Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What is Onward?

What is "Onward?"

Apparently, its an upcoming movie from Disney and Pixar. Thankfully, its not a sequel to the studios impressive stack of movies. They are making something original again. In my mind, when Pixar is working in non-sequel mode, they make some of their very best work. Apparently, Chris Pratt and Tom Holland will be joining Octavia Spencer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the movie. Good to know both Star Lord and Spiderman didn't turn to dust. It looks like for this Pixar movie, they will be taking us to a fantasy world, where Pratt and Holland will be voicing two elves. The two elves will be searching for a special type of magic that will allow the two elves to spend one last day with their deceased father. 

According to my source, the movie will be full of all sorts of fantasy creatures but will not feature any humans. Good. There is always a need to push a human character onto movies like this as if we can't engage in other beings. If anybody can make sure we feel empathy and emotions towards any sort of being, its Pixar. I mean look what they've done with toys and mice and robots and superheroes and monsters and bugs and ghosts and cars and dinosaurs and fish. Hell, even feelings have feelings in Pixar movies. If anything, it will be interesting to see how Pixar bends their own formula. 

I like the cast and I am willing to see a trailer.


Catching Up

This is the time of year where I am watching so many movies at one time, I forget to post a review or thoughts on this website. I do apologize for that. But December is traditionally the month where critics of any kind get ready to release their end-of-the-year lists. I love this time of year. I love trying to sum up what the year meant to me. Of course, there is no event that will have a longer positive affect on me than the birth of my first daughter. That takes the cake this year for sure, and no matter how many ups and downs I had this year, 2018 was a win simply because my daughter was born. But that's completely personal.

When it comes to movies, like every December, I am hard at work. I am re-watching certain movies. I am seeing tons of stuff for the very first time. I spend each week of the month cramming in as many last-minute movies as I can. I've got some reviews I will be preparing for the weekend. But I will say right now, if you need something to rent. Check out both "Searching" and "Peppermint" if you haven't yet. Those are both available to rent, however you even do that these days.

"Searching'' is the best possible example of modern thriller that I can name. If Alfred Hitchcock was omnipresent and was still making movies today, he probably would have made "Searching" himself. I have to admit though, I was ready to hate it. It is structured much like those stupid "Unfriended" movies. The entire movie takes place on a computer screen or cellular device screen. There is never any regularly filmed actor action. The whole thing is told through technology and screens. John Cho plays a loving father who is trying to cope with his daughter after his wife is killed after a long battle with cancer. One day, she goes missing. The entire movie is how the father uses technology to learn what happened to her. Even though there is a unique hook that the entire movie rests on, the movie still carries every bit of emotion, every tense bit of set-up, and keeps you well on the edge of your seat. Sometimes movies that are built on a gimmick hardly work, but "Searching" definitely delivers the goods. Whatever you think is going to happen by the end of the movie, let me tell you, it ain't happening!

"Peppermint" stars Jennifer Garner. Its pretty much set up like another "Death Wish" style movie. A woman's entire family is gunned down by bad guys. She tries going after the bad guys the legal way. It doesn't work because of a wrongheaded, corrupt system. So she takes the law into her own hands. Its a movie we've seen a thousand times before. So in a situation like this, what I look for the most is how much I care about the characters. I love a movie where somebody kicks lots of ass, but do they deserve that time to shine? Garner throws herself at this role, and it pays off in a big way. There is just enough emotional heft to make it count. I may not be over-the-moon for the movie, but I highly recommend it!

I was reading online last week and came across an idea that a film critic I like is going to approach. I was so inspired by the idea that I think I am going to take it on myself. Every year, anybody who is a critic of anything, whether its movies or TV or books or comics or food...makes a top ten list of the year. More often than not, no matter what someone writes and no matter how respected they are, people will just argue their list. "This should be higher on the list! This should be lower on this! Where's this, that and other thing!" You see it everywhere on this time of year. Even the legendary Roger Ebert has been quoted as saying "Nobody says my list is just fine." What is it about entertainment that makes us so defensive? And what is it about the number ten that each list maker has been following for the end of year since the dawn of existence? Does it have to do with the ten commandments? Just a guess.

I think I've always done a good job making top ten lists every year. But there is certainly more than ten movies that define my movie year. Thankfully on my own site, nobody has been openly hostile, but the biggest complaint I get every year is "Shawn, I haven't heard of half the movies on your list." I get it. I'm a movie nerd. I look under every rock trying to find anything and everything that I can possibly watch. I watch stuff that I think looks bad, simply to see if there is anything good hidden inside. If you picked a movie at random, I would probably happily sit down to watch it with you. Its just the way I'm wired. So why not make a list that focuses on that wiring issue? Without making it so long that it just comes off as a big list of movies?

So I'm going to try this...

There are five movies I have in my head right now from 2018. They are movies so special that they tower over everything else I have seen this year. Those are definitely my top five and I will publish a top five and discuss why I love those movies so much. Go ahead and try to guess them if you wish, but I can assure you, its not the top five you think it is. Along with the top five, I am going to publish a list of 25 more movies that I found essential during 2018. Things I watched repeatedly, things that hit me on a personal level, things had a certain feature that I thought made the year memorable... all of those will be published in the 25 list. Alphabetically, with no rankings whatsoever! With a brand new format, I hope that you guys will engage with the list in a brand new way.

There is still plenty of stuff I am planning on seeing before the years over, so this could change. Maybe the top five will become a top six. Maybe some things I am thinking of adding will fall by the wayside. I don't know. I just think 30 is a decently paced list where you can a really good understanding of just how good 2018 truly was. Only time will tell though. My list isn't coming till January though, because I work until the very end of the year to see everything I possibly can!

Enjoy the rest of the year and stay tuned to January.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Godzilla: King of Monsters second trailer

When Hollywood began its marketing for "Godzilla" in 2014, I loved just how chilling many of the trailers were. Because lets face it, it would be creepy as shit if giant monsters where just walking the earth. Especially if one of them breathed fire. While the second trailer of "Godzilla: King of Monsters" is a little bit more playful in tone. We are looking at an apocalyptic landscape of a world being torn apart by a monster war. Its thrilling, but its equally chilling.

We've got a landslide of wonderful actors in this. Vera Farminga, Sally Hawkins, Kyle Chandler, Zhang Ziyi, Charles Dance and Bradley Whitford all in the same movie gives me many happy thoughts. Millie Bobby Brown who has grown immensely from her popularity on "Stranger Things" looks like she's having a good time here. I also love that Ken Watanabe returns for seconds in this movie. So on the human side of things, we've got a great cast to look forward to.

The monsters themselves are quite lovely I must say. We get Mothra, the giant moth. We get a good glimpse of Godzilla. We get a good glimpse of Rodan and King Ghidorah too. All of the monster designs are breathtaking. We got introduced to Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah at the end of "Kong: Skull Island." But I don't think we can count on a King Kong appearance. I am sure they are saving him for the Godzilla versus King Kong movie that is on its way. This movie is bound to be a monster overload. So exciting.

Review: Netflix's "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" is neither a children's movie or a blockbuster

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle Review
Andy Serkis is our great digital star. From portraying Gollum in "Lord of the Rings," to King Kong in Peter Jackson's recent remake of "King Kong," to Cesar in the "Planet of the Apes" prequel trilogy" all the way over to Supreme Leader Snoke in the latest "Star Wars" movies. He's certainly helped change the way we view special effects in Hollywood and pioneered what actors could do along with the new technology. Its always a pleasure to see an artist push themselves, trying once again to break new ground. Andy Serkis has now stepped into the director's chair for "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" which yet another live-action retelling of "The Jungle Book."

Serkis' movie has had a rough upbringing. It was originally made in 2016, but he there was time set aside for technology to catch up ever slow slightly to fit Serkis' vision. Plus Paramount Pictures wanted to distance themselves from Disney's "The Jungle Book" that came out that same year. This was bound to be yet another example of Hollywood studios going toe-to-toe with identical material. Every once in awhile movies with the exact same premise find themselves battling for the dollars, and one is usually triumphant and the other loses. Serkis' "Mowgli" kept getting pushed back until Paramount didn't know what to do with it. So they did what any studio would do in this day and age, they sold the movie to Netflix!

Netflix has released the film this passed weekend. And Disney's "The Jungle Book" is still so fresh in memory that its hard to set that film aside while watching "Mowgli." Although, I will praise Serkis for not simply doing a simple adaptation of the Jungle Book. Rudyard Kipling had many writings about Mowgli and the Jungle, and I've never read his stories. So who knows how book accurate this movie is. But its certainly not a children's movie. "Mowgli" is a rather mature portrayal of Mowgli and his animal friends. Well, at least most of the time. Tone is the biggest and most noticeable problem with "Mowgli." Serkis is caught between making a kid-friendly movie and also making a Jungle version of "Lord of the Rings." There are definitely some cool decisions and its often bracing at times. But the tonal shifts are so limp and so confusing that its hard to focus on the film.

Focus seems to have gone every which way during the making of "Mowgli." Not only is tone a huge problem, but so is deciphering what the movie is about. I think overall its about a boy who gets lost in the jungle and he's having a bit of an identity crisis. Is Mowgli a being of the jungle or is a boy destined to be a man? That's a good story to tell, especially when using characters from "The Jungle Book." But I'm not entirely sure that's this movie. At least not for the most part. I can't tell if Serkis is also telling a story about jungle politics. I can't tell if telling a story about man's fear of the unknown. I can't tell if he's telling a simple good guys versus bad guys story. Or maybe he's telling a story about a boy who wants to fit in? Its tough to tell and there being no focus in the storyline can be daunting at times.

But maybe you won't pay attention to all the narrative flaws. Because my freaking god is this movie gorgeous to look at. The animal designs for Bagheera (Christian Bale), Kaa (Cate Blanchet), Baloo (Serkis), Shere Kahn (Benedict Cumberbatch), Raksha (Naomi Harris), Akela (Peter Mullen) and any all other animal characters is beyond top-notch. There was a mesh of special effects and motion capture that brought the animals to life. How motion capture played into is anybody's guess but its definitely kind of freaking and kind of remarkable to see a Christian Bale-like face on that of a panther. Certainly an interesting choice that I think overall did payoff. Its a gorgeous, gorgeous movie and it certainly seems like Serkis is channeling Peter Jackson after years and years of working with him.

I think Rohan Chand is a great Mowgli, and I think he did exactly what the script calls for. The other humans are bit of a letdown. Simply because, absolutely nothing is done with them. Mowgli makes his way into a human village. He meets and befriends Messua, played by Freida Pinto. She becomes a surrogate mother. At least I think so, I am pretty sure Pinto barely speaks the entire movie. Her subplot has absolutely zero development. There are human characters here that are simply too wooden for my taste and the human village detour is a story plot that goes nowhere.

When its all said and done, I think you'll have a great time thinking about how "The Jungle Book" did better and had this been a real box office battle, Disney would have prevailed. Instead of getting lost in this movie, you play the compare and contrast game, which I'm sure wasn't the intent.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Avengers 4 trailer is here...and the official title is...

It was back in October 2014 when Kevin Feige announced the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three. He announced we'd get movies like "Doctor Strange" and "Thor: Ragnarok." He told us "Black Panther" and "Captain Marvel" and "Captain America: The Serpent Society" were on the way. By the end of the night, even that was a huge joke...leading the official announcement of "Captain America: Civil War." There was even an announcement for an "Inhumans" movie that never happened. But the biggest announcement of that night was announcing "Avengers: Infinity War" and at the time we'd get "Infinity War: Part I" in 2018 and "Infinity War: Part II" in 2019.

Since then, Marvel has done some course correcting. They made room for "Spider-Man" and more "Ant-Man." They took "Inhumans" out. They bumped "Black Panther" to a different release date. Things have been moving along and we finally got to "Avengers: Infinity War" last year. Which ended on a crazy cliffhanger. Long before the release of "Infinity War," Marvel announced that the fourth Avengers film would not be Part II. That the fourth film would have a style and story of its own. The title has been kept secret, for almost a year. I was kind of baffled. Infinity War ended on a cliffhanger, of course this is Part II even if they didn't want to call it Part II.

Speculation went into overdrive. What will the movie be called? Some said "Infinity Gauntlet" following the stories in the comics. Some suggested "Annihilation" and even "Endgame" became popular. Well, everyone that guessed "Endgame" ended up being correct. It was announced with the first teaser trailer that "Avengers 4" is officially called "Avengers: Endgame" and it will be arriving in theaters on April 26th, 2019. I can't fucking wait.

Some Marvel fans have been picky about this trailer. I get it, even if I wholeheartedly disagree. They are called "TEASER TRAILERS" for a reason. They are meant to tease, and I think it certainly did that. None of our surviving heroes are in a good place. Stark is stuck in space, presumably with Nebula, and he's running low on food, oxygen and morale. Back on Earth, Banner, Black Widow and Cap are all crying and distraught. Their Avengers building in upstate New York all but abandoned. Thor wears street clothes, looking sad. We only see Thanos' armor hung like a statue to be canonized and worshipped. While we see only his arm, still donning the destroyed Infinity Gauntlet, walking around his planet. There are absolutely no action pieces, and there is real not indicator of where the storyline is going to go. I was a little disappointed to see no sign of Rocket either.

But we DID see Hawkeye, but he's not Hawkeye anymore. He's in his full Ronin gear, and he's looking sad. The main theory that I am sure is correct is that Hawkeye's family that we met in "Age of Ultron" disappeared after Thanos' snap, which of course led Hawkeye to mentally snap. But man, does he look cool in his Ronin garb.

No sign of Captain Marvel either, but I am sure Marvel will release a full "Endgame" trailer in March, presumably sometime after the release of her movie on March 8th. Rest assured though guys, Brie Larson is set to appear in the fourth film. Nick Fury didn't call her for no reason.

I love this trailer. I love that we finally got something. Its small, but its breaking the internet faster than Wreck-It Ralph did. It's setting a huge tone and I can't wait to discuss what else happens, what the story will be and what certain scenes mean. (There is a big theory going around that the Scott Lang we see in the trailer isn't really Scott, but a Skrull) So have fun hatching those and Marvel has done it again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review: "Ralph Breaks the Internet" doesn't necessarily break the first film, but its still good

Ralph Breaks The Internet Review
"Wreck-It Ralph" was a fun little awesome movie. Its no surprise it rang so true to many people. It was a clever take on video game culture and the tropes that have materialized from it, and that's saying something coming from Disney Studios. There were some fun parodies of classic video game characters. All of this was swept into an engaging story for people of all ages told with characters that stole hearts. Sure, the movie just boiled down to a typical Disney "Be a good person and eat your vegetables" fable, but the fun and characters ultimately won me over. They seemed like they won over tons of people. Plus, the left and right slugs to the video game world was fun to see too.

So of course we get a sequel, and while its six years later, its clear that there is still gas left in this tank. The film has been doing well at the box office so far. But money has never been an issue with me, I don't care how much money a movie makes. All I care about is how good a movie is. good is "Ralph Breaks the Internet?" Overall, its pretty good. I don't know if I would call it a better movie than the first, but "Wreck-It Ralph" almost felt one-of-a-kind. I would have loved another movie dealing with video game culture, but perhaps they told all the story they could with that venture. And the only other option was to tell the story they present here.

The movie picks up in real time. Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are still the best of buds. They love playing in their designated video games. But Vanellope in particular is getting tired of the same thing every day. These fictional games our main characters inhabit are supposedly old and these characters have seen everything. All hidden tracks, all hidden characters, there is no more maps to clear, no new territory to discover and no more Ermacs. Ralph wants to help his bored friend, so he is able to create a new race course in Vanellope's racing game. While Vanellope loved Ralph's efforts. Ralph accidentally breaks down Vanellope's game and the arcade owner shuts the game down. Leaving all of the characters from Vanellope's game "homeless." The arcade needs a certain amount of money to fix the game, money the arcade doesn't have. 

So Ralph does what we usually see in these Disney movies. He goes on an adventure to get the money. By trying to make money on the internet. Because we all know how hard and frustrating that can be. As much as the first film was a comment on video game culture, Disney does a great job commenting on the internet. Sometimes, surfing the net can feel like the digital wild west, that's exactly what the internet looks like in this movie. A big, loud, free-for-all and its all overwhelming to Ralph and Vanellope, just as it can be overwhelming to anyone whose never used it before. I really dug the look of the inside of the internet in this movie.

The voice work is top-notch here. Our favorite characters from the first film, voiced by Jane Lynch, Jack McBayer and more. Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Hensen give voice to two newest characters, Gadot voices a character from an online video game and Hensen gives voice to an algorithm of a YouTube parody, and they do wonderful work here. Fans of all things Disney will have a fun time with the characters and their voices. The scene in the trailers where Vanellope meets every single Disney Princess features voices from nearly all the original movies, even going back years. There is also a scene where Vin Diesel voices Baby Groot, and Stan Lee snuck in one last cameo. So there are little things that people will soak up and enjoy.

The thing is, this story is really no different from the first film. Ralph, whether he's trying to do good or do bad, ends up just breaking stuff. No matter how hard he tries, he ends up ruining good things for those he cares about. Then he learns his lesson and he has to repair the damages he created. Sure, he's not concerned about being a villain anymore. But now he's trying to be a good friend, and how that can consume someone under circumstances. The film resolves itself using the spine of the first film as a blueprint. 

The film is certainly very clever once again and I am sure many people of all ages will find something to enjoy here. But underneath it all, its just another sequel. Albeit an enjoyable one.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Review: "Bodied" is the most original, most daring, and one of the absolute coolest movies of 2018!

Bodied Review

In a world where our local movie theaters are bombarded with superhero flicks, book adaptations, true stories that aren't true and movies based on something your grandpa liked when he was six, its hard to push for originality. Its even harder when the studios are more business-oriented than they've ever been in history. If you want a movie that's even remotely original, you really have to work to find it. Don't get me wrong, I have truly liked a lot of the movies that fit those descriptions above. But over-saturation of anything in the market isn't good for it. Film will only stagnate if studios refuse to try anything new. If you are willing to do that legwork, it can be big fun for you as an individual. I had one of those experiences today. 

I am kind of surprised that "Bodied" isn't getting the mainstream big weekend opening I think it deserves. Its a movie being produced by Eminem, and you'd think that he could create a decent brand name for himself. He is one of the biggest rap stars in the business right now, for better or for worse and his name could easily sell tickets. I think a movie about rap battles could do fairly well in a movie theater too, I mean, who remembers just how popular "8 Mile" was at the time in 2002?

"Bodied" was directed by Joseph Kahn and at first, I thought Kahn was really starting to branch out into new territory. And truly he is, but he is beginning to create a visual signature that is very much him. He is beginning to punctuate his movies with his own unique style and I can't wait to see how his career progresses. You may know Joseph Kahn. I was ready to write him off in an early age with the awful "Torque" that came out around 2004. Then he made a short film adaptation of Power Rangers, which you can bootleg online for free without going to prison if you know where to go. Its badass but its weird watching it because badass isn't necessarily how I'd ever describe Power Rangers. Kahn really got on my radar though with 2012's "Detention" and if you haven't seen that movie yet, oh my God are you missing out. Its another film that just feels original, almost like punk rock. It's a John Hughes-esque teen movie wrapped in an alien invasion with a character that feels like they should be in "The Fly" with Jeff Goldblum. On paper, it doesn't make a lick of sense, but its so confidently brilliant that you will hand yourself over to it.

Joseph Kahn has made yet another weird masterpiece in the form of a rap battle social satire. Again, I would have never guessed that rap battle and social satire would go together. But when you take time to think about it, of course it makes sense. Rap music has always been smothered in social ques and history, why would it be any different now? It isn't just about rap battles though. Calum Worthy plays Adam and Adam is a college student at Berkeley. He is writing his thesis paper on using the n-word in rap music and to research, he goes to a rap battle competition. He somehow gets wrapped up in rapping at the battle himself and he quickly swept away in his research, and also battling on his own. 

The movie is pretty reminiscent of "Fight Club" in some ways. There is a dark tinted cinematography that really highlights the themes of the movie. We also watch as Adam slowly falls down this strange rabbit-hole of a world where anything goes, where you can say anything in order to win a battle. If you are a racist, sexist, asshole in a rap battle, does that mean you are a racist, sexist asshole in real life? Does your rap battle persona a reflection of who you are as an individual? For a movie based on its concept, I think people will really be surprised just how deep "Bodied" cuts and just how clear-eyed it is in its convictions.

Its a movie that plainly states that context matters. That's important, because its driving me nuts today. We are living in a world where everyone gets offended by what somebody says or what somebody does and in most cases, its all false reaction. We are not taking time to really research and understand what others say and do, we simply do the simple task and read a headline or look up a carefully curated quote and think we have all the answers based on tall tales and half truths. We are living in a world where a person of power literally said truth isn't truth. This should scare us all but at the same time, it should remind us that the context of what someone says or does matters and that's what we should be looking for in our news, other media and everywhere now.

I will say that Calum Worthy can act and he sure as shit can spit some game. In fact, the movie is filled with rappers I've never heard of but who can give up some decent performances. Charlamagne tha God, Dumbfoundead, Big T, Daylit...I've never heard of any of these guys. But they sure can act. To be honest, the only guy you'll recognize is Anthony Michael Hall, and he does good work here. I love it when casts of complete unknown come together and rip shit up in the best possible way. Which is exactly what happened here.

YouTube Originals have made a gigantic leap forward this year. I have yet to watch a single episode of Cobra-Kai but I hear its amazing. "Bodied" is freaking amazing too. Absolutely unlike anything playing in cinemas right now. A defiant original, and showcases what Hollywood has forgotten over the years. How originality and creativity will always triumph over familiarity.


Review: "The Grinch" is a fun little update.

The Grinch Review

I recently rewatched the 2000 "The Grinch" movie, the one where Jim Carrey pretty much disappeared into the role of the Grinch. That snobby, green monster who pesters the Who's of Whoville and isn't a big fan of Christmas. The film that was directed by Ron Howard. I remember it was one of the worst reviewed movies of that year. When I originally saw it, I was in 5th grade and I remember seeing it in a sold out theater. I still think the make-up is beyond effective. But it is kind of a goofy movie, although I am not sure its still one of the worst movies of that year.

The Grinch story is pretty straightforward story. There is a place called Whosville, and the Who race of that town LOVE Christmas. They spend many a time decorating, buy, selling, wrapping, cooking, baking, all-things Christmas. There is also a Wh- or whatever The Grinch is, there's a green monster who lives in a cave-of-sorts on the outskirts of Whoville and he despises Christmas. So much so that he plans to steal the holiday away from the Whos. His plan is successful, but instead of feeling despair, the Whos embrace what the holiday actually means, which changes The Grinch's feelings on the holiday as well. It's a story we know and it is easily digestible.

Illumination doesn't really try to reinvent the wheel here. They've certainly added content that, if I remember correctly, wasn't in the original story by Dr. Suess or the original 1966 animated film. The film features the same exaggerated, cartoonish animation we've come to expect from the studio. There is a lush, colorful quality to it that is quite beautiful. Just like the "Despicable Me" movies. Movies like this come out to appease the children. They will love the animation, they will love the goofy nature of the movie, they will love the laughs. 

I'm sure all audiences will get a kick out of it. I for one, laughed quite a bit throughout the film. There are a bunch of funny situations in the movie. Benedict Cumberbatch's voice work is, as expected, incredible. Cumberbatch has got one of those voices that would be perfect for the character, and trust me, he uses it well. He helps set the fun mood of the entire movie. The scenes added to the movie are set in order to make you laugh. This is a movie that aims only please.

Because of that aim, its really hard for me not to recommend it. Its a great holiday movie and a wonderful movie to watch with your family this season.


Bigger Captain Marvel trailer

Last night during Monday Night Football, Marvel dropped a longer "Captain Marvel" trailer. Oh man, is really awesome. We get a bigger glimpse of Carol Danvers, and watching her in action with her powers is pretty sweet. It looks like she takes on an entire galactic fleet of some kind by herself, and like I said, its freaking cool.

We get some glimpses of Samuel L. Jackson, looking eerily young thanks to today's CGI, Annette Benning and Jude Law. We learn that Skrulls are going to play a big role in this movie, as the trailer opens with Captain Marvel fighting an old woman. It also looks like the movie will take place during the Kree-Skrull War, a very popular storyline from Marvel comics. Where Earth got caught in the middle of a space war between two alien empires. If you've been watching "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." then you've already learned a little bit about the Kree from that show. They also appeared in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie.

I have to say that this looks really cool.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

I say the Avengers 4 trailer is imminent. I just don't know how soon.

The new year will be upon us shortly, and with it a new slew of movies we look forward to devouring in the upcoming year. One of those movies that we are all hotly anticipating is, no doubt, "Avengers 4." We know it won't be called "Avengers 4" but that's the working title right now. In October 2014, it was announced that "Infinity War" would be two parts, but after some work, Marvel told us that they are two separate stories and that "Avengers; Infinity War" will just be Infinity War and the fourth Avengers film would have a separate title. Even though its said that the main antagonist will once again be Thanos.

I am not going to tapdance around spoilers. The movie came out in April, it seems like nearly the whole world saw it in theaters. Its available to buy on DVD right now. If you are reading this, you've most likely seen the movie. There's a reason why Thanos is returning. Since "Thor: The Dark World" Marvel has been teasing the Infinity Stones and the gauntlet, a powerful resource that allows the user to become a god. Since 2012, Marvel has teased Thanos, and made it clear he's looking for the stones. In the comics, Thanos collects the gauntlet, the stones and kills half of life in the universe. In the movie, he did exactly that. He collected the stones, he snapped his fingers. Now half the universe is gone and the heroes who are left are now wallowing in their defeat. Whatever happens in "Avengers 4" our heroes are getting some payback.

Information has been abysmal at best. We don't even know the title of "Avengers 4" yet because it would spoil the movie according to Marvel. We usually get a new Marvel movie in May, and so we usually get the trailer for the movie the November before. Fans have been patiently waiting for a trailer to hit this month, and yet it hasn't happened yet. Marvel President Kevin Feige has said that we will get the "Avengers 4" trailer before the end of the year. But people want it now. There is also another piece to this puzzle. Marvel will release a prelude comic, giving a small preamble of events before the movie leading up to the May release. The first prelude comic is being released on December 5th 2018. That's next week. There has been a prelude comic book for each MCU movie. We will have to know the title by then right? The comic book is going to have the title of the movie on it, right? Usually, a trailer is released before the prelude comic, so fans can get a taste of what to expect. Will Marvel release this prelude cold turkey?

There was a special event last night. Avengers Directors Anthony and Joe Russo hosted a special screening of "Avengers: Infinity War" last night with a Q&A with the directors afterward. When that was announced, fan theories went into overdrive. Everybody was sure we'd get a trailer yesterday. Everybody was sure people in attendance of the event would see the "Avengers 4" trailer. Or, at the very, very least, get the mysterious title. Here's what happened according to someone who was in attendance last night:

Man. Now that's what I call secrecy. There was absolutely no discussion of "Avengers 4" at all!

And...there was this...

I'm sure fans in attendance of last night's events were pissed. Hell, even I can't wrap my head around the point of getting the directors together for a screening of a movie everyone's seen already if they weren't going to dish something about "Avengers 4," literally what's the point? No new information on "Avengers 4." No trailer. No title. Nothing. And the revelation that we didn't get the trailer last night (as you all know) and we won't get it today at all. The Russo brothers are really keeping their fanbase on pins and needles. I know there is outrage everywhere on social media. Many fans were so sure we'd get the trailer by today. Now that's not even a possibility.

My guess? It will drop Friday or sometime over the weekend. With the prelude comic coming out on the 5th of December, I would be surprised if we DON'T get the trailer by the weekend. I will also be surprised if we get no trailer and they release the prelude. Maybe they will release the trailer, title and prelude comic all on the same day. All I know is, it isn't 2019 yet, so technically nobody has lied yet.

But I'd be lying if the suspense isn't killing me...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: Kurt Russell dazzles in the ordinary "Christmas Chronicles"

The Christmas Chronicles Review
If Netflix has proven anything in 2018, its that they are really starting to push their budgets towards some big material, and they are really starting to draw some big, exciting names into their playhouse. I still really love "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" by the Coen Brothers. I never would have guessed that the Coen Brothers would make something for a streaming service, but never say never, huh. Not only that, but their movie could very well end up in the Oscar race, which would be big for the streaming service. We are also getting "Roma" and "Mowgli" later this year, and those feel a little bit bigger than average for the streaming service. They seem to be moving forward in a big way, making some ambitious choices.

I can see that even more with "The Christmas Chronicles," a big-budget Christmas spectacle. A movie that has a dozy of a Kurt Russell performance in it. Its a movie you can curl up on the couch with your whole family to watch. Which I am sure will appeal to many. There are moments of laughter, and moments of sincerity. Its the perfect type of movie to watch with your family this year. And when you don't have to brave the cold weather (the snow and the cold sure came early in the Midwest this year), and when you don't want to pay so much for movie tickets and snacks, this can be a wonderful alternative.

I'm sure kids will find much of it funny. What will parents think? Well, I am sure it depends on the adult in question. Some may think its a Disney Channel movie that's a little quirkier than usual. Darby Camp and Judah Lewis play Kate and Teddy Pierce. They are two siblings who have had a happy home for many years, that happiness is rattled with the sudden death of their father. Teddy, the oldest, becomes a rebellious sort, and a bit of a juvenile delinquent. Kate is still very much wrapped up in the magic of Christmas, simply because it makes her think of her father so much. One night, the two are home alone as mom has been working much harder to support her children. When Kate thinks she sees Santa Claus, the siblings hatch a plan to capture him at their house when he comes down the chimney.

Sure enough, they capture Santa Claus, and after some running around chasing him through their neighborhood, Santa has lost his reindeer and is sleigh. The problem is Santa, played by Kurt Russell, has only a few hours left in order to deliver the rest of the presents around the world. If he fails, people will begin not to believe in him. A non-belief in Santa Claus led to the Dark Age and some other darker moments of our history, so Santa can't stress enough how important it is. So he enlists the help of the Pierce children to find his items.

The movie that follows is pretty straight forward. Like I said it plays like a Disney Channel type movie. Even a kind of Halmark type episode. All of the movie's big themes are easy to follow. The big reveals can be seen a mile away. There is nothing that is going to surprise the audience here. Even the ending cameo is easy to pinpoint. What makes the movie fun is just how much fun Kurt Russell is having as Santa Claus. It's pretty clear that he's having a ton of fun, so the audience goes along with him. This is a Santa Claus that will steal a sports car to catch up with his reindeer. This is a Santa that knows your history and thoughts. He will tell you what is a myth about his mythology and what is fact. It's a fun, modern interpretation. Had the movie focused on this different Santa and not brought in the cliche storyline with the children, I think the movie would have been stronger overall.

But let your families decide this film's history in the family movie pantheon. This could be a big step forward for Netflix and I can't wait to see what others think of this one.


Artemis Fowl Trailer

I read the first book of this series, "Artemis Fowl" when I was in fifth grade. I kinda remember liking the book, but to be honest, I don't really remember it very well. It's been a LONG time and I never really pursued the rest of the series. I remember Artemis Fowl being an anti-hero, a criminal mastermind who existed in a world of fairies and magic, but I don't really remember much else. So I will be seeing this through brand new eyes.

Even though Artemis Fowl is a Young Adult series of books, it seems like a gamble by Disney. This isn't the typical fairy tale type story from them and I will be interested to see if they get an anti-hero that is kind of for children in seats and make this a hit. I will say this much about Disney, they sure can put together a good-looking trailer. Thats what "Artemis Fowl" has, a good-looking trailer. Let's see if it make this one a go.

Lion King Trailer

So how did you spend your Thanksgiving?

Me? I had family over and we ate a delicious, familiar Thanksgiving dinner. I got a good run in with my older brother. I took him to Studio Movie Grill, the best dine-in theater in my area. It was a great holiday. I also got a chance to check out the first trailer for the upcoming "Lion King." The remake by Disney being directed by none other than Jon Favreau. Favreau did an outstanding job with "The Jungle Book" in 2016, so I have no doubt that he'll do a good job bringing this one to life.

Its hard to really call this live action, I mean they didn't train a bunch of animals to talk, this is all computer based CGI effects. But they do look astounding and the cast seems close to perfect. I loved the trailer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review: Jordan, Stallone and Lundgren make "Creed II" a knockout

Creed II Review
As myself, my brother and my father shambled out of the theater last night after seeing "Creed 2," we mused about spin-off movies are usually put in place by studios to milk a few more dollars out of a dead series. I felt "Rocky Balboa" put a nice bow on the "Rocky" movies. I had uneasy expectations when "Creed" rolled out, but they proved pretty quickly that "Creed" was a sure investment. Not bad for a spin-off movie, not bad at all. But to get a good sequel to a spin-off? That seemed more than unlikely.

It looks like MGM, Sly Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, and the wonderful crew behind "Creed 2" were determined to make this count. A sequel to a spin-off is in theaters right now, and it works. Is it as good as "Creed?" I'm not sure at the moment, I got to watch that movie again soon. To be honest, I don't care. "Creed 2" fits in really well with the first movie. It is a continuation of the themes and ideas put forth in the first movie. I am not sure it puts the title character, Adonis Creed (Micheal B. Jordan) in any sort of new situation. But "Creed 2" is so confident in itself that it entertains overwhelmingly. Yes, its formulaic. But sometimes, formula works in this business and the confidence I eluded to is key.

What sells this sequel is the characters themselves, and the actors who play them. When we meet Adonis Creed again, he's been making a name for himself in the boxing world. Things are still going well between him and Bionca (Tessa Thompson), so much so that he proposes and she accepts. Rocky (Stallone) still trains him and they've created a strong bond. On the other side of the world, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is training his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to box. Viktor is a huge, hulking brute of a man and Ivan's been training him well. They eventually go to the United States to challenge Adonis, who wins a title belt at the beginning of the movie. This, of course, feels like revenge for Adonis. If we think back on our Rocky movies, it was Ivan who killed Apollo, and it was Rocky who beat Ivan in retaliation for killing his friend. Now, its Ivan looking for some kind of payback.

What I liked is that Ivan and Viktor aren't just "the villains." They aren't just mere antagonists that pay lip service to the past in order to sell more tickets. Life hasn't treated Ivan well after his loss to Rocky all those years ago. He was shunned by his country and by his family, losing his status as a man in his own homeland. Viktor becoming a good boxer and setting up a reputation in the United States could regain respect in his homeland that he desperately craves. We find out that Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen) was a groupie bitch, to put it mildly, and she left her family after Ivan's defeat. Ivan is willing to put up with people who left him high and dry in order to push his son onto a pedestal. It's a rare, wonderful performance for Lundgren and I'll be curious to see if the award circuits pay him any respect, like they did Stallone.

What about Creed? Well, of course he takes the fight. It wouldn't have been much of a movie if he didn't. This decision creates tension between him and Rocky, who can't bare stand in his corner, too worried that Adonis will die. Not only is Adonis engaged to be married, but we also find out he's a looming father, which only creates more tension. The script certainly rakes up the angst for our characters. But what I was most impressed by was how it didn't feel melodramatic one bit. The script co-written by Stallone and Cheo Hodari Coker, breaks the characters down in a human, organic way. Its literally the best script Stallone has ever put his name on, because let's be honest, Stallone doesn't have a flair for dialogue, but this script does find a realistic way to balance these emotions and themes and the character work is strong because of it.

Stallone, Jordan and Thompson all do very good work once again. They seem up for expressing all the emotions put forth in the script and "Creed 2" is certainly well acted. I'd say Florian Munteanu is fine, but good or great, but fine. Sadly, all his character is really given to do is bulk around, looking mean. There isn't much more to his character. He isn't given much dialogue in the script. He just comes out to fight. I feel like I can't really rate his acting chops based on what we see here.

The boxing scenes are certainly exciting. With all the tensions ramped up by the time Creed and Drago begin throwing punches, its almost too much for the audience to bear. There were people in our theater making audible noises throughout the fight, and there was plenty of clapping and cheering throughout. Because the actors were willing to do the legwork, and because the script was written so well, the boxing really matters. Not only that, but the fights are much more visceral than they were back in 1976. You may feel a little sore leaving the theater after how powerful the boxing scenes are in this movie.

Much like "Creed" was, "Creed 2" feels like it was built on the spine of another former Rocky movie. But I'll tell you what, that didn't really matter to me. The character work is so genuine, so confident, and so engaging that it does feel like a different movie altogether. "Creed 2" is could be described as predictable to some, but a movie like "Creed 2" is going to try to be a brain-thumper. It exists only to please, and it breaks a sweat trying to entertain its audience. All that's left to ponder is if they got enough in the tank to make this an everlasting series like "Rocky." I'll be interested to see what happens from this point forward. They've certainly earned respect and attention with this sequel.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is a visual feast with a hollow story.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review

If there is one Hollywood studio that has really been sticking out like a sore thumb this decade for all the right reasons, its Disney. But really, should we be at all surprised? They have been a studio that has specialized in family entertainment. But purchasing both Marvel and LucasFilm in such a short span has been both a pleasure and a profit for the studio, and no matter what you think of those franchises, Disney has more than justified buying them. It looks like they will be expanding on their Marvel branch of entertainment very soon and if they do, more power to them. I just wish they could have pulled it off sooner so that certain characters could have met certain characters before contracts went bye-bye. It will also be interesting to see what happens when they launch their streaming service Disney Play next year.

Disney has also had plenty of success taking their old animated tales and giving them the live action treatment. I thought this was a needless endeavor. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't impressed by movies like "The Jungle Book" and "Beauty and The Beast" and "Cinderella." I am curious as hell about "Dumbo," "Aladdin" and my personal favorite Disney movie of all time, "The Lion King" next year. All of this success has lead them to start taking some chances, and when you start taking chances, that can't happen without some ambition and in this day and age, ambition counts for alot.

I've seen The Nutcracker play, but I vague memories of it. Because I saw it when I was in 2nd or maybe 3rd grade. I know that "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is partially based on "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman and "The Nutcracker" by Marius Petipa. I haven't read either of those. I am by no means an expert on this material. Neither is most kids growing up right now. Like I said, this is a wildly ambitious venture for Disney. Ambition always counts for me, and I was curious to see how this would unfold.

As with most Disney movies, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is spectacular to look at. Just freaking spectacular to look at. If you need any reason to take your family to this movie, take them for the visuals. Your kids are going to lose their minds just looking at things happening on the screen. This is a movie built for the biggest screen you can find. The costume design is exquisite in the film as well. So much so that I wouldn't be surprised at all if the movie gets one Oscar nod for costume design. I don't know if costumes are things your kids look for, but they are there. So yes, the movie looks really pretty and I am sure it will absorb your children.

Your children are going to need it too, they are going to need some way to absorb and enjoy this thing. Because this is a wildly boring movie. I think little kids are going to be crawling out of their skin in boredom over this movie. They probably won't have any idea what is going on in the movie either. Even for a family movie, this film takes incoherent to a whole new level. Yes, their is a quest. Its a Disney movie for families. Of course there is a quest. Clara (Mackenzie Foy) has a mother who just recently passed away. Her late mother gave her a gift. She has to travel across the four realms in order to find a key for her gift because...well, that's a little fuzzy. Clara sure gets sidetracked on her journey. That's for sure. She sits down and watches a stage opera with The Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) for what seems like four hours. Then I guess she remembered she's on a quest and the movie continues.

Children are going to be lost trying to follow this movie. The worst thing they could have done was not make this thing simple. That's what happened, they smothered their easy win with a bunch of fluff. There is a simple movie hidden inside "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms," but I am not so sure there is enough effort to really dig and find it. Morgan Freeman is fine in this, but he has a face that looks like it reads "Help! I'm in a dumb movie and I know it!" Keira Knightley is completely overacting here. Helen Mirren looks embarrassed the whole time. I guess I would be too.


Review: "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is a victory lap for the Coen Bros.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review
Its no real secret that the Coen Brothers are some of the best American filmmakers to have ever entered the business. Over the course of their careers they have made a name for themselves with a unique visual style that has stayed persistent with their dramas and their comedies. For Netflix, they have made a Western anthology called "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs." The film features six stories that showcase every strength the Coen Brothers have ever had.

Who are the Coen Brothers?

Anybody who is a movie fan shouldn't need that question answered. But for everyone else, I'll be glad to indulge. They are guys that can scare you with their stark drama and at the same time make you laugh out loud with their comedy. They've been known to treat music like a character in some of their more musical movies. Some critics have accused them of misanthropy, but that's not true. They are just good at shaking out a laugh during serious circumstances. Its amazing that the team has been responsible for such a wide range of flicks including "The Big Lebowski," "Fargo," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Blood Simple" and "No Country For Old Men." 

The six segments aren't really connected in "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" But each movie kind represents a piece of the Old West and what the themes stood for. The first segment, which bears the same title of the film. Tim Blake Nelson plays Buster Scruggs. He's a fine dressed cowboy who plays the guitar and sings as he roams the west on his horse. He breaks the fourth wall as he begins to talk to you, discussing this and that in the west. He talks too much, he looks like he might get in hot water with some people in a saloon. But that turns out not to be the case. He's got some fast fingers and he's deadly with a gun. Its a masterful performance as Nelson easily blends smugness and sincerity into one character. Eventually, Scruggs gets in over his head and it leads to one of the most bizarre scenes the Coen's have ever crafted.

The second segment is called "Near Algodones." The segment features James Franco robbing a bank only to find out he's in over his head. He eventually gets knocked out and gets ready to be hanged, but is in the right place at the right time, Indians attack the whiter lynchers. The Coens score some jetblack laughs in this scene and its well staged. Its funny watching Franco's character cheat death a couple times over. Which I guess is his characters' MO. There are some both funny and shocking moments in this segment which I found affecting.

I could go through each segment one at a time, but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. This is by far the best thing Netflix has released originally. All Coen fans should rejoice because its classic Coens. The rest of the segments include such actors like Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan and Brendan Gleeson, just to name a few. A perfect blend of veteran Coen actors and newcomers all working together to make something truly memorable. Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography is luminous and creates a beautiful dream that was once the old west. 

I never would have thought something like "True Grit" would ever need to be remade. But somehow, the Coen's did the impossible and I still say that their "True Grit" from 2010 was a masterful piece of work. Even though it really isn't, "No Country For Old Men" feels like a western for most of its runtime, which is one of the reasons I love that movie so much. The Coens kind of have a knack for the Western genre. I'd love it if they just spent the rest of their career perfecting the genre and bringing it into a modern age. If they decide to team with Quentin Tarantino, even better. But even though the film is released on Netflix, make no mistake. This is classic Coen Brothers and they are firing on all of their cylinders for this.

This could end up being a turning point for the streaming service. If "The Christmas Chronicles" and their "Mowgli" movie stand out like this film does, Netflix could find their footing with their more "mainstream or blockbuster" fair. I look forward to seeing how well the rest of the year turns out for the streaming service.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review: Netflix's "Outlaw King" is fuzzy on history, but big on fun.

Outlaw King Review
One of my earliest film experiences with my Dad was watching "Braveheart" with him. That may sound funny, but "Braveheart" will always have a sentimental value to me, and it will always be one of my all-time favorites. Whether you agree or not is not the issue, that movie is intertwined in my DNA at this point. Mel Gibson played William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter who wanted Scotland to be run by Scots during the medieval period and fought the English to make it so. By the end of the movie, Wallace has been captured and killed. His ally, Robert The Bruce, leads the Scots to war against the English after. We get a little epilogue of Robert The Bruce, played by Angus McFadden, charging into battle with all of Wallace's old allies as they chant his name. But that's all we get about Robert The Bruce's war.

If you saw that movie in 1995 and wondered what came of Robert The Bruce, now is your chance to find out if you've got a Netflix account. "Outlaw King" is the extension of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" epilogue. This time, Chris Pine plays Robert The Bruce. And much like Mel Gibson, I cackled through much of the movie, simply because Chris Pine's Scottish accent, much like Gibsons, is atrocious. Why can't Scots ever just be played by Scots? As much as Harry Potter sounded like a prime avenue for Steven Spielberg, imagining Haley Joel Osment as The Boy Who Lived gives me shivers. I am glad that authentic British story had authentic British actors.

All joking aside, Netflix's new original is actually pretty fun, much like "Braveheart." Although I am willing to bet that its full of historical inaccuracies. I am not sure though, I studied modern Britain when I was in college. There are just many moments in "Outlaw King" that feel a little too cinematic to be real world. But that's fine, "Braveheart'' is littered with historical inaccuracies. I don't judge movies by how well they get their history right, I judge them on how entertaining they are. I'd rip my hair out if I had to make a list of inaccuracies to..fuck any historical movie ever made.

I mean, come on. How am I not supposed to be entertained by Robert The Bruce taking a page out of Robin Hood's playbook and wage guerrilla warfare on Edward I (Stephen Dillane) because he doesn't want Scots to pay an English king taxes? How am I not supposed to be entertained by Aaron "Kick-Ass" Taylor-Johnson screaming and wailing swords around like he's on the set of Starz' "Spartacus?" How am I not supposed to be entertained by The Bruce's wife (Florence Pugh) being kidnapped by Edward I's son (Billy Howle) who is so gleefully evil, he might as well be twirling the mustache on his face? The movie is blissfully silly, but I think it works that way by design. The movie works overtime to please that only a churl will find fault. At least, that's what Roger Ebert would say.

Not everything works. The battle sequences are kind of a letdown. Simply put, they are just feel very small. This movie had a small budget and it shows. The battle scenes kind of look like a bunch of people wearing costumes and playing those pretend fighting games in the park. They don't look like epic battles from a Hollywood motion picture. Plus, once everyone gets muddy from battle, I actually couldn't tell who was a good guy and who wasn't. Which can kind of be a problem, I like knowing who I am rooting for, sometimes in "Outlaw King," it was hard to tell.

I think by design, awards seasons were definitely not on this film's mind. I think Chris Pine does enough good to carry the movie, but again that accent. What a hoot. But perhaps I am being too hard on him. Perhaps this isn't a movie you should take seriously. The actors make it count. The script really doesn't do anything obscenely stupid, it just tells an entertaining story well. You'll have to consult a History Professor to see if they are pulling their hair out because "that one battle didn't happen that way." But who cares. "Outlaw King" is a fun movie, plain and simple. So sit back and enjoy.


Review: Oh momma mia! Momma mia! "Bohemian Rhapsody" mostly works!

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

I've been busy, I admit it. I am playing slight catch-up on several new recent releases. So I got to say that if any Queen fans reading tonight who haven't stumbled into your nearest theater to witness the Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" should do so as quick as you can. If you only know Rami Malek from television and one of those bad "Twilight" movies, fear not. He's a born star now, and I'm sure you'll be hearing plenty more about him in the upcoming years. This role is going to make him star. Set that to your favorite Queen music, and you've got a great time at the theater.

That's the quick version of this review. If that's all you needed, you may proceed. If you want a little more, I'll be more than happy to oblige. You see, Malek is more than just good. He's more than just playing Freddy Mercury. He's the sole reason to pay full price for a movie ticket and see this on the biggest, best screen you can find. When actors play real people, they walk the fine line between method acting and simple impersonation. Some actors fail, others come alive in way that can define their careers. Rami Malek has just defined his career. It might be strange seeing him in another season of "Mr. Robot" or whatever else he chooses to do in the future after this. Its such a strange performance. Its such a hypnotic performance. And yeah, its pretty close to award season. I can already tell its going to be a competitive year. But I usually suck, believe it or not, predicting who will make it on the ballot. But good God, come on Academy. Not saying Malek will win, but he should get the honor of nomination.

The rest of the cast? They are pretty stellar too. We got Gwilym Lee as Brian May, we got Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and we got Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon, who round out the rest of the band. They are feeding off of Malek's work like a righteous parasite. They bounce off of Malek's work with ease and they really feel like a close band. Aidan Gillen of "Game of Thrones" fame shows up as one of their managers. Let's just say he causes all sorts of Littlefinger shenanigans, but what else would you expect from Aidan Gillen? He does a good job. Critics describe Tom Hollander as a scene stealer in his movies. I'd say he does a great job here too. Lucy Boynton plays Mary, Mercury's girlfriend. I'd never heard of her until this and I got to say that she does some good work here. The scene when Mercury comes out to her was full of emotion and she sold every moment in it.

How's the music? Stupid question, isn't it? You know if you're a Queen fan or not. All the big songs are in the movie. How Queen came up with them in the first place is nicely explained. If you're not a Queen fan, then you're probably not showing up to this are you? All I am saying is yes, you'll be rocking in the theater to this film's soundtrack, obviously. I have no idea if Malek really sang the songs himself, but if he did, bravo!

The film's big flaw is within the structure itself. I don't know how many of you have seen many music biopics. I sure have. I've seen many of the "Ray's" and "Walk The Line's" and "Straight Outta Compton's" and "Notorious'" and "Jersey Boys'" of the world. I've seen most of the other band biopics I haven't listed. Sadly, all of those movies listed above have something in common and "Bohemian Rhapsody" definitely suffers from this. Pretty much all music biopics feel like they came from a kit. They are so profoundly familiar in their structure where if you've seen one, you've seen them all. I've never taken the time to sit down and study the band Queen, but I walked into this knowing how the movie would play out, and I wasn't wrong. If Hollywood continues to churn out films about popular bands, cool. But they've got to find a way to shrug off the cliches of the sub-genre and make them feel fresh. Some great music doesn't make up for obvious structure problems.

There has been a Queen movie circling a business for some time now. At least since I was in high school. I know that Johnny Depp for the longest time was on the radar to play Mercury. I am glad that Malek got it though, and made it his own. I am glad that "Bohemian Rhapsody" came now because right now felt like the right time. Another one may have bit the dust, but this movie sure didn't.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Toy Story 4 Trailer

I wrote about this a long time ago, but I didn't have "Toy Story 4"

Simply put, I thought it was a horrible idea and Pixar was going to burn down a reputation with this franchise that isn't easy to come by. Think about all the trilogies in the history of movies. Now, think of how many of those trilogies were perfect. I don't mean one good movie out of three. I don't mean two great movies out of three. I mean, how many trilogies are there in Hollywood that featured three great movies? Not good movies, great movies? There aren't many. There really aren't. In fact, most trilogies fall apart in the final act. The "Toy Story" movies are perfect all the way through. Each film is perfect.

So why Pixar wanted to squash that good work for a fourth film is beyond me. Shouldn't they just leave perfect alone? Can Pixar go 4-for-4 on the franchise that gave them their footing? Time will tell.

These days, I do have some hope though. Tom Hanks has talked about how impressed he was from "Toy Story 4" and how profound it is. Tim Allen has agreed with Hanks' sentiments. Of course, they are supposed to say these things, so maybe this is all marketing. But something gives me hope, hearing Hanks talk about things. I have hope, can they push out a perfect fourth film?

I can't wait to find out.

Detective Pikachu Trailer

What the hell did I just watch?

I'll ask again, what the hell did I just watch?

I can't fathom that this is a real thing, but apparently it is a real thing. It's been more than a real thing. There is a video game in Japan about a talking detective Pikachu. I don't know enough about video games to know if this game has made over the Pacific to America, but I am sure it is on the way if it hasn't yet. If the Pikachu in that game can talk, I guess it makes sense to hear Ryan Reynolds' voice coming out of that little, yellow, electric monster you see in the trailer above. Still, I am still having trouble believing this is a real thing, and taking the response on the internet today, the rest of the world is pretty perplexed.

This is either going to be really awesome or really awful, there will be no middle ground.

Remembering Stan Lee

To many who know Stan Lee from the Marvel movies, he may seem like a nice old man who cameos in all the films. I am sure they know he created many of the homestead characters from Marvel, but not only did he help create many characters. Not only was he the Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics for many years. He was one of the brains that really had a hand creating the Marvel Universe in print. There aren't many fictional universes as textured and rich as the Marvel Universe. Yes, George Lucas has made one. Yes J.R.R. Tolkein and George R.R. Martin made one. But to be honest, there aren't as many fictional universes on the level that Lee helped create.

I don't want to turn this into a DC-bashing article. But there is a reason why I am more of a Marvel boy than I am a DC boy. I definitely like DC and I am huge lover of Batman. But there is something about Marvel that I find very appealing. I've always liked the idea that Marvel felt fairly realistic. When you look at DC heroes and how they got their powers, they feel like larger-than-life, godlike figures. Heck, even Batman, a human feels like a "god" in his own right. And all the fake locations always made me feel like I was reading comic books. The secret weapon for Marvel back in the 1960's and the 1970's was that these adventures were happening outside your window. I always liked that the heroes of Marvel were ordinary people who got caught in extraordinary situations. The characters were more relatable, I thought, which is why I think the movies have been so profitable recently.

One thing Stan always hoped and dreamed of was seeing his characters on the big screen. While DC beat Marvel to it, I am happy for Stan that he got to see so many of characters brought to the big screen. Not only that, but Marvel did beat DC in creating a crossover, shared universe on screen and I am so proud that he got to view that. I hope he knows that these characters are going to live on forever, in the best way possible. The nerds won and they rule the world now. It happened without anybody really knowing it did happen. Even back in the 1970's and 1980's, making movies based on superheroes was something most studios tried to avoid, now they are so commonplace that they've been mainstreamed. I went to Chicago Comic-Con back in 2014, and I loved that there were people of all kinds and all different backgrounds there. Superheroes aren't just for nerd culture anymore, they are for pop culture period. Thanks to Stan Lee, I don't think our culture would be there right now if it weren't for his efforts.

Lee was more than a guy who did some cameos, he was a weaver of modern culture. And we are all the richer for it.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Review: "The Kindergarten Teacher" is a disturbing, strange movie

The Kindergarten Teacher
When Maggie Gyllenhaal isn't working on commercial fair, she's one of our most reliable independent film stars. Much like her brother, she seems to be typecast almost. I don't know what it is about Gyllenhal and what draws her to such slutty characters, but she sure has played lots of them over the years. Its not a good thing or a bad thing, but it is just a thing. When you see her in "The Kindergarten Teacher," you will think for a little while that she's playing a typical teacher. But of course, there comes a moment when her character cheats on her husband with her college professor, a fact I welcomed with a bitter laugh.

"The Kindergarten Teacher" is a really weird film, so weird that its actually off-putting. There is a disturbing cloud that hangs over the whole film. I can do disturbing, and I like disturbing when its examining something worthwhile. "The Kindergarten Teacher" is just disturbing without reason, a creepy experience without anything serious or worthwhile to say about its creepiness. At one point you will think that the film is about one thing, then it takes a hard, drastic turn in another direction. It almost feels like a cop-out ending, simply because the main relationship of the movie is hardly explained in those final moments that it really couldn't feel like anything else.

For much of the film, Gyllenhaal plays Lisa. A kindergarten teacher who isn't fulfilled by her life. She wants to write but can't seem to produce anything provocative enough to write. She attends a poem class, but still never gets the most out of it. Then, she reads some poetry from one of her kindergarteners. Its wise beyond its years, mature in a way that even some of the most credible published writers couldn't pull off. This little boy, played by Parker Sevak in what I presume is a first time role, is Jimmy Roy. Gyllenhaal sees so much potential in him that she wants his voice to heard in some semi-professional poetry competitions.

You think that the movie is going to be this uplifting, tear-jerking, wise movie. Honestly, I would have preferred that. Lisa gets so fucking weird that it suddenly feels like a different movie. How weird? How about taking Jimmy Roy to poetry competitions without her parents' concent, basically kidnapping him? How about cheating on her loving husband for seemingly no reason with her poetry professor? How about taking Jimmy Roy's work to her class, passing it off as her own to impress her professor? Like I said things weird in a hurry.

Maybe the movie is about Lisa's emptiness, and how it effects the life of this poor, young kid. I would have bought that a little bit better had the movie had something profound or even something at all to say about it. The movie seems to shift out of the film's convenience and not due to something like character development. There isn't enough evidence in the movie to highlight why suddenly Lisa would turn to a life of crime simply because she's unfulfilled with her life plans. Life hasn't given me everything I've wanted, and I've never decided to kidnap children because of it.

I think "The Kindergarten Teacher" will end up being remembered as a film that was trying to be a lot smarter and more relevant than it actually was, and depending on how much you love your Netflix app, will probably be forgotten by viewers quicker than most.


Review: "Beautiful Boy" is the rawest, most brutal and most moving movie you'll see this year!

Beautiful Boy Review

No matter how good or bad the rest of 2018 is for me, its been one of the best years of my life. I say this because my wife and I brought home our first child. I've been told a million times by friends how much my life was about to change, but what I didn't expect was how this change would slowly drift into every facet of my life, including my movie-watching habits. I feel like I watch everything through a brand new filter now, and movies that I've loved for years feel like brand new experiences simply because my daughter is reteaching me life as I know it. It's also really spooky how I am already starting to worry about certain things. Things that are either too early to happen to my daughter or things that are out of my control.

One thing I learned at about one o'clock in the afternoon today was that I have a great fear of failing my daughter. I'm also really scared of her being in tremendous, life-threatening danger, and not being able to help her. Kind of like the situation David Sheff (Steve Carell) finds himself in while he's been struggling with his son, Nic Sheff (Timothee Chalamet) who has been addicted to drugs throughout his teenage years. David eventually hits a wall, a wall with a sign on it which reads; your son is going to die and there is nothing you can do to save him. Watching out David reacts to this metaphorical wall is the main basis of the brutal, but brilliant "Beautiful Boy."

Any parent or any future parent probably has it deep in the back of their heads that eventually, when their children are older, there is going to be some kind of communication about drugs. I've jokingly said that when my daughter is about 14 or 15, I am going to sit her down in our movie basement and we are going to watch "Requiem For A Dream" together. For anybody who has never seen it, I can guarantee that if you show that to anyone even remotely curious about drug use...well their desire is going to evaporate really quick. My daughter might be in for a double feature instead, we might watch both "Requiem For A Dream" and "Beautiful Boy" together, and I will be mystified if she's even in the same room as a joint when navigates high school and college. Now, "Requiem For A Dream" is a completely unpleasant experience, but when I saw it at an age I was barely able to see it at, I never even thought about putting a drug in my body. That movie is a black hole, with no happy ending. So much so that when I showed it to friends in high school, I ended up depressing the whole houseful. 

I wouldn't say "Beautiful Boy" is on the same level of depressing as "Requiem For A Dream," so if you've seen that and didn't like it, you'll probably enjoy "Beautiful Boy" better. Maybe. "Beautiful Boy" is still a harrowing experience, and its a pretty bleak look at a boy so addicted to drugs and it traps him inside a cage. Critics have complained about repetitiveness within the movie. Yes, I get that, Nic relapses quite a bit in the movie. I would argue there is a reason for that, though. We've seen plenty of drug movies, plenty of drug-related films. Its almost become cliche to see an individual hit rock bottom and then rise to the top by meeting the right person or finding God or fate stepping in or what have you. "Beautiful Boy" never quite gives you that out, its more about how Nic's father David is affected. Its about David's obsessive compulsion to save his son, so much to the point that its eating him from the inside like a parasite. The slow realization that falls over David, the realization that he might bury his son instead of his son burying him, is almost too much to take. Not only do we see the effects of Nic's addiction on his father, but we see how it affects everyone in his orbit.

The movie also highlights just how painful an addictive personality has on a person. When Nic starts to fall into the world of drugs, its slow. He starts with pot, and the biggest problem David thinks Nic has is that he just smokes way too much pot. It gets much worse than that. Nic is eventually hooked on all the harder stuff, almost exclusively crystal meth. What makes the film hurt isn't just that we feel every bit of Nic's deterioration, we feel how much of a fight he has to put up just to stay sober over a year. The depression, the self-doubt, the anxiety...its almost as if we are in the head of a real drug user, and since this is a true story based on two memoirs, one written by Nic and the other by David, its even more of a strong experience.

If it were up to me and me alone, you'd see both Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell on the Oscar nomination list this February. Timothee Chalamet is quickly becoming one of the great actors of his generation, dealing out top-notch performances in both "Lady Bird" and "Call Me By Your Name," two of 2017's best films. But those performances aren't going to prepare you for what you see here. Like I said, Chalamet forces you to feel his character's deterioration. The slow fall into becoming an addict is so raw, so hellishly real that its almost unbearable to witness, and that is mainly due to the powerhouse acting on Chalamet's part. This may come as a surprise to most, but Carell is a guy who can do anything. No, your saying to yourselves. Carell is a funny guy. He's the goofy guy from "Anchorman." He's the guy who does the silly voice of Gru in "Despicable Me." He was funny on "The Office." While Carell has been tremendously funny in the past, he's done his fair share of serious acting. Check out "Dan In Real Life" or "Foxcatcher." This is the next great performance to sit next to those.

The film also stars Maura Tierney as David's wife Karen and Amy Ryan plays Nic's biological mother. Both woman love Nic in their own respective ways and the slight heartbreak that occurs to both of them is one of the sad highlights of the movie. I was also delighted to see that Jack Dylan Grazer, who made a huge impression on me last year when he starred as Eddie in "IT," shows up as a young Nic. These quick flashbacks are also harrowing because we see just how hard Nic falls in this movie, and its the hardest punch to the heart to know that addiction can find anyone for any reason. It doesn't specialize in one demographic. Yes, Nic's parents are divorced, but there is still a happy family dynamic even though the house is divided. Nic applies for six colleges and is accepted into all six of them. He's very close with David. David and his ex-wife have both built happy homes for Nic. Sometimes its just bad choices and bad luck that cause people to fall into the world of drugs. Its even harder to realize see how much Nic's parents believed they failed, even though there wasn't much they could really do. 

With all that said, "Beautiful Boy" isn't just a depressing wallow. There are moments of inspiration. There are moments of happiness. Director Felix Ban Groeningen was wise enough to put release valves in this movie, to free is audience if only for a moment. Just like Darren Aronofsky did with his movie. "Beautiful Boy" isn't a complete traumatic experience but its not exactly the type of movie you take your buddies to on a Friday night. Given the subject matter, this might not be for everyone. Not everyone wants to see an incredibly tragic look at the world of addiction and the darkness it attracts. But I can say that "Beautiful Boy" will linger with me for many weeks to come and when it comes to movies, it is one of the most powerful experiences I've had all year.