Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Was I fan of "Spectre?" Nope, I was not.
BUT. The James Bond franchise has been very up and down. Yes, it has. So what I hope is that Daniel Craig will end his tenure with all barrels blazing. It certainly looks like he might.
There looks to be an all-star collection of the characters we have come to know and love throughout his time with the character. Jeffrey Wright is appearing as Felix Leiter, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, Christoph Waltz as Blofeld and Lea Seydoux returns as Ms. Swann. Of course, Bond is getting pulled out of "retirement" for about the billionth time during Craig's run.
Rami Malik's bad guy seems interesting. Lots of juicy dialogue. But honestly, what is it about disfigured villains in these Bond movies?
I just hope this is a fun one for Craig's apparent last outing.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Well, this has been a long time coming.
Black Widow has been pretty much the spine of the Avengers for years and it seems a little wild that we are just getting around to a stand-alone adventure with her. Especially given where she ends up after "Endgame." But hey, I will take what I can get. I hope that despite this being a prequel, that some of the characters introduced in this movie will stick around to some capacity. I really hope that Marvel isn't planning on blowing Red Guardian and Yelena Belova on one movie. Especially since they got David Harbour and Florence Plugh to play them.
"Black Widow" will apparently take place after "Captain America: Civil War," so this will be when Black Widow is on the run after she helped Cap and Bucky escape the German airport. I also wonder if this will take place during the time when Cap and Bucky were trying to find Zemo. Because the way the characters were acting in "Infinity War," Cap, Widow and Sam all seemed to be together for awhile in that. But there is a stretch of time where this storyline will make sense. I am sure they will no problem tying it all together, so I am not worried.
I love Rachel Weisz in everything she does, so its nice to see here.
David Harbour as Red Guardian made me laugh out loud, love it.
I love that we have a freaking spy movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it feels like a full-fledged spy movie too.
Despite what Twitter says, let's just see what happens with Taskmaster before we start judging his look.
There is a shot of Budapest, so I DO wonder if this will jump around Black Widow's past a little bit.
Yep, Marvel. Once again, you have my interest. I can't wait to see this.
Monday, December 2, 2019
As I was watching "Knives Out" at the theater yesterday, this trailer caught my eye. This is a new movie coming this Spring from the producers of "Get Out" and "Us." That does not mean Jordan Peele, but his producers are behind this. It does look cut from the same cloth as Peele's two movies. If Hollywood wants to make a bunch of Twilight Zone-esque social satires, I'm all for it.
This first teaser trailer for "Antebellum" is everything a teaser should be. It teases. I am getting sick and tired of trailers that give away half or all of an entire movie. This trailer puts the hooks in without giving any of the story away.
So since the story is still mysterious, what do we think is happening in this movie?
There are several scenes of Janelle Monae in slave times and also a couple in modern times. She seems to be seeing a white girl from slave times in her apartment complex. There are also a couple of scenes where what appears to be her kidnapping by a white person in a black car. Many have leaped to the conclusion that racists are kidnapping black people and sending them back to slave times. Which is an interesting and terrifying concept.
But the tageline of the trailer says "If it chooses you, there is no escape" so I wonder if racists are using some sort of curse to make black people appear in slave times. There is also a scene in the slave times where a bunch of slaves look into the sky and see an airplane, so perhaps people are getting stuck in an alternate reality? Or some kind of real world VR or something akin to "Westworld?" Janelle's character also keeps seeing a little white girl from slave times, which makes me wonder if she is under some kind of curse or that perhaps her building is haunted in some way.
Time travel is the popular theory here, but some clues in the trailer make me think that isn't the case.
Much like with "Us" discussing what the movie means and what is happening in it will be fun until April.
What do you all think?
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Knives Out Review
Every decade needs its own personal "Ocean's Eleven."
A fun, slick movie featuring a whose-who of A-list stars who are having so much fun while actually creating characters. While the George Clooney "Ocean's Eleven" may have been a remake of a movie from 1960, the 2001 version is quite different. "Knives Out" is an original idea, but I love that writer director Rian Johnson has made something that will fit nicely on your DVD shelves next to "Clue," "And Then There Were None," "The Murder on the Orient Express," "The House on Haunted Hill," and "Murder By Death."
I am a sucker for this type of movie. I love murder mysteries and I love when they take place in a closed off place, like a house or train, and that the killer is lurking somewhere close by. I grew up obsessed with Clue, the only board game I was really obsessed with. I am just a sucker for this type of thing, so maybe I have a bias. But hey, "Knives Out" could have still been pure shit even though it had everything going for it. I am happy to report that is not the case. You are going to have loads and loads of fun watching "Knives Out."
This is going to be a shorter review. I don't want to get into the secrets and the twists and turns the movie takes. Its a whodunit murder mystery, of course its going to have twists and turns. This is a movie where the less you know about it, the more you are going to love it. Its classically styled murder mystery. The movie begins with a dead body. Then the police are going through the suspects. Of course, everyone has some type of motive for killing the person who is dead. But apparently it looks like a suicide. There is a detective working as a consultant, and he believes its not suicide, but indeed a murder. The board is set and the pieces are moving. The whole movie has been entertaining up to that point.
Then the movie throws its first curveball. It shows exactly how the person died, we find out who killed them. So suddenly, the movie isn't going to be a movie about finding out who did the killing, but whether or not the killer gets caught. Still, there are factors that are still unknown. The consultant is contacted by a mysterious benefactor, who contacted the consultant is also part of the movie. Perhaps there are other factors too, but that would be giving too much away.
The movie entertaining because, well, how could it not? The cast includes Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Frank Oz and Ana de Armas. That's a stellar cast, they all know what's expected of them and they just let loose. The movie is very funny throughout, but you'll have too much fun trying to figure out the mystery of it all. Trying to pick a favorite performance is an impossible task. Collete is her usual self. Chris Evans makes for an interesting asshole after playing the do-gooder, boy scout Captain America for years. But just wait until to hear Daniel Craig's goofball Southern accent. Oh my god, what a riot.
You've definitely seen the trailers. You've heard about this movie. You know the players involved. All you have to ask yourself is...do you want to see it? I can answer that for you. You do. You really, really do. The crowd my dad and I saw this with was having just as much fun as we were. This is a crowd-pleaser. A great time at the movies. So do you want to see it? Yes, you do.
FINAL GRADE: A
Friday, November 29, 2019
The Irishman Review
Now, that I have finally seen Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman" I think I understand him much better on his stance against Marvel films. Even if I will always respectfully disagree with him.
"The Irishman" is not just another crime saga. That would be really easy for Martin Scorsese to do, but "easy" really isn't a word in Scorsese's vocabulary. He's one of Hollywood's true artists, and I really don't care how artsy-fartsy that may sound. He is constantly pushing himself as a filmmaker and as an artist and he is always trying to fill our auditorium screens with things we've never seen before. Every time he sets out to make a gangster movie, he barely ever repeats himself.
"Goodfellas" is still one of my favorite films of all time, and what I love about that movie is that Ray Liotta's Henry Hill is a person that always wanted that mobster lifestyle. He didn't care that he was breaking several laws a day, he didn't care that he had to kill, he care that he had to steal, he didn't care that he cheated on his wife then cheated on his mistress while still cheating on his wife. At the end of the film, when he's witness protection, he hardly seems to feel any guilt with the life he chose. "These days I have to wait in line for bread, just like everyone else" he scowls at the camera as he picks up his morning paper. "Mean Streets" blended religious guilt over a mobster backdrop. "Gangs of New York" gave a glimpse of history we are never taught in schools. "The Departed" was this crazy mix of a Hong Kong remake with a true story which became 2006 biggest's and best pop culture moment. If I have a problem with "Casino," its that Scorsese made a mob movie with nothing new to say, its basically Goodfellas in Nevada.
So what is "The Irishman?" Well, along with Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" its one of the most important movies about the current industry. When Scorsese says those things about Marvel movies, he isn't trying to bash those fans. He is trying to articulate what he sees as a problem with the current industry in Hollywood. I've already written about this a little bit myself on this site, and while I will always love the Marvel movies, I am plenty aware of the sins they have to answer for. The "shared universe" mentality hasn't been the biggest blessing for the medium. When there is only one type of movie you can see at the theater at a time, when studios aren't willing to take risks anymore and go for the easy money, that is definitely a problem. Scorsese sees it as a problem. There was a time when you could sell a movie using big actors, and that day seems to have evaporated completely from the medium. Nobody seems to want to give other movies a chance, we are just looking for the next big franchise to be obsessed with for the next decade. The beauty of movies is that they aren't one size fits all. You can communicate whatever you want with them because movies are language. A language of sight and sound. When we limit what we can do with this language, it hurts more than it helps.
Martin Scorsese is definitely obsessed with the legacy of the business right now and that's precisely what "The Irishman" is about, the legacy of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). Its a movie about how Frank Sheeran reflects upon himself, and the guilt and the highs and the regrets he feels about the life he chose. When we meet Frank Sheeran, he's just a regular guy trying to provide for his family. He drives meat delivery trucks and after meeting some bad men, he begins selling some of his shipments to the Philadelphia Mob. When he is on the verge of getting in trouble with the law for it, its the mob's lawyer that helps him out of it. That eventually leads him to more stealing, then eventually murder, as he moves on up the chain. He becomes a very trusted man to Russell Bufalino (Joe Pecsi), a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia mob.
The movie is Sheeran's life throughout the mob, how he bounces off of other mobsters; like Felix DiTuillo (Bobby Cannavale) and Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel) and even becoming close friends with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). This life leads to an estranged relationship with his daughter Peggy (played as an adult by Anna Paquin). The movie really isn't about one main event, but it never feels like a washed-up biography movie. By the end of the movie, we feel the man's entire legacy fall at our own feet.
Netflix gave Scorsese an $160 million budget to make the movie, and that is pretty significant right there. It shows that Netflix is continuing to stay a power player as a source of top-notch entertainment and it shows how far Scorsese is willing to go to get his art to the masses. No studio in the business right now would give anybody that kind of money to make a mob movie, and again, that's another example of the "shared universe" business at work right now. Scorsese will jump through hoops to make his movies. "Gangs of New York" was in the works since 1976, apparently. And Scorsese also had to fight hard to get "The Last Temptation of Christ" to the screen, for an understandable reason too. Any time a movie about Jesus or God is made, its immediately put under the Scrutiny Microscope, so it is a miracle it got released at all. He is a man committed to his art, and you can see that with every frame of "The Irishman."
We will get to talking about the actors in just a minute, but I do want to take the time to say that the de-aging visual effects in this film are state-of-the-art and excellent. Robert De Niro through the years in this movie is amazing to just watch. You could put the movie on mute and be dazzled by how far visual effects have come. The same can be said about Joe Pesci too, because those effects on his character are just as good. Sometimes, you will have a hard time figuring out where the visual effects end and when make-up actually stops. Domenick Lombardozzi isn't an A-lister in the business, but he's one of those actors you'd recognize if you Googled him. He plays a character named Fat Tony in this movie, for good reason. Lombardozzi absolutely vanishes in this role, and I honestly can't tell if he's wearing make-up or if its some kind of CGI trick. Honestly, I don't want to know because its one of the best moments in his career.
Acting-wise, the movie is just a ball to watch simply to watch the actors bounce off each other. "The Irishman" is a long movie, at three-and-a-half hours. But you never once feel like you are watching a long movie, because each and every actor is at the top of their game. The two best are easily Pecsi, who has been missing in action for way too long. Then there is Robert De Niro, giving another performance that will further define his career. Watching him work with Cannavale, Keitel, Pacino and the likes of Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons, Jack Huston, Marin Ireland and Stephen Graham. Scorsese is able to generate great performances out of all of his actors, with genuine amount of ease. Everyone is on fire here, at all times.
There are several directors who have made careers doing the same thing over and over again. Others take their usual themes and tell different stories with them, the best of the best can do that. Scorsese is one of those artists and he has once again proven why he's one of the greats.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Last year, one of my favorite films of 2018 was a documentary called "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" which was deep dive documentary about Fred Rogers. How he used television to tap into the minds and souls of children and families everywhere, and how his big heart was real and non-jaded every day. Now, in 2019, Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers in a film called "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." In a time where it seems frustration, hurt and cynicism is infecting us all, its a great time to be reminded of his wonderful man.
"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" is not the movie I thought it was going to be, which is a very good thing. This isn't one of those greatest hits karaoke versions of Fred Rogers' life. This is about a very specific moment on Fred's career. He was interviewed for Esquire magazine around 1998 by journalist Tom Junod. Matthew Rhys plays Lloyd Vogel, who is loosely based on Junod. Lloyd Vogel is a pretty cynical man himself, and he was planning to see if Fred Rogers' persona was all an act or if he really is the accepting, do-gooder that we see on TV.
Like this even has to be explored. After seeing the documentary last year, yes its absolutely true, there was nobody on Earth like Fred Rogers. I don't mean to get geeky on all of you, but if there was one real person throughout the history of the world who could lift Thor's Hammer (if such a thing were real) it's Fred Rogers and its not even close. I can't imagine a more purer soul, a shining example of the type of person I try so hard to be every day. That idea that Rogers likes you for who you are and that you are lucky to be alive, Tom Hanks captures perfectly. That giddy and witty side when creating characters, Tom Hanks captures perfectly. Having the perfect response, the right response, to any question thrown his way, Tom Hanks captures perfectly. Hanks thoroughly becomes and completely embodies the philosophy of Fred Rogers. Its a terrific, terrific performance.
Lloyd Vogel is cynical because he's estranged by his family. He's one of those tough journalists that finds the negativity and spin on everything. His father (Chris Cooper) cheated on his mother many years ago, and was not around when his mother died. His father wants to make amends after many years, but Lloyd is having none of that. At first glance, it seems justifiable right? But that's the thing about the teachings of Fred Rogers. Not forgiving, whether your right or not, is poison in our veins and the only way we really move on is if we DO forgive those who have wronged us. Lloyd's lifestyle affects everything in his life, including being a new dad. Rogers is able to tap into this without much effort.
Seems pretty cliche, doesn't it? A cynical journalist who lives a cold life sees the light thanks to a moral figure who enters his life by chance. It seems like some kind of dumb cable movie. Yet, the script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster plus the vision of director Marielle Heller keep things on point. They are smart enough to turn these people into characters first, then allow the drama to build from there. This feels like something real, while they still layer in all the sentimental sweetness you'd expect from a Fred Rogers movie.
I like how the movie is structured. It feels like one big, long episode of Fred's show. From the beginning music, to the model sets that form a new place after each scene change. It will make you feel nostalgic for the Fred Rogers show. The movie will make you laugh and it will make you cry. It will also make you want to be better then you were yesterday, in 2019, that's a message we need right now more than ever. Not only is "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" a great movie, not only is it one of the best of the year, its a reminder of who are always supposed to be.
FINAL GRADE: A
Monday, November 25, 2019
"Midway" is one of THOSE war movies.
What do I mean by that? "Midway" is a movie that looks like about a thousand other World War II movies, and does very little to assert itself above the rest. Its a movie full of famous to semi-memorable actors, yet the script is so paper-thin that next to zero character development occurs. Its got characters recycling the same tired story-lines that they give the word cliche a bad name. Its a movie that is more obsessed with the look and the stylized violence of the movie instead of the heroes that the movie is supposed to be about. The oddest part about it all is, the special effects look like they came from a video game. How in the sweet Hell does Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" from 2001 look way better and more believable than "Midway" from 2019?
Funny I mention "Pearl Harbor," since this movie spends much of its first hour remaking that movie. Since "Pearl Harbor" wasn't even close to being a movie to be remade, I am puzzled director Roland Emmerich decided to go that direction, yet here we are. The thing Michael Bay got right in an otherwise crappy movie was the ugliness of war and the shock of that day, so many years ago. In "Midway," the Pearl Harbor attack looks so much like a video game that I can't for the life of me imagine what Emmerich was thinking. I am also baffled, Roland Emmerich gave us "The Patriot," while historically inaccurate to the max, "The Patriot" is actually a very entertaining movie. "Midway" is overlong, the dialogue is corny and stale, instead of intense, witty and memorable like "The Patriot." We don't have a single character to hang onto in "Midway," whereas in "The Patriot" we actually had several to hold onto. I also have to say I believed in the decapitation by cannonball much more than any dogfight in "Midway."
"Midway" is full of good actors. People like Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Luke Evans, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quad, Mandy Moore, Darren Criss, Jake Weber, Alexander Ludwig, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas. That's one helluva cast to just fucking waste, yet Emmerich finds a way to do so. Nobody is made believable in any way. Everyone is given personality ticks rather than actual traits. They look like cardboard cutouts from other, better movies instead of actually giving life to the people they are supposed to be playing.
Despite the bad special effects, Emmerich sure does try hard to stylize the violence onscreen. Therein lies the problem for me. Anytime a war movie glorifies the violence, it fails in my eyes. The best war movies show us just how ugly and terrifying war actually is, because of this, we come to appreciate more the men and women who put on those uniforms and defend our freedom. Our troops aren't action heroes, they are several steps above that. War isn't an Xbox game, its something real and raw, and the best war movies showcase that. The "Saving Private Ryans" and the "Thin Red Lines" and the "Apocalypse Nows" and the "Black Hawk Downs" and the "Gettysburgs" and the "Glory's" and the "Platoons" and the "We Were Soldiers" of the world are best of the genre because they display what war actually is, and they do so without winking at the audience. They show us what it means to be in any line of the military and even if some of those movies tell fictional stories, they still respect the people they are supposed to be about. "Midway" is just a glorified fever dream that goes through the motions.
But hey, Woody Harrelson's fake hair is pretty hilarious.
FINAL GRADE: C-