Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: "The Disaster Artist" is a hit! It is true! It's NOT bullshit! It is a hit! It is!

The Disaster Artist Review

Oh, hai James Franco. You make good Hollywood movie.

Deep down in my Man Cave at home, I have hundreds and hundreds of movies in my home theater. One of the films amongst my collection is “The Room.” It’s been dubbed the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies, but its also developed a cult status, and has had sold out screenings take place all around the world. Now, why would I buy the “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” and add it to my collection? Possibly for the same reason why its developed a cult status. Don’t get me wrong, “The Room” is a incoherently bad movie, on a narrative and logical level. But there is something about the strange performance of Tommy Wiseau, the director, writer, producer and lead star of the film, which is, dare I say, endearing. The film is so willfully bad that its funny. And its crazy to me that Wiseau set out to make a drama, and ended up making a comedy.

“The Disaster Artist” is based upon a book by Greg Sestero, who was the second lead in the film “The Room.” Apparently, Greg Sestero was an aspiring actor living in San Francisco in the late 1990’s when a met Tommy Wiseau. Tommy was an odd fellow, who loved deep American values and he loved movies. He sounded as if he had an Eastern European accent, but when asked, he would say he’s from New Orleans, Louisiana. Greg was struggling in his acting classes, but Wiseau saw something special in him, and he invited Greg to Los Angeles with him (because he apparently had an apartment in BOTH San Francisco and Los Angeles) so that they could pursue acting together. Just as long as Greg didn’t ask about Tommy’s shrouded past nor talk about Tommy to their peers. After many years of failed attempts to break into the acting scene, they decided to make a movie themselves. Wiseau buys top-of-the-line camera equipment, hired personnel and they got right to work. Tommy never disclosed where he was getting his money from, but apparently costs for the film ballooned to five million. The shooting of the film itself was a nightmare for many involved, simply because Wiseau had no directorial experience.

Greg’s book is intended to be autobiographical and Wiseau claims none of it, if any at all, really happened. But James Franco shoots the book in an honest yet heartfelt way. There are moments of “The Disaster Artist” that are laugh out loud funny, and moments of deep, personal anguish. I always get a tad nervous when movies try to walk the tightrope between drama and comedy, but James Franco pulls it off flawlessly. Not to mention that James Franco disappears into the skin of Tommy Wiseau, becoming the man completely. I don’t know how many of you have actually seen “The Room” or heard Tommy Wiseau talk before, but he does sound like he’s from Eastern Europe and while he seems incredibly nice, he does come off a little odd. James Franco captures that with a powerful accord. I don’t know how Academy voters are going to react to this, but I absolutely believe that James Franco deserves the nomination for Lead Actor this year, as well as a Best Director nod.

The rest of the cast is equally solid. I will let you all in a little secret here, I have never been a huge fan of either of the Franco brothers. I’ve always thought Dave has ranged from good to mediocre, and James absolutely makes me cringe when I watch him in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies. But I have to say that Dave also delivers an incredible performance. Full of innocence and excitement and you feel this, you feel his emotions. In fact, “The Disaster Artist” is filled with lots of actors I do not normally like who deliver some good performances. Zack Efron does some brief yet strong work, and in his couple of scenes, he had me in stitches. Seth Rogen does great work here, as does Alison Brie. Josh Hutcherson. Jackie Weaver. Hannibal Buress. Paul Scheer. Everyone down to the smallest cameo, like Bryan Cranston. Everyone delivers. Everyone makes their moments in front of the camera count, no matter how small their role may be.

“The Disaster Artist” could have been a shameless vanity project. It’s a gamble that it got made in the first place. But what James Franco does is focus on an endearing friendship that buds between two unlikely people. The movie has some insightful things to say about friendship, and how it’s a joy some days and how other days it can be a chore. But it also says that we need to keep our eyes open and try to get to know all the people we meet in our lives, because we never really know if those people will change our lives for the better. Not only that, but the film also has some smart comments on the creation of art in Hollywood. It’s a tough business to break into, and that can sometimes destroy people. But when thinking of art, no matter if its movies or music or whatever, once you’ve created it and delivered it to people, it belongs to the audience. Tommy Wiseau set out to make a drama out of the room, but something else was released in theaters in July 2004. You may have set out to say something with your art, but what translates out to the audience is what it ultimately will be about. I honestly don’t know if I can name another movie that really dissects that creative process in such a funny and smart way.

“The Room” may ended up being a disaster. But James Franco captures that sometimes wild, sometimes enraging, sometimes sincere and all-around crazy time perfectly in his movie. 


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Annihilation trailer 2

From the guy who made "Ex Machina" in 2015.

Making some really exciting Science Fiction.

This film just shot up to the top of my most anticipated films of next year list!

Final "Bright" Trailer

If there is one movie I've been immersed in this year, surprisingly enough to you, it's been David Ayer's "Bright."

I read a few scoop pieces in 2016 about how Ayers was going to regroup with Will Smith from "Suicide Squad" and they were going to make some kind of "fantasy cop movie." Sounded a little weird, a little cheesy and even a little bit fascinating at the same time. During the Super Bowl this year, we saw that small spot, not giving much away. I have to admit, I was intrigued. I started paying closer attention to "Bright," this fantasy cop movie that Ayers was making. I even got my hands on a script for the movie, it was the first script review I ever wrote for my site here. I have to admit, I enjoyed what I read. I plan to give it one more look before next weekend, but I did enjoy what I read.

What "Bright" could be is the first streaming franchise. There is a juicy hook for a sequel at the end the script, and I am hoping the script hasn't changed much. Ayers did say in a recent interview that he really liked working for Netflix, and that they allowed him to make the movie he wanted to make. Sure, he took a little jab at Warner Brothers, but that interview gives me hope that there is no middle party muddying up a good script. Now I can't wait for the finished result. Heck, I even like Will Smith's Big Willie Style persona here. Also since I think Ayers got Smith to give one his best performances in awhile, I have faith.

This hits Netflix next weekend, I am dying to take a look at it.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Review: Gary Oldman delivers all sorts of goods in Joe Wright's "Darkest Hour"

Darkest Hour Review

Did any of you catch the 2018 Golden Globe nominations? If so, then you probably saw that Gary Oldman has been nominated for his work in “Darkest Hour.” After finally seeing the movie myself, it is no surprise whatsoever that has been nominated.

For me, that’s never a surprise when Gary Oldman delivers an unbelievable performance. Because, remarkably enough, this feels like something Oldman is always doing, and I can’t believe he never gets the attention and discussion I feel like he deserves. He should be the male Meryl Streep, though lots more likable. I think this because he seems to vanish in his roles all the time. How can someone watch something like “The Fifth Element” and NOT be totally taken aback when the realize the villain of that movie is Gary Oldman. Or how about his work as Dracula? How is the guy who was in “The Contender” also be the guy in “The Professional” and how is that guy the same guy from “Air Force One” or “Lawless?” My favorite example is Oldman’s work as Drexel in “True Romance.” A role wear Oldman plays a wigger pimp who is viciously ruthless. There is a verbal showdown that escalates to violence between Oldman’s Drexel and Christian Slater. I have seen the movie about a dozen times now, and that one moment still makes me tense up. When I show that movie to friends, they are stunned silent throughout the scene, then finish it with a deep sigh of relief. All in part from Oldman’s talent.

Some actors only disappear into a role once, Oldman made a career out of it. That’s why I totally buy his transformation into Winston Churchill, during the early days World War II, when he was appointed as Prime Minister. Oldman once again completely becomes Churchill, almost as if he evaporated into the skin of the man himself. It looks like Oldman put on a tremendous amount of weight, and I really can’t tell if he actually did or if that is mere movie magic. He completely transformed the way he talks, the way he moves, and he completely reinvented his mannerisms. This is what method acting looks like, and when it’s at its absolute best.

Funny, because the movie is actually full of stellar performances. Lilly James has had an absolutely great year of movies. “Baby Driver” STILL makes me swoon. And now, she caps off the year with another memorable performance. Here, she plays Elizabeth Nel, who was the personal secretary to Churchill throughout the war. It plays out mostly like typical Hollywood, but it never becomes weird or awkward or romantic. And James does great enough work that their subplot counts. Ben Mendelson plays King George VI who eventually appoints Churchill to his position, and he does a fine job here. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Churchill’s wife and she’s as stalwart and stern as he is, Thomas once again displays some raw talent here. Even old Stannis Baratheon himself, Stephen Dillane appears as Lord Halifrax.

Joe Wright has a keen eye for detail here. As it feels like every costume and piece of scenery is absolutely lived-in. Any time I am watching a biography film and it feels like I just stepped off a time machine, that’s a good sign in my book. I don’t like cheap looking sets and costumes, it really is distracting to me. Either it all counts, or none of it does, so I like the extra detail in these biographical films. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is that typical rough-edged, rugged look that appear in most World War II movies, but its totally fitting here. The music by Dario Marianelli is powerfully suiting.

The story of “Darkest Hour” is kind of familiar at first glance. It feels like a movie we have seen before. It feels like an alternate version of “The King’s Speech.” We’ve seen plenty of films where a person of power has to prove themselves during a moment of extreme crisis, and that’s essentially all “Darkest Hour” boils down to. The thing is that Oldman is so unfathomably good here that he makes the good stuff stand out and the mediocre stuff disappear. There have been plenty of movies that were good but were elevated to great thanks to a particular performance, I think a modern example of that is here, Gary Oldman with “Darkest Hour.”

Oh, and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a perfect companion film to this. I can’t wait to have both in my possession and have a nice double feature.


Review: "Wonder" is Wonderful.

Wonder Review

There is a type of movie that I really can’t stand. And it’s the tearjerker. Now, I don’t necessarily mean romantic movies, or sad biographies. I would call something like “The Notebook” a romantic movie, not a tearjerker. Sure, “The Notebook” is sad, but it doesn’t shamelessly rip tears out of your eyes. That’s the type of movie I can’t stand, when its specifically designed to jerk tears out of you. Those emotions are artificial to me, not organic and if I can’t reach an emotional crescendo by myself, then it doesn’t work.

One of the best recent examples of this I can think of is “A Dog’s Purpose.” It’s a movie that came out earlier this year, that I missed in theaters and then finally caught up with when it was hit home viewing. The movie is only designed for people to go clamoring for their tissue boxes, without a story or emotional arc to support it. It simply makes up rules as it goes. The movie basically revolves around a dog who lives the life of a different dog after it dies, then miraculously finds its first owner. It’s a terrifically stupid idea on paper, and I wish I could been present for the pitch meeting for this. Is there any scientific evidence or religious dogma that says dogs just go into the body of another dog after they die? Do they recognize smells from old lives? If so, how? The movie doesn’t even try, it’s too busy trying to jerk those tears out of you.

I didn’t have high hopes for “Wonder,” because I couldn’t get a good read on it. I couldn’t tell if it had a genuine story to tell or if it was going to just set up sad scene after sad scene and win the audience’s affection through waterworks. Thankfully, it’s the former, because “Wonder” is actually a brilliantly told film. Sure, it has its sad moments, but it doesn’t lean on those moments like a crutch. Instead, “Wonder” relies on good acting, good storytelling and genuine emotion in order to reach its audience and it’s impeccably successful in its actions.

Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) is a fifth-grader who has been homeschooled most of his formative career. He has been homeschooled because he’s afraid to go to a real school with peers, he was having a rare medical condition called “mandibulofacial dysostosis” which required much surgery as an infant, and now his face is suffers heavy scarring. Auggie wears an astronaut helmet to cover his face. As Auggie gets older, his parents Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson) worry about his future, and they enroll him at a private school for his fifth-grade year.

Sometimes, the movie feels like its going to be Auggie’s story, and at its center it truly is Auggie’s story. But its also sort of amazing how the movie also focuses on how Auggie affects many people’s lives. The film shows how Auggie’s sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) struggles with her parents constant monitoring of Auggie and how she sometimes feels left out. The film deals with the many classmates of Auggie, some of them friends, some of them friends by the end and some of them not friends at all. The film has some things to say about bullying in our school systems that I found significant. The film deals with Auggie’s principal (Mandy Patinkin) and how a certain teacher (Daveed Diggs) touches Auggie’s life. It’s all handled with a genuine amount of ease. Everything is handled with delicate care and never once feels too bloated with story.

So much of the film hinges on Jacob Tremblay. Who was so powerfully good in 2015’s “Room,” that I can’t say I’m surprised he can carry a movie here. Tremblay is a bright, bold, young performer and he’s got quite the career ahead of him if he wants to manage it. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are always reliable, dealing some good performances here. I have always loved Pantinkin ever since I saw him on Showtime’s “Homeland” and he does some great work in his small, brief moments here. But it’s really Tremblay who really steers this thing. He is funny at moments, tender at others and he is constantly etching in the details.

There are some classic tearjerker moments in this movie. There are many times when Auggie comes home crying, not wanting to go to school the next day. There are some serious family arguments we feel like we’ve heard millions of times before. There are the bullies that grow consciences. There is even a moment when I thought that “Wonder” was just going to become the same kiddie tearjerker like we’ve seen to hell and back, but it didn’t. Not quite. It stayed the course of the new and the fresh and I salute the film for that. There are moments when you think “Wonder” will tip into that territory, but there is so much uplifting entertainment here that feels real that I still really liked it.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trailer Two of "Ready, Player,One"

There is a book I am planning to power through from January to March, and that book is Ready Player One.

The second trailer makes the film look fantastic. Again, we are visually assaulted by popular culture references. This may not be for everyone, because it seems we are living in a world where our popular culture is affecting everything. But perhaps this film will be a comment on all of that, perhaps the movie will have something to say about that. Stephen Spielberg is actually pretty good at hiding mountains of meaning in his movies. Perhaps, he can do the same here?

is that Depeche Mode in the beginning of this trailer? If so, extra points Warner Brothers!

I can't wait for March 30!

TV Review: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Season Five, Episode Two)




Last week, we got a closer look at that weird room in outer space we found Phil Coulson at the end of season four. We learn that the team are trapped on a Kree-ruled space station which seems to orbit a destroyed Earth. This station is well into the future, which means our heroes got themselves into some kind of time jump and are now trapped on a space-ship. We also found out that perhaps Daisy Johnson was the one responsible for destroying the Earth.

The news of Daisy destroying Earth is given to her by Deke, the new character who maybe-a-hero or maybe-a-villain. He explains the theory of a multiverse and how there are millions and millions of versions of ourselves, one making every choice we've ever pondered or gone down a direction in life that we never did in our real lives. I figured it would only be a matter of time before this show started playing with the idea of a multiverse, something that is fairly prominent in the Flarrowverse shows on the CW. No matter how Deke explains it, Daisy doesn't believe that she destroyed her home planet. I wonder how this is going to pay-off by season end. I hope this doesn't boil down to a big battle of doppelgangers, for two reasons. One, we saw a version of that already last season. Two, I have already seen so much of it in the Flarrowverse shows that I have had my fill of it. I hope something more exciting is at the door. 

It will be interesting to see how Deke progresses as a character. By episode's end, it feels like he might be more villain than hero. There is a Kree named Kaisus. He's the ruler of this space station. Apparently, the humans left on Earth blast off into the heavens after "Daisy" destroyed the planet. The space station was intercepted by the Kree and they left Kaisus in charge. Kaisus soon turned into a totalitarian style dictator, who turned the human colonies on the station into slaves. At the end of last week's episode, Kaisus enslaved Jemma. At the end of the episode, Deke leads Kaisus to Daisy Johnson and he soon enslaves her too.

Kaisus is kind of a gladiator-style ringleader. He finds people who can fight, displays their abilities and shows them off only to get them sold to the highest bidder. Most of this week's episode is devoted to Jemma meeting and talking to one of Kaisus' "champions," or people he trains to fight so he can sell them. This little girl in particular is an Inhuman, an Inhuman who can put her hands through things. The gladiator fight that takes place so that Kaisus can attempt to sell this Inhuman is fairly brutal. We are definitely seeing the Friday late night ABC ratings kick in. Because not only do we see a girl who is no older than a young teenager get brutally beaten by a man. But we also see a girl put her hand through his chest, killing him, with an arm covered in blood. Jemma is pretty distraught when her new friend is sold off by Kaisus.

Coulson, Mack, and Yo-Yo are working for Grill, who is a powerful, merciless human who has people forcefully work for him. There seems to be a Mafia-esque hierarchy within the human communities that has sprung from the Kree rule. In order to pay Grill back for anything, you have to work for him. Coulson, Mack and Yo-Yo meet Tess, who gets them out of a day's work for Grill in order to go on a "mission." Coulson is desperately trying to figure out more about this strange, new world. I love that there is a special section of the remaining part of the Earth called "616." If you know your comics, you know what that means. It's the number designated for the mainstream Earth in Marvel comics. There is something special about this piece of land, and it could lead to unlocking the answers of this season. 

Oh, and did I mention that the Earth's surface is crawling with these strange aliens?

One thing is for sure, this season is going to be unlike anything we have seen from this show yet, and that fills me with joy.

What did everyone else think?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom Trailer

I thought "Jurassic World" was fine. Not terrible, not great, but fine. I think all the "Jurassic Park" movies have been the same. Even "Jurassic World," made by a passionate Colin Trevorrow, essentially just made the same movie over again. Now, believe it or not, there was a version of "Jurassic Park 4" that was literally going to involve five humanoid dinosaurs learning how to use guns and talk and save children and kill bad guys. I have written about this idea before and trust me, the script reviews are out there. This was an idea being seriously considered by Universal. The way these sequels have gone, I would love to actually see the dino-mercenaries movie.

"Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom" looks like its going to be the "Dante's Peak" of the franchise. A volcano is erupting on the island of Jurassic World. A protection group for the dinosaurs wants to Chris Pratt to go help bring the dinosaurs back to safety. Because, you know, bringing the dinosaurs to safety has always been a great idea in this franchise.

I am sure this will just be more of the same, but also featuring a volcano. I will admit though, I do like the idea of Jeff Goldblum coming back. I sure hope this isn't just a cameo. The rest of the trailer? I don't really know. I don't know if I'm really curious. I have already seen four movies of dinosaur carnage, do I really need more?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Baby Driver 2? Edgar Wright says yes!

It's no secret that "Baby Driver" was my favorite film of the summer, and still one of the top films of the years for me. I think Edgar Wright has a great ear for dialogue that feels unique and fun, he creates provocative characters. He takes typical pop culture references and delivers something fresh and modern with them. And Hell, the guy can just tell a relentlessly entertaining story. I never would have guessed that we'd ever see a sequel to it. But apparently Edgar Wright is hard at work writing a script for the movie. Apparently, the sequel is getting fast tracked, so we could see it sooner than we think.

“Those talks are already in the works. The deal is being hammered out as we speak. So, hopefully, I’m going to at least write a second one. I’ve definitely got lots of ideas. Whether it’s the next movie, I don’t know. I’m just working that out at the moment, actually. I have a couple of things that I’ve been offered since [the release of “Baby Driver”] I would like to get back in the saddle shortly.” He told Entertainment Weekly, “There were four years between “The World’s End” and “Baby Driver.” I don’t want it to be that long again. I would love to have a film out in the next two years.”

Well, personally, I'd love a new "Baby Driver" in two years. I'd be interested to see if this could become some kind of a franchise. I liked the cast and the fun of the first film, and I think Edgar Wright could really make something outside the box with this series of films, if that is what he wants to do. I'd love to see all those floating "ideas" hatched out onto a screen.

Oh, and it may be a little early for this joke but...would anybody want to bet money Kevin Spacey gets replaced by Christopher Plummer?

More on this as the story progresses.


Review: Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" is minor-key Allen, even with the shocking ending

Wonder Wheel Review

Woody Allen is one of my all time favorite filmmakers. Say what you will about his personal life, but that’s a different conversation for a different day. I responded early to the rhythms of his style and storytelling and very few filmmakers have had such a profound influence on me. Yes, not everything he makes is great, but nobody working in Hollywood has a perfect resume. Yes, it can be argued that he makes the same the movie over and over again. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Does he use the same themes over and over again? I would agree with that. But if you really over-analyzed the careers of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, and Spike Lee, legendary filmmakers have made entire careers out of the same themes. Some actors avoid typecasting while others embrace it. So, to harp on Allen for using the same themes seems a tad unfair. I have to also say that I admire a guy who can churn out a new movie every year, that’s impressive for an eighty-two-year-old man.

Depending on how many Woody Allen movies you’ve seen, and how much you’ve tolerated his style will greatly impact what you think of “Wonder Wheel,” his new film starring Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple and Jim Belushi. Allen uses many of the tricks of his old bag, and at first, it feels like your typical Woody Allen film. Part of the reason I don’t mind that Allen has recycled the same themes is how he’s been able to redefine them with each new film. “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Broadway Danny Rose,” “Shadows and Fog,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Small Time Crooks” are just some examples off the top of my head that deal with the typical Woody Allen themes; cheating, divorce, family drama, forbidden romance, unachieved life goals, all under a New York backdrop. But if you were to binge those movies, they won’t feel like the same movie, story-wise. He’s usually really good about taking familiar themes and molding them into something unrecognizable.

Sometimes though, his movies just go through his familiar motions to no avail. For much of “Wonder Wheel’s” running time, this feels like Woody Allen-light. Kate Winslet plays Ginny. She’s an inspiring actress whose career went nowhere. (get it?) She’s married to Humpty (Belushi) and her married life in unsatisfying (get it?) Ginny’s first marriage failed because she cheated on her spouse, (get it?) and her son from her first marriage lives with Humpty and his daughter from his first marriage, Carolina (Temple). One day, walking on the beach, Ginny meets Mickey Rubin (Timberlake) a lifeguard. Both of them become attracted to each other, despite Ginny being much older than Mickey and already married. No matter, Mickey really likes her and an affair ensues. True Woody Allen fans probably aren’t surprised by any of this, they probably won’t be surprised the moment Mickey coincidentally meets Carolina, he falls for her too!

For much of the running time, “Wonder Wheel” plays like a typical, yet uninspired Allen film. He seems go in circles as Ginny realizes Carolina likes Mickey, and the all-too-familiar family arguments Allen usually writes come into play. I will admit there were moments that made me laugh out-loud. The film is set in 1950’s New York City and that provides for some catchy music, unique costumes and a fun style. The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro creates a bright, dreamy 1950’s Coney Island, which fits the mood perfectly. What also makes this stretch of the film bearable is just how well Allen’s actors are. This is some of the best character work by Winslet that I’ve seen in a while and that’s saying something since she’s always strong. Justin Timberlake is really funny here, and his narration of events fits the style of the film well. Jim Belushi provides some good laughs and I generally liked his work here. Juno Temple has played characters like this before, but that doesn’t mean that she’s bad at it.

Near the end of the film, the movie takes a dark turn. Some may think the film picks up with an ending nobody saw coming. If you’re a seasoned Allen fan, this ending won’t surprise you. Those who saw and enjoyed “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Match Point” and “Cassandra’s Dream” probably won’t be phased. Allen's movies have taken a dark turn before, his characters have sold their souls to The Devil before. For me, “Wonder Wheel” feels like Woody Allen on auto-pilot, even with the dramatic shift in tone right at the end. I think the actors sell it well enough, so I didn’t hate the ending, nor did I hate the experience. I just think Allen is better than this. Even when making one new movie a year, he’s still capable of standing in one spot, stuck in park when he’s ready to accelerate. “Wonder Wheel” is one of those movies.

In recent years, Woody Allen has gone up and down with the quality of his films. Last year’s “Café Society” wasn’t a film I reviewed for the site last year, but I did enjoy it once I caught up with it and I liked it much better than “Irrational Man” and “Magic In The Moonlight” the two years prior. I loved “Blue Jasmine,” which I thought made up for “To Rome With Love” before it. Still, my favorite Woody Allen film of the 2010’s so far is easily “Midnight In Paris” and I think perhaps Allen should make another high-concept comedy set in Europe. For now, “Wonder Wheel” maybe minor key Allen, but he somehow made most of it work. He’ll bump back up again, maybe next year, maybe the year after.


Monday, December 4, 2017

TV REVIEW: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Season 5, Episode 1&2)




Ever since I started writing weekly recaps and reviews of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” the road has been long, wild and often bumpy. There have been times when I have jumped for joy over the show and there have been just as many times when the show left me cold. I don’t think I’ve ever outright hated the show, but I don’t think it’s ever reached its highest potential. That is mainly due to several missed opportunities and not fully exploring a big idea it offered up. But the show has managed to play it fun throughout its successes and failures, which has kept my attention.

I’ve been waiting for the moment when the show was going to mix things up. Albeit, it already has to a degree, mostly thanks to the movie end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was glad that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” graduated to higher place in storytelling instead of just being an “NCIS with superpowers” type show. I like that the show decided to tell a different story each season, with the previous season’s having an impact on the next. I would eventually get bored with the idea that all this organization could investigate was HYDRA or Inhumans or some weird way to mesh both in one season. Introducing Ghost Rider and Life Model Decoys last season was fun, but didn’t provide the great storytelling I was hoping for. Introducing the Secret Warriors, a season earlier was fun, but it never lived up to the potential it should have. All of this evidence to the fact that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was fun, not great, and sometimes coming off as afraid to try to new things.

Telling from the season five premiere from Friday, which delivered the first episodes of this new season, I can tell the show is trying something new. I can say with honesty that this new ambition will hopefully help this season stand out for the show. There is always a little stinger scene, which will have the audience guessing until next season, at the end of each season finale. Season Four’s stinger scene involved Phil Coulson looking out a window into space. What could our dear agents have anything to do with what goes on it outer space? The season five premiere opens with an unidentified bald guy (NOTE: NOT Carl Creel), taking a swim in a pool and evidentially starting his morning routine. Which includes taking off his skin before stepping in the shower. Then he brings a group of heavily armed men to the diner our beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. team was at the end of last season. They are frozen and taken away from this mysterious group, except Leo Fitz.

The next thing we know, Coulson, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons, Mack, Yo-Yo and Quake are all in outer space. They are trapped in some kind of weird space-station, although its inhabited by a small colony of humans. Which may or may not be forcibly there by a group of Kree. Oh, and there are bigger aliens known as “roaches” trying to kill everyone. Oh, and the team is seemingly trapped in the future, and finding that planet Earth has been shattered in two. So, yeah, what the hell is going on, team?

It definitely looks like the writers are proactive in taking this show in a different direction, setting up an entirely new challenge for the team. Personally, I couldn’t be happier for that, I just hope its in the direction of something we haven’t seen before. If this just boils down to the plot of an Inhuman or a HYDRA rogue cell then that will be a disappointment for me. S.H.I.E.L.D. has battled many foes during its run in the comics, and I want to see every corner explored, I don’t want to see the same challenge with a different look every season. Quake discovers at the end of this two-hour episode that humans on this mysterious spaceship use The Framework as a “vacation” from their lives. So, it seems like The Framework will play some kind of role in this new season. Okay, fine. I am game for that. That isn’t a big deal. But if the villain turns out to be another robot, that will be disappointing too. There is some potential in this upcoming storyline, and I hope it leads to satisfying conclusion. I am sure there is some kind of set up that will parallel with whatever happens in “Avengers: Infinity War” this summer, and I am hoping for some fun with that as well.

The cast is as good as ever here. All continually doing good work. There is a new addition here, a guy who kind of reminds you of Star-Lord when you fist meet him. But once you get to know his personality, he’s anything but Star-Lord. This guy’s name is Deke, played by newcomer Jeff Ward. I don’t know what side he’s really on. Before seemingly helping Coulson’s team, he severely hurt Melinda May. He may just be pro-Deke, but we’ll see. He seems to have an interestingly stark personality, and I think Jeff Ward is off to a good start with the character so far.

So, our heroes are trapped in the future, the Earth has been destroyed. They are being hunted by Kree on a ship they don’t know how to get out of. This ship is full of humans who may or may not want to help them. There are tons of people with their own agenda’s seemingly. Oh, and there is a HUGE pest control problem that needs fixing on this big ship. So, it looks like our heroes have their work cut out for them this season. It’s a wildly ambitious move to go off-Earth, and I hope this isn’t something that lasts one story-arc. I am intrigued, so that’s definitely good. 

Review: "Daddy's Home 2" is an unfunny holiday romp suffering from an identity crisis.

Daddy's Home 2 Review

If you haven’t seen “Daddy’s Home 2” yet, but you have seen “A Bad Moms’ Christmas,” then you can go ahead and skip “Daddy’s Home 2.”

It was a little before halfway through “Daddy’s Home 2” that I felt as if I was suffering from déjà vu. I understood why. I watched “A Bad Moms’ Christmas” a few weeks ago and now I am watching “Daddy’s Home 2,” essentially the same movie but the gender of its lead actors reversed. Both feature people getting ready for a big Christmas holiday, both feature lead characters who have a parent of the same gender they are dreading, both feature the whole coming together for a crazy Christmas holiday, both feature a Hallmark Christmas style moral lessons and everyone understands each other at the end. They are basically the same movie, so if you haven’t seen either of them, I’d say flip a coin and whichever film you assign heads or tails is the one you see.

Although, telling from the trailers for both movies, you already know yourself whether or not you want to see either film. I never saw “Bad Moms” so I only had “A Bad Moms’ Christmas” to judge. “A Bad Moms’ Christmas” was fine, but featured too many montages and wasted its talented cast. “Daddy’s Home 2” doesn’t really have any montages, but completely wastes its cast. There is no reason for a film featuring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson, and Linda Cardellini to not be funny. There isn’t a single actor in this entire movie that doesn’t have a good witty line or a fantastic scene of hilarity.

It goes deeper than that though. This is a movie that bulldozes through half a dozen different story threads and sometimes doesn’t finish them or does, but in the most half-assed way possible that the film feels disjointed. “Daddy’s Home 2” doesn’t know if it wants to focus on men with daddy issues, or how families sometimes keep secrets from each other during the holidays, or how children are affected by step-parents and co-parenting or how children can be negatively affected by divorce and separation. This is all tricky terrain to navigate for a drama, so when someone tries to construct a comedy on these themes, that’s even trickier. A smart screenwriter could possibly write a smart, thought-provoking comedy around these themes and still make something crowd-pleasing and entertaining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris only aimed for the easy targets, while bringing up some big issues without exploring them. Don’t let the story fool you, this is a slapstick comedy that never fully explores its characters.

If its slapstick you want, its slapstick you are going to get. But I can’t promise any of the comedy will land. Always telling when watching a comedy is how often I laugh, and I personally have a broad sense of humor. I am almost thirty and still laugh at fart and poop jokes. It doesn’t take much to get me red-faced with laughter, so when an hour and half rolls by and I never cracked a smile, its jarring. Especially with all the funny people in this. I love Will Ferrell. I love John Lithgow. I love the comedy they can produce. Hell, even Crazy Mel can produce some big laughs when given the right notes and direction. Nobody has any memorable dialogue here, nobody has one good line. The film relies heavily on shock humor and slapstick to push the audience along, it is humor for the lowest common denominator.

I never reviewed “Daddy’s Home” on my site. I never got a chance to see it during its theatrical run and I never caught up with it until it reached DVD. I found it to be woefully ordinary, not something that warranted a sequel. But with the cast they brought together for this, I figured they were going to throw the kitchen sink at the wall with humor. Sadly, “Daddy’s Home 2” is an unfunny, holiday romp that seems to be suffering from an identity crisis depending on what else you’ve seen at the theater this holiday season.