for a hurricane party at a lavish estate. The two characters we first meet are Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova), who are evidently a new-ish couple. The pair bring us on to scene after a lengthy gratuitous kiss that sets us up for an exciting night.

We spend some time getting to know the other characters by way of introducing Bee to the group. The house belongs to David’s (Pete Davidson) parents, so he’s essentially the host, and Sophie’s best friend. Cue the division when David’s girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) is annoyed by Sophie’s unannounced arrival. The sentiments are echoed by the group, and other little jabs are thrown as we learn more about the characters. Eventually everyone starts to party with the usual drugs and alcohol as the impending storm moves in.

What a perfect time to play Bodies Bodies Bodies. Everyone draws a piece of paper and whoever gets the paper with an “X” is the “killer.” They tag people out and others have to guess who the killer is. For some reason, their version also involves slapping one another upfront – what? Anyway, the mood quickly sours when the power goes out (including the wi-fi) and one of them actually shows up dead. From this point on, somehow everyone has blood on their faces, neatly smeared and splattered by hair and makeup. It’s distracting and highlighted by the use of their phones as both flashlights and spotlights. I kept hoping the screen that was on and facing them (to illuminate their faces?) would be something director Halina Reijn would show us. Kind of a Blair Witch selfie effect.

What happens next is a hilarious whodunit mystery with lots of knives in backs. No one seems to trust anyone’s innocence, exposing hidden secrets and true feelings to point blame. The ensemble expertly feeds off one another. Each character seems authentically drawn to drama and self-destruction when they aren’t hiding behind their devices. Here is where Rachel Sennott stands out as Alice. She is hysterical with her happy naivety and switching of loyalties, not to mention she has brought her 40 year old boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) to the party. Alice is genuine as she’s pointing out the absurdity of their generation’s behavior. She delivers the best lines, and she does so convincingly, without missing a beat.

What BodiesX3 is missing is more of the build up of fear/anxiety. There are scenes that needed a sound team or a soundtrack. I lost the feeling of the storm when the rain and wind were silent, and I don’t remember a creaky floor or like anything heard in the distance to give us pause. In that sense, or lack thereof, it didn’t feel much like a slasher movie. The dark humor is the star, the kind that makes you feel bad for laughing. A lot of time is spent poking fun at Gen-Z in general, and it comes in fast with cliché commentary we expect. You know, the borderline toxic, gaslighting kind of woke vibe that might just trigger someone, or spawn an ally outside of the group chat. Yes, you’ll hear it all, and more.

Bullet Train

Bullet Train has been busy flooding my feeds with trailers for this highly anticipated action film starring Brad Pitt. So much so, that I think I saw most of the movie before I sat down in the theater. Turns out that’s true.

An unlucky assassin named Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is trying to pull back from his career to work on self growth. He is given what seems like an easy “smash and grab” job on the bullet train. But of course, he encounters obstacles (ie other assassins) that complicate his efforts. His handler, the voice of Sandra Bullock, guides him through the mission, directing and encouraging his next steps. She also lends an ear as he is talking through discovery of a ‘smart’ toilet and find my phone app, all while breaching an existential crisis.

Some of the ensemble characters have potential to be great. Take the twins, Tangerine and Lemon, (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry), who are on their own separate mission. They are escorting someone’s son along with the briefcase (yes, the same one Ladybug is after) when things start to go wrong. The pair have history and a genuine connection evident in their banter. Lemon’s obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine keeps us annoyed, although alert to other passengers.

But the dialogue really stings. It just isn’t good. And there’s a lot of it – especially during fight scenes. Ladybug’s selection of curse words is amusing, but the delivery of most of the script is baffling. It feels like they could have improvised off book with better results, if they knew their characters more.

The action is sloppy hand to hand combat most of the time, littered with obtuse comments that are trying to be funny. For some reason there’s no security on this bullet train. Only one other passenger seems annoyed by some loud voices. Then there’s a snake. Oh, and several branded water bottles along with an anime themed cart featuring a suspicious dancing mascot. Add to that endless flashbacks to stories spawning vengeance that try to explain how all of these people have come together. These hints don’t actually do that – rather, we comb through countless assassins before the aha moment is shoved down our throats.

Joey King (Prince) is actually quite convincing with her British accent, perfect posture, and hidden agenda. However, she somehow still feels emotionally disconnected even after revealing her role. Then out of nowhere comes some other chick who’s been there the whole time and is mad about her snake. What?

There’s a bit of salvation in the last 20 minutes or so, when the music and the action finally seem to pair up, and pace along with the high speed of the bullet train. What was achingly ridiculous before becomes something we can all laugh at. Sure, some guy can run and jump onto the bullet train – right? The cameos rapid fire in offering some smiles of acknowledgement, even some laughs – showing that they had fun with this. People will go see this because of the star power; and they might even like it more than me.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Marcel the Shell is pretty much something you’d find in your junk drawer. But oh this mollusk is so much more. From the creative genius of Dean Fleischer-Camp and the adorable voice from Jenny Slate, Marcel delivers heartwarming magic with creative innovations and a positive outlook.

Marcel the Shell originally started as a YouTube stop animation short project between Slate and her then boyfriend Fleischer-Camp back in 2010. In the movie, Dean, a documentary filmmaker, discovers Marcel at the airbnb he is renting and begins filming to share their story.

A small but mighty philosopher, Marcel takes us through witty commentary on life and survival with Grandma Connie (Isabella Rossellini). But what’s missing is their community – the family and friends that disappeared after the “loud people” left. With the help of Dean, and a curious sense of adventure and discovery, the two come up with a plan to find them.

Starting first with the internet, they reach out to connect with others for help. What’s most delightful is Marcel’s attitude. The consistent, gentle voice is endearing when speaking about life and the inventive ways of navigating this big house they call home. From a tennis ball rover to the strongest and hairs found in the bottom of the shower, Marcel has learned to make the best of things. With childlike understanding (and that cute voice), you can’t help but fall in love with the magic.

This works as a feature film, although it does feel like it reaches a bit beyond where it needs to. The themes of absence and longing for a sense of family or community are definitely there. But I’d rather look at it simply as a gem of filmmaking with an amusing character who gives you the warm and fuzzies with their tiny perspective on life.


RRR is an epic (and long) adventure film with incredible action, glorious visual effects, miraculous stunts, humor, and dancing! Reflecting on this movie brings back the lyrics from Moulin Rouge: “Spectacular Spectacular, no words in our vernacular can describe this great event; you’ll be dumb with wonderment.

I have never seen anything like RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt). Writer/director S.S. Rajamouli brings us a new level of bro-mance, with a bit of a fictional historical twist. Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Raju (Ram Charan) are separately famous rebels in India’s national history. Rajamouli spins this 1920s tale not based on truth, but rather an idealism. What if two extraordinary revolutionaries met and joined forces? It’s a wonder-filled story that negotiates heroism, love, and loyalty during the time of the British colonial rule in India.

The action sequences are packed with jaw-dropping stunts, computer imaging, and close up expressions of Raju and Bheem. So many things happen that are unimaginable – and then, you see it right there on the screen. I’m not just talking about plot points – which are truly outlandish and ripe with humor. It’s the fighting, the gore, the huge scope of action mixed with tons of background actors, and vibrant, colorful scenery. It’s intoxicating and over-the-top inspiring. And don’t forget, there’s a dance number! This is escapist cinema at its most magnificent.

At over three hours long, RRR spins into action immediately and still manages to make you want more when it’s over. I’m usually into movies that break me down in some way – dramas with detailed storylines, something that I can relate to or reflect upon. But when something like this comes along, it inspires me in a totally different way. Bravo to the filmmakers. Don’t let this one get away from you.