Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Review: "The Peanut Butter Falcon" is a charming little film.

The Peanut Butter Falcon Review

There is always something special about "People on an Odyssey" movies that hits me in the heart

I also can't fathom that this is starring two actors I usually don't care about. 

Shia LaBeouf is an actor that has been on the rise within the last few years. He used to be a guy I couldn't really stand, but he's been really proving himself as an actor in recent years. Maybe he needed to take a step back from the mainstream. Maybe that wasn't centering his true talents. In 2016, he was in the amazing "American Honey," and I couldn't believe just how amazing he was in that. Now, he makes a great starring role in "The Peanut Butter Falcon. "A sweet, sincere and hilarious little movie about finding ourselves through the worst possible circumstances. LaBeouf plays Tyler a thief and fisherman haunted by a terrible past. He gets tangled up with some very bad guys and needs to get out of town.

This brings him into contact with Zak. Zak, played wickedly well by Zack Gottesagen, is a 22-year-old with Down's Syndrome who really wants to be a professional wrestler. So much so that he escapes the retirement home he lives in so he can find his favorite wrestler and train under him. Sadly Zak has no real sense of navigation and feeling bad for him, Tyler takes him under his wing, promising to find his favorite wrestler so he can start training. Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) takes care of Zak, and takes it upon herself to find him. 

At first, it seems like a typical buddy comedy between Tyler and Zak on the way to find the wrestler, but there is so much sincerity in the movie that it all flows away. This is a charming little story, elegantly told. The work by the three main actors is mesmerizing. Gottesagen is true discovery as a performer, and LaBeouf and Johnson have NEVER been this good before. Much like LaBeouf, Johnson is getting much better as an actress, and she was excellent in "Suspiria" last year. Here, she strikes just the right cord, never feeling phony or unrealistic.

This is a special little movie that doesn't come around often. You should check it out.

FINAL GRADE: A 


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Doctor Sleep Trailer



I'm continually curious about this one.

I like that it is connected to the Stanley Kubrick movie, and since that movie is very different from the book, so I look forward to find out how its like the book and the Kubrick movie.

I love all the actors involved.

Its looking good.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: "Ready Or Not" is a wild, kick-ass, dark comedy ride!

Ready or Not Review
Its amazing sometimes how comedy seems to walk hand in hand with horror. When you look at something like slapstick, and you are seeing really awful things happening to people, and the only thing that's making you not cover your eyes is the funny situation of it all. Sometimes the situations presented in horror movies could make good comedies, and if a script was altered just a bit, could be funny as well. I love both genres dearly and when the kowtow the same line, great fun can be had. 

"Ready or Not" is huge fun. It takes a simple premise ripe for both scares and satire, and the crew wrings everything out of it they possibly can. It's brought together by a tremendous ensemble. Its goofy and gory in equal measure, and staying too self-serious but also not so silly that it comes off cheesy. 

Margot Robbie look-alike Samara Weaving plays Grace and when we meet her she's mere hours from getting married. Her soon-to-be husband Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien) has brought Grace to her family's secluded mansion for a beautiful wedding. They are both excited, lubby-dubby. You know the feeling if you're married at this point, its exciting for them and we feel the love. The fast-forwards to the end of the night and the couple is still very happy. Alex has one more surprise for Grace though, in fact his whole family does (that features such wonderful actors, like Adam Brody, Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell). Czerny plays the head of Alex's family and he described a tradition the Le Domas family partakes in every time a member is married. There was a long tradition where a great Le Domas relative made a deal with a mysterious Mr. Le Bail (never seen in the actual movie), where the Le Domas family will stay rich and fortunate if they keep up a certain tradition of Mr. Le Bail's choosing. Since the Le Domas family had several game businesses, they play a game in which a player draws a card, whatever activity shows up on the card, they have to participate in.

So when Grace sits down to choose a card, she chooses "Hide and Seek." Yep, the Hide and Seek game. Seems harmless enough right? She's had plenty to drink, had a fun night, so why not, right?
Unbeknownst to Grace as she goes to hide though, that the Le Domas family plans to kill her. The Le Domas family has to sacrifice somebody to Mr. Le Bail before dawn or Mr. Le Bail will kill them all. Grace eventually catches on to what is happening to her, and she tries to survive the night as Alex betrays him family and tries to help her.

What ensues is a wild mix between "You're Next" and "Clue." A movie that successfully thrills, while also making you laugh out loud at the circumstances. It's a very violent movie, and there are some fun jumps. But this is mostly a thrilling movie, a big bloody ball of fun for fans of this type. Sure, its predictable for most of its sadly brief runtime, but there are a couple of curve balls thrown at the audience, only here and there. The fun is kept alive.

Whatever familiarity you see in this movie is taken over by how crazy a good time you are going to have. So GO and have fun.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Summer 2019, A retrospect

Other than Roger Ebert, the main voices I read in the film criticism world growing up were several online voices. They always talked about the summer movie seasons of the 1980's and how wild and fun that was to grow up in. I sat back always wishing I had a time like that in my own childhood. I didn't go to the movies enough in the 1990's to remember, because those were my formative years. My teenage years I remember vividly and the summers of 2000's were always hit or miss when it came to summer movies. I don't mean each season of each year, but mean month-by-month. I don't really remember the summer movies seasons being by-and-large that great in those days. Until the decade got closer ending, of course. Summer 2007 was good, but 2007 was just an all-around excellent year of movies and summer 2008 was the best summer movie season I ever lived through.

The last few summer movie seasons have been really good and I do wonder what kids and teenagers have been thinking, because its got to be a ball growing up in these movie summer seasons of late.

The summer 2019 was full of surprises. I didn't think I'd have a fun time with the "Child's Play" remake, but I did. I didn't think I'd like the third "Annabelle" movie, but I did. I had reservations on "Brightburn" and didn't think I'd care much, but I did. I wasn't sure how "Midsommar" would live up to the script, but it did. I wasn't sure if a third "John Wick" would live up to the first two, but it did. The summer 2019 defied all expectations.

Which isn't to say that there weren't a few disappointments. I wish I could have liked "Men In Black: International," "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" and I wish "The Lion King" made me forget about the animated movie. But we can't win them all and even the disappointments added to the flavor of what made this season a keeper.

It didn't matter if something came from the mainstream world or the independent world, it seemed like everything was playing at high pitch. Things like "Godzilla: King of Monsters" dazzled just as much as things like "Blinded By The Light" did. You could almost go to your movie house, choose something at random, and you'd be delighted.

Some quick comments on some movies that I didn't review...I wish I could say that "Tolkien," the movie about how J.R.R. Tolkien came to write "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" was something special. It ended up just being another biopic movie. Not much surprising and very much ordinary. A movie that didn't feel like a typical biopic? "Rocketman." This movie did something that I wish more music biopics would do, they turned the life of Elton John into a full fledged musical, and it works. The movie is so much fun and I think everything missing from "Bohemian Rhapsody" was in "Rocketman." "The Secret Life of Pets 2" was just a sequel and not much more. I never got around to seeing "Aladdin."

What was your favorite movie of the summer?

Bring on fall!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

New Joker trailer & some thoughts on the toxicity of FilmGeekDom

This was originally going to be a review of the latest "Joker" trailer and we'll still talk about that. But something else today came to my attention that I think is important. So much so that I feel like I need to vent it out on my blog here.

Times have certainly changed since I was just a mere adolescent into adulthood. There was a time when being a "geek" or a "nerd" were words of insult. Where liking certain things in abundance was seen as something negative. I know growing up, I never let anybody know just how much I was into superheroes or how long I actually played with action figures because I was too scared to get made fun of. People were Trekkies, fans of geeky and nerdy genre stuff, they all had certain stereotypes. They were said to be overweight, have bad neck-beards, have no fashion sense or sense of hygiene, they were virgins and they all lived with their parents way past an acceptable age. To be in line with them was to be given a death sentence.

Then in the last decade or so, something happened. The nerds won and they took over the world. Now comic books, anime, Star Wars and Star Trek is all omnipresent in our daily lives. "Godzilla: King of Monsters" is no longer a movie designed for a niche audience. It doesn't necessarily turn a girl off to have a Batman poster in your room. When a 40-year-old man asked in a Marvel Facebook group I belong to if it was acceptable to have a Marvel themed birthday party at his age, he was greeted with hundreds and hundreds of optimistic comments, including one from me. When I attended the Chicago Comic Convention in 2014, it drew a very diverse group of people, and it was such a wonderful thing to see.

There comes a price to all of this though, and it seems like our culture has downgraded into what I call franchise wars. Hey, its 2019, everything is a cultural war these days, yes? That apparently also includes our pop culture. Earlier today, I had made comments somewhere about how I personally wasn't too excited for the upcoming "Joker" movie and how the new trailer did nothing. For me. PERSONALLY.

Boy oh boy, did I get heat for that.

I didn't even know that there were such things as "Marveltards" but apparently I am one of them.

I saw even at a early age how our culture slowly began to break up into camps revolving around franchises and things from our pop culture. That coupled with the devolution of communication in this country has lead to some nasty habits. Today, its not enough to simply like or love something, now everybody has to be in love with the same things your in love with. If they aren't, then it isn't just another opinion, those people are worst people in the world. And we have to let the "others" know just how wrong they are. Not only that, but we have to absolutely justify our opinions in the most wacky of means. "Oh, the tomato-meter is low on this particular movie...so it must be a conspiracy." "Oh, you didn't like how the Danereys storyline ended in Game of Thrones...you are just too tied to your fan theories." "The latest DC movie got bad reviews...Marvel paid off all the film critics." I read this stuff, and I can't believe that functioning human beings are actually saying these things. I can't just not look forward to the new Joker movie, I have to worship it, or I am just a biased Marveltard and that means my opinion doesn't matter.

It's weird that our entertainment consumption has come to this but hey, everybody acts like little Man-Children these days about everything. Everything is some kind of conspiracy theory. Everything we don't agree with has to be fake news. Because its only real if I deem it real, right? The freedom of speech is a very wonderful, brilliant and luxurious right to have, but we have plenty of sins to answer for. The birth of the internet has only made matters worse. Today, we can hide behind anonymity while we mercilessly bicker with people. Today, we can tell somebody off over this and that, then simply block or mute them on social media, instantly feeling like we "won" the argument afterward.

It's no secret that I am a Marvel fan. I'll even go as far to say that I prefer Marvel over DC. I just love that world and I love those characters and they appeal deeply to me. Does that automatically mean I want DC to fail? No. There's plenty of DC content I like. When I sit down to watch any movie, whether its superhero or not, whether its studio or independent or whether its foreign or domestic, I want to love the movie. I think people would be surprised how few biases I bring into the theater with me. I am also always happy to be wrong about a movie too. But no matter what my reaction is, its always honest. I am not some paid shill, I do all this blogging for free. I am not trying to sell you an agenda or break somebody down. I am just here to tell my reactions to things, good or bad. You are always more than welcome to disagree with me. Just understand that my words are never meant as a personal attack and that the things you love aren't less just because little old me doesn't care for them.

The best conversations I've ever had about film or other geeky things is with people who don't agree with me. Sometimes talking things out can lead to somebody else to unlock other ideas or catch things you didn't quite get the first time. I may never end up liking that same something, but I can at least respect the decision made. Maybe. You can have conversations like this without having the need to convert somebody. We don't all need to like the same things, if something doesn't appeal to somebody else, just move on. It's not a conspiracy, most people aren't trying to look a certain way. We have to understand that movies, music, books, comics, podcasts, shows...it all hits people in different ways. We are all different people emotionally, therefore we all react to different things, and we all need different things emotionally. Don't act like somebody killed your baby simply because they don't like the same things you do.

What kills me is that the internet and other sources play into this bickering on a high level. When somebody who works really close to Warner Brothers says "Joker is so good that it will win Oscars!" I grown out loud. That is such a wildly hyperbolic thing to say and it has no sincerity or urgency to it. How many times has an actor, director, writer, producer, whathaveyou ever mentioned a movie being bad pre-release? It literally never happens, they are supposed to say that kind of stuff. Those types of comments don't make something true simply because somebody close to production says them. Also when a website words an article a certain to draw "debate" to their comment section to drive traffic...yeah that stuff bothers me very much too.

My heart and eyes are much clearer than before on this subject. Simply put, I've been there. I've been the keyboard warrior before. I've been the asshole on the internet. I've been the troll under the bridge. I used to get carried away with the 21st Century Franchise Wars. I've said some pretty rude things to people, both accidentally and purposely, regarding pop culture. I have deemed people enemies for not thinking like me. It makes me sick, and I am genuinely sorry I have done that. From this day forward, I am quitting. I am sick of the franchise wars. I am just going to see the things I want to see and continue to like the things I like.

If you are looking forward to the "Joker" movie. Good. Go see it. Me? I am on the fence. I think Joaquin Phoenix looks good. They've got a great cast. There are some unbelievable shots in the new trailer. But it looks like they borrowed from "The King of Comedy" and "Taxi Driver" too closely. I am personally tired of sympathizing with bad guys in their prequel movies, especially somebody as vile as The Joker. The Joker was always been mysterious and to simply explain him away robs him of his power. Especially giving him such an ordinary upbrining. The whole "society is the real bad guy" motif would have been cool if I was a teenager, but it does nothing for me today. It doesn't even look like a comic book movie, it just looks like a movie about a psycho and DC is just cashing in on an iconic villain.

But, hey, that's just me. Go see it if you want to. Love it for all I care. Just know that I am going to see it too. If I like it, I will tell you. If I detest it, I will tell you. My expectations may be low now, but I am not bringing baggage to the theater. Remember I am reacting to a trailer, and when the movie comes out, the trailers will no longer matter. I am not trying to shit on anyone's feelings, this page has always been talking and celebrating film, and discussing the good and the bad and why we feel this way. I am not being paid by studios to think a certain way, and I don't let my biases rule my feelings. So don't take it as a personal attack if we end up not agreeing.

The nerds rule the world, that should be celebrated


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Review: "Blinded By The Light" is a charming celebration of Springsteen's work, and much more

Blinded By The Light Review
There are two movies playing in 2019 about an Asian man learning life lessons through the music of a legendary rocker. While I thought "Yesterday" was sincere, but ultimately too cute and didn't embrace the fun of its premise. "Blinded By The Light" is a much more grounded tale, and I think it works better in that way as well.

The movie revolves around Javed (Viveik Kalra) a Pakistani teenager living with his immigrant family in smalltown England in 1987. At the height of racial strife in the country, Javed wants so much to be a writer, which greatly upsets his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir). He writes poems and lyrics for a good friend of his, but the friend complains that his words are too depressing. Javed moves into a new school and feels awkward in it. He is only one of two Asian students, but he does quickly befriend the other Roops. Roops is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, and when Javed listens to a little Springsteen, he is inspired by what he hears. 

What's especially remarkable about "Blinded By The Light" is how it highlights how art inspires us. Sometimes its a song you hear on the radio, or a movie you watch in the theater, or a book you read at home. All of this has the power to bring something out of all of us that we didn't realize we had in us. Art can always be so much more than entertainment, art is a reflection of us, it possesses things that we can all relate to. How we choose to handle those relations is up to us. Of course we all need and want different things from our pop culture, but that's why different things inspire different people. I personally don't care from "Twilight," but if that series inspires a young girl to write a classic series of our time, then that is truly amazing.

It seems like Javed has floodgates that open deep inside of him, and he quickly becomes a star writer at his school. He is pushed by his English teacher Mrs. Clay (Hayley Atwell), and Springsteen's music not only pushes Javed to be a better writer, but brings him the confidence to ask out his crush, to stand up to racist bigots, and to be a better person. That's another thing about music, it can bring out the best in all of us. That's what this movie is really about. Finding the confidence we have in all of us. Eventually Javed confronts his father about the kind of man he really wants to be, and that's one of the conflicts that drives the film. It may sound cliche, a young man with great ambitions being tied down by the traditions and needs of the parents. But its handled with realism and care in this movie. 

Some people think that this might only appeal to Bruce Springsteen fans. That's not exactly true, not to me at least. As much as "Yesterday" was the greatest hits of the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen being the center of this universe is actually irrelevant. Springsteen is just the artist used to bring forth the true ideas of the movie (although it is based on a true story). I think the movie gets its ideas across very well and you don't need to be a Springsteen fan in order to really like this movie.

The film is brought to life by a terrific ensemble. Kalra is a revelation here, and he plays Javed as a real person. He's got all the quirks and ticks of a teenage boy, but never comes off one-note or not grounded. Its a great performance. Aaron Phagura is very funny as Roops, the friend that gets Javed into Springsteen. Nell Williams plays Eliza, the eventual love interest of Javed. Their romance isn't cringy or cheesy, it feels very real.

Whether you like Springsteen or not or if you've even heard of him, that doesn't matter. This is a charming little movie that everyone will be able to relate to. It might get a little long near the end and it features some familiar cliches. But overall, this is a gracious, elegant movie. It will make you laugh and it will tug on your heart strings. But it will also lift you up, just like your favorite song.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Monday, August 26, 2019

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker second trailer



Man, it would really shake things up if after "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi" that the big twist in the trilogy was Rey turns dark and Kylo redeems himself, kills Rey and saves the galaxy. Hence, Rise of Skywalker. But let's be honest, if Rey really was turning dark in this new outing, we wouldn't be seeing it in a trailer. They would keep that underwraps. This is all smoke and mirrors. J.J. Abrams is back in the director chair after all, so of course expect all sorts of obfuscation going on before release. It is the Abrams way.

Plus, let's be honest, Disney doesn't have the balls to turn Rey evil. Seriously, I'd love it if it happened. But it won't.

But "Force Awakens" felt like "A New Hope" and they put elements of "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" in "The Last Jedi." So, I am hoping that "Rise of Skywalker" is something original.

As for Rey, its probably a force vision or a bad dream. If you honestly think she's turning evil, your nuts.