Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Trailer for Dark Phoenix

As the Fox Marvel characters edge closer to under the Disney banner, it was announced earlier this month that Kevin Feige will soon be taking over the X-Men franchise. The merger between Fox and Disney finally brings every single Marvel character under the same banner, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will feel complete. I thought it would feel bittersweet. Honestly, I've liked the "X-Men" franchise, by and large. I know some people may not agree with that, and that's okay. But I've genuinely loved what Fox did with "X-Men."

I feel like that love may be wavering a bit these days though. The more I think about "X-Men: Apocalypse," the more it frustrates me. Now, this trailer for "Dark Phoenix," (seemingly, no longer X-Men: Dark Phoenix) has me underwhelmed. I am not digging at all that it looks like Jean Grey has no Phoenix Force, which is the whole point of the fucking story. I also can't wrap my head around that this feels exactly like what was already covered in "X3." Remember, "X3" was mostly unpopular in the movie world, so why you'd want to re-do it without some major changes seems silly.

I really like the young cast that has been assembled for this new chapter in the franchise. It seems with the Disney merger, this new chapter will be cut short. Heck, the entire book will be cut short. I just wish it ends on a high note. I am not sure it will end on a high not though, everything is point to somewhere else.

Review: The Netflix arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe evolves with the second season of "Iron Fist"



If you have time to do some research, you'll find that the only Netflix Marvel show I didn't review on my website was the first season of "Iron Fist." The reason being I never finished it.

I know I had some harsh words for both "The Defenders" mini-series and the first season of "The Punisher," but I guess it should say something that I finished both of those shows. To this day, I have never watched "Iron Fist" all the way through. Why didn't I finish it? Well, for starters, it feels like a shameless rip-off of "Arrow" for anybody who doesn't know comic books. The show didn't even try to differentiate itself in a creative way. For some reason Finn Jones, who was so good on "Game of Thrones," was sleepwalking through the entire series. Tom Pelphrey was migraine-inducing to watch, and I was convinced he was the worst actor I had ever seen up to that point. "Iron Fist" also featured the worst example of what has plagued all the Marvel shows, they take a two hour story and stretch it across thirteen hours. I couldn't finish the first season because it was so bleeding boring to watch. The show couldn't even produce cool fight scenes, which is a shame for a show whose upbringing is within martial arts.

I guess its just because I am die-hard Marvel fan that I decided to dive into the second season of "Iron Fist." Despite not finishing season one and not digging "The Defenders." I guess also that 2018 seems to be a year of Netflix Marvel change. "Luke Cage" season two was really good, "Jessica Jones" season two was pretty good. So I guess that means that "Iron Fist" would be the next to improve, right? The thing is, it feels like somebody is starting to listen to some of the major flaws fans and TV critics are pointing out, because it seems like they are proactive about making better television shows. The second season of "Iron Fist" is only ten episodes, three hours shorter than the first season. They make the most of those ten hours we do get putting together a story that both further develops the characters and story we learned in the first season, but also expands the universe of Iron Fist and presents him with a new challenge. Never does the show feel like its dragging or pandering for no reason, the show keeps moving, which has always been the biggest weakness to these shows.

In the post-Defenders world of Iron Fist, Danny Rand is laying low from recent events. He's dating Colleen Wing and they are living together. Joy Meachum is trying to move away from Rand Industries and start her own company, to the dismay of her brother Ward. Davos returns from season one, and we see more of the past him and Danny shared while at K'un L'un, and Davos has a plan for New York City, that involves Danny in a sinister fashion. Plus, Alice Eve joins the main cast as Mary Walker, a mysterious girl from the midwest who has an agenda of her own. Alice Eve is fine addition as Mary, and creates a nice foil for Iron Fist. Tom Pelphrey as Ward is much better this season, and he's got a redemption arc that I found endearing. There is a moment in the middle of the season where Ward has a heart-to-heart with Danny that really brought the characters to a head. I liked Jessica Soup in "The Following," but when she turns evil in this season, I just don't buy it. I don't think she has the range to be a snooty businesswoman, but hey she sure tries. Sacha Dhawan steps up as Davos, and he does really well here. I think fans of the first season will be surprised by how this one concludes.

I wish we actually got Danny Rand in his iconic costume. Other than Daredevil, I don't get why these Netflix shows are so afraid of costumes. I bring that up only because I think what makes this season better is that Netflix is getting better embracing the comic book side of things. I thought in earlier seasons of all of their shows, they tried to keep things a little too real. Nevermind that they chose to make shows revolving around a man with enhanced senses, a bullet-proof man, a woman with super strength, and a man who can create an indestructible fist that shines when he focuses hard enough. There is no reason to try to play things too realistic and too grounded. In fact, these shows have been hurt because of that. There is a lot of crazy stuff that happens in this season and I like that they've found the perfect balance between comic book fun and real life situations. It's something I wished we got more of in "The Defenders" and now Netflix may be making up for it.

People wondering how this all connects to the bigger picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be disappointed. I've already read online quite a bit that many fans have deduced that the movie side of the franchise is no longer connected to the TV side of the franchise, if they ever were connected in the first place. As the years wear on, it seems the shows are less and less connected to the continuity of the movies. Kevin Feige keeps teasing that paths will cross eventually, but he's been saying that for years. How long is eventually? Jeph Loeb, producer of the Netflix shows, has confirmed that the Netflix stories take place a few years before the current timeline of the movies. So people expecting to see New Yorkers disappearing into dust at the end of this season will be disappointed. It also gives clarity to the timeline of the shows. This is a bigger question to ponder, and I am planning to write a bigger piece about this very subject soon. I will say that Sokovia is dropped a few times in this season. Since Sokovia wasn't a place in the Marvel world until it was introduced in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," then these shows have to be in the greater MCU, right?

The bottom line is that the Marvel Netflix shows are slowly learning from their mistakes. And now any season that doesn't have a single episode that feels like its lagging the season is a good one in my book. I can only hope that this means "Daredevil" later in October is going to blow our minds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Full "Creed 2" trailer

"Creed" in 2015 was the surprise of the year for me. "Creed 2" just feels like icing on the cake.

Looking at the new trailer, this feels like more than just a publicity stunt. It feels more than just making some more bucks off a franchise that has a new face. It looks like they are really fighting hard to continue a story that is appealing to the masses. Yes, this movie is very much about the sins of the father picking up with the sons. I know its a story we've heard a thousand times before. But it looks like this crew is creating something that will be rousing and entertaining in equal measure.

Plus, DMX in any trailer already makes it awesome.

Review: "The Predator" is Shane Black, B-Movie Mayhem!

The Predator Review

Shane Black has been a cinephile favorite for many years now. Even though "Lethal Weapon" made tons of money, and "The Last Boy Scout" didn't, BOTH scripts were just watered down versions of what Black initially wrote. He eventually broke out with movie fans with "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang." If you haven't seen that yet, definitely check it out. It's got a great Robert Downey Jr. performance and its the last great thing Val Kilmer did. While I personally still have problems with "Iron Man 3," Black's handling of The Mandarin is such a "Shane Blackish" detail that it kind of makes me cackle when I watch that movie.

"Iron Man 3," for better or for worse, was a Marvel movie unlike any other. It should go without saying that Shane Black has created a "Predator" movie unlike any other. Just when you think you've seen it all in the world of Predators, Black finds a way to revision things. There is a scene in "The Predator" where one of the aliens wakes up on an operating table and kills his way out of the room. It's so joyously violent and so strangely surreal that I want to see the movie one more time just for that moment. There is also a moment where a child ends up with Predator armor and wears it as a Halloween costume to make sure some bullies keep away from him.

Shane Black has always written an original script, and the words written are not the same type of words people speak in conventional movies. Black sometimes writes like Aaron Sorkin or Quentin Tarantino, and it certainly helps make this movie feel different from the other Predator movies. The film has an all-star cast, which includes Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Yvonne Strahovski, and Jake Busey. A wonderful line-up of stars and recognizable, talented people.  Black certainly picked some magnificent actors to come and play and they certainly are playing with a fun script.

Most Predator movies, no matter who made them, have been simple cat-and-mouse games. They've mostly been excuses for slasher movies, one Predator against a group of humans. I liked how Shane Black approached this film in a new manner. There are Predators coming to Earth, but necessarily to hunt us. There is something much different at play here, and our government is secretly trying to keep up. Its all very hush-hush, and there are some sinister reasons on our end. (Of course there is, when is our government NOT selfish in movies like this?) Sterling K. Brown plays the leader of this otherwise government op. I love that the usual sentimental and lovable Sterling K. Brown is an absolute asshole here, and he does it well. In fact, the entire cast does outstanding work as whole.

There are some wickedly funny moments. Moments of absolute carnage. Its easy to see that Shane Black has grown up loving this franchise. He falls into a couple of franchise traps. But overall, this is a fun little movie full to the brim with mayhem. There are some good ideas that make this one a little more than just a genre exercise and there is crazy set-up for movies, and if they fall under Black's banner, they will absolutely be worth seeing.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Bumblebee trailer

Well, just when you thought we were done with "Transformers" movies.

We are getting a prequel! Just what the franchise needs, a prequel!

The prequel will revolve around Bumblebee, the fan favorite of the franchise and when he presumably met his first human. So essentially we can expect an "Iron Giant" with Haliee Steinfeld! How exciting. Look, I've never liked prequels. They mostly suck any tension out of any premise. Because we know how things are going to end up. They are using lots of the same jokes, and replaying some of the same conflicts from the other films. This will just feel like more of the same. Plus, if John Cena is supposed to be the evil human of this movie, well that's just too funny.

Review: "The Nun" is a forgettable spin-off within the Conjuring Universe

The Nun Review

So far, I've enjoyed "The Conjuring" movies. They feel like old-school haunted house movies, and I personally will take a horror movie full of genuine terror and atmosphere before I take a horror movie with unlikable teenagers dying in strange ways. "The Conjuring" movies are full of mood, and they get us with some good "boo scares" too, which is also increasingly difficult to pull off. There is some striking imagery in both movies and their stories let the audience care about the characters, which only increases the tension. I wish I could say the same about the spin-offs they are putting together for their shared universe. But I can't. The "Annabelle" movies are hit or miss, and I can't say that I've loved that mini-franchise. I can say with ease that "The Nun" is off to a not-so-good start.

I can forgive some things about "The Nun." I like that they are trying for the same spooky atmosphere that has defined "The Conjuring." You can tell that they are really trying to make these movies count, and I can appreciate that. The film opens with two nuns investigating an old Catholic relic (of course its Catholic, Catholics are always fighting the forces of evil in these movies.) They are attacked by an unseen force. I will admit that this introduction is well staged, and great hook and set-up for the film. There is some shocking unease that builds throughout the entire scene and I will admit that I got uncomfortable watching it.

Sadly, the movie loses all of its momentum after that wicked opening. We meet Sister Irene (played by Taissa Farmiga, whose older sister Vera plays Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring movies) and she is asked to assist Father Burke (Demian Bichir) in his investigation in the incident with the two nuns that begins the film. As you may be able to figure out, things get dark and strange in their investigation and they eventually encounter Valak from "The Conjuring 2." Bichir and Taissa Farmiga are both incredible actors, and I've enjoyed much of their work. They are working overtime to make this movie count.

The movie gets its mood down, and its got good actors leading the way. With all due respect, Bonnie Aarons is one of the most terrifying looking people working in Hollywood right now. All of this effort is restricted to a film that features cheesy special effects scene. There is not another good scare the whole movie, nothing that touches the frightening beginning. What surprised me the most is just dull the rest of the movie is. The pacing is off, and even though James Wan didn't direct this one, I know he is a writer and producer on this. He's been so good with pacing with the Conjuring movies that I thought it would be more of the same with this spin-off. But the movement of the story is off, I felt myself getting sleepy watching it. Not the feeling I want watching a horror movie.

The Conjuring Universe has lots going for it, and I wish if they just kept all of their energy on the Conjuring specific movies, they would see their profits soar. But they are branching out. While that is a great possible business decision, its usually not great creatively. "The Nun" feels like easy money, and if that wasn't the case then its hard to see how its not.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I can't believe a day went by and I didn't discuss the "Captain Marvel" trailer

So there's a new Marvel Cinematic Universe movie coming out next year. It looks pretty rad. The trailer for the film hit the internet yesterday. I didn't even discuss it! How could I?

"Captain Marvel" is going to be a big building block for the future of this franchise. For one, this is Marvel's first female led film. Its also going to be a huge puzzle piece to where this story will be going after all the Thanos funny business is taken care of. Oh yes, the MCU is stopping after Infinity War. There are plans for the foreseeable future. From the sound of it, there is going to be big emphasis on space and the cosmos, which should be exciting.

"Captain Marvel" will take place in the 1990's. If you couldn't tell from the trailer, Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, but with hair, two eyes and a younger looking self. As does Clark Gregg returning as Phil Coulson. We also know that Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou will return as Ronan and Korath from "Guardians of the Galaxy." But as our hero crashes into a 1990's styled Blockbuster Video, its pretty clear how serious they are taking this. Brie Larson will star as Carol Danvers who becomes Captain Marvel, and I think she looks great!

Its a short trailer, and I have no idea of what the story will really be. But that's a good thing. I am getting tired of all trailers giving the whole movie away anyway!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Behind The Scenes Pic of the day whistles and clicks its teeth at you!

I find that there have been a handful of underrated children's movies from the last decade. Of course there have, there are underrated films in each genre at any given time. But sometimes, I am so flabbergasted how much a movie doesn't hit the mark that I feel a director made a movie just for me. When you think of Wes Anderson and stop motion animation, it almost feels like the two should have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of Anderson's career. He's already got two stop motion animation films under his belt. One was "Isle of Dogs," which if you didn't catch in theaters, you should really catch sometime soon now that the film is on DVD. The other is "The Fantastic Mr. Fox"

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is probably one of my all-time favorite Wes Anderson movies. For a guy who has an entire resume full of rich experiences, I hope that means something. I think each of his motion creations are perfectly matched with inspiring voices. I love the look and feel of the film. It's funny, its energetic and it is accessible to all ages. One of those amazing voices in the movie is Bill Murray, an Anderson regular for all intents and purposes. Murray gives voice to a badger who gets into some arguments with Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney).

I guess they also got some time on set too!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Joaquin Phoenix first Joker Pic

Over the weekend, Warner Brothers dropped a picture of Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming "Joker" movie they are planning. The movie that is going to be independent of the other DCEU works (even though Jared Leto is still signed on with the DCEU and has upcoming appearances coming too). The thing that is weird is that its just a picture of Phoenix. He's not in any make-up. Obviously, its a picture of Pre-Joker Joker. But that's just a picture of Joaquin Phoenix.

So...what's the point?

If there is any movie that has a big question mark over it for me, its this Joker origin movie. I honestly don't see the point of doing it if it doesn't connect to the grander story DC and WB is telling. I also just don't see how people are supposed to get excited for the most popular supervillain of all time by simply releasing a picture of Joaquin Phoenix with no make up. I know they've got the legendary Martin Scorsese producing this. I know Todd "The Hangover" Phillips is directing. I know Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz (Domino from Deadpool 2) and Brett Cullen are co-starring (Alec Baldwin dropped out as Thomas Wayne and was replaced by Cullen, who played a senator in The Dark Knight Rises.) So yes, there are some popular and great people in the mix for this. I just don't get why its being made, other than the fact to just cash grab off of Joker's name.

There has been some controversy over at Sony, because they are making independent movies based on Spider-Man villains. "Venom" could end up being popular because he eventually became an anti-hero with his own line of comics. But I don't see the appeal of making stand-alone movies based on C-list Spider-Man villains if Spider-Man himself won't make an appearance. These movies won't be connected to Holland's Spider-Man nor the greater MCU. So what's the appeal? I wonder if there will be greater appeal with this stand-alone Joker movie, since the character is much more popular. But do we need a Joker movie without Batman? Do we need a Joker origin, period? The best part about the character has always been his mysterious background. A villain who simply came out of nowhere and began acting out for no apparent reason. Even Joker's greatest comic book "origin" story, the story Heath Ledger read to prepare for "The Dark Knight," ended up not being a concrete origin by the end. Joker's mystique has always been apart of his character, so why explain him?

I guess at this point I really need a trailer. I'm a huge Batman fan. The Joker can be an engaging, magnetic, haunting character when done right onscreen. But they are advertising this as a movie where Joker rises to crime. So it'll be "Goodfellas" with clown make-up? I'm not sure how appealing that is to me, no matter how much I like the source material.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a touching, sentimental look at the life of Fred Rogers

Won't You Be My Neighbor Review

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, one of my favorite things to watch was "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood." Why wouldn't I? There wasn't anything else like it on TV, except I guess maybe "Sesame Street," which I also watched religiously. But even though I could best compare the two shows, they couldn't have been more different from each other. Now, as a young kid, I didn't really pick up on what Fred Rogers was trying to do. In fact, I hadn't even thought about it until I really went deep into the new documentary about the life and times of Fred Rogers. The reason why Fred Rogers was so beloved was because of he was a damn revolutionary. Television sets in his day were referred to as idiot boxes, but at a young age, Rogers saw something else. He didn't just see faces and hear voices coming out of a box. He saw a tool that could connect us all. He saw a gateway into the minds of people everywhere, and he found a way to teach people and have not just children, but families and communities learning from each other. The best movies, and now in this golden age, the best TV, connects us with the rest of the world. It's safe to say that Fred Rogers was a early pioneer of this ideal.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor" is built like your typical documentary about a person. We get a glimpse of the early life of Fred Rogers. We get a glimpse of how he became interested in puppets. We get a glimpse of his rise in television, and the various struggles that brought to him. While the structure is like most documentaries about people, director Morgan Neville doesn't take the easy road. This is not the typical film about a person. I find rather exhilarating that Neville was able to find a way to make a documentary that does everything we've come to expect from them, but also not at the same time. Its interesting to see what Neville truly focuses on when unraveling who Fred Rogers really was, and sets a context to who Rogers became to be.

Who was Fred Rogers? A man who had originally set out seminary to become a Presbyterian minister. Yet, he was constantly gravitating towards the television set, and what it could offer. Funny, since by and large he seemed to hate TV. He hated because of what it offered children to watch. A constant theme throughout the entire movie. Everything delivered to children was so simple and so slapstick, and it never was willing to challenge children in any form. Rogers grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, when the world of child development really began to change. The way in which Rogers tied child development with his unconditional faith made him the most unexpected social warrior of our time, but then again, that's why we love him. 

I mean, the things Rogers brings up are true. It seems when making entertainment for children, even today, those in charge are working for the lowest common denominator. Everything has to be so silly, and so simple and we are afraid to treat children like human beings. I never really picked up on this watching the original show, but as I watched footage of previous episodes, its crazy how much Rogers treated children like people. You'd never see puppets on a children's show today discussing such things as war or assassination or discrimination, and Rogers dared to break those barriers, determined to further educate the children. He used it as a tool to spread love and tolerance in his messages. He always took his time too, another critical error he saw in young entertainment was over-stimulation. Rogers took his time with everything, from counting a minute to discussing the life cycle of a fish. He understood the importance of just taking a breath.

Also the greatest lesson he taught was liking yourself just the way you are. Never apologizing for it. A big theme that occurs in the film is the constant desire to reveal Fred Rogers' sexual orientation. Was he gay or was he not gay? He was this older man who was a puppeteer and worked with children. So, he's got to be gay, right? One of the several ridiculous, superficial needs to put people in boxes. I cant attest to it too. I spent five years working at a daycare center, and when I'd meet fathers of children, or when I told certain people what I did for a living, the attitude was always the same. Every guy thought they had me figured out. I had to have either been gay or been a child predator or I was just trying to score with my female co-workers. None of this was true of course, I became so comfortable with my teaching craft that I didn't care what anybody thought of what I was doing. That was the greatest thing Rogers could teach. It doesn't matter what bullies think of you, I like you just the way you are. Don't change for people, be the change in your own life.

There is a blissfully touching moment at the end of the film. When the documentarian does an exercise that Rogers used to do with his peers and pupils. He'd ask you take a moment and think of someone who helped you in a special and important moment in your life. The documentarian asks this of all the individuals he interviewed for his movie. Watching everyone take the moment, to really think about what was being ask. It became more of a self-healing meditation than just a cerebral exercise and the release etched on everyone's face was palpable. It broke me down to tears. I thought of important people in my life, and just for a moment, one simple moment, it was enough to of an emotional response that I truly wrestled with it. A quick moment of true concentration and thankfulness can deliver an overwhelming emotional response. As times got darker in the life of Fred Rogers, he forgot to just continue to be genuine. Which is the point of it all.


Review: "BlackKklansman" is the film to beat this year.

BlackKklansman Review

I've never been a very political person, and I've tried to keep political talk minimal at worst, and totally non-existent at best. But man, in this day and age, that seems like an impossible task. Everything is political these days. Things that have no business being political are precisely political these days. Sometimes it seems like our country is ready to implode, and good lord does that scare me. It doesn't help my fear center knowing that my wife and I just brought a lovely child into this world, and I am already having some fits of anxiety wondering just how much this world is going to change as she gets older. I mean, damn, she already was born during a time when a reality star became president.

Now look. Yes, I was disappointed by the election results back in 2016. I didn't vote for Trump, but lets admit that Decision 2016 was just a shitshow all around. Even though I don't agree with much of what he does, I do find it a little fascinating that somebody with no government or military experience just kind of waltzed into the presidency. I don't think Trump is the Anti-Christ, I think he's a baffoon that got into his dream job somehow and now doesn't know what to do. At the same time, I am not sure I want him impeached, because Pence actually scares me more than Trump does.

One thing is for certain though, some of our very best talents have woken up during this period, and they are delivering some of their very best work. Some say that "BlackKklansman" is a wake up call for Spike Lee. To me, that's a really unfair. Lee has been on par with his best early work in 2015 with the remarkable "Chi-raq." A movie I missed in 2015, but which blew me away completely once I finally caught up with it. "The 25th Hour" was 2002. Bamboozled was 2000. Sure, he's made some crap in between there, the hits he makes are so precise that I can forgive him for a bad movie every once in awhile. Same with every director in the business. I hope this is all saying something too, because sometimes I am not so sure Spike Lee likes the whole white race.

"BlackKklansman" is a film that is based on a true story. It's so freaking strange that you aren't going to believe its real, but apparently is real. Ron Stallworth was the first African American police officer in Colorado Springs. He was hired in the early 1970's. He jumps around from department to department, hearing racial slurs while he does, goes undercover to a Black Panther Party only to end up in the intelligence division. To kill time one day, he calls the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, pretending to be a white person. What starts as a seeming prank, ends with Stallworth recruiting Jewish Officer Zimmerman to pretend to be him in the flesh. Stallworth and Zimmerman begin to infiltrate the KKK, and eventually learn of a possible attack.

Again, it doesn't sound real, but somehow it is. The movie that ensues is something that a wicked sense of humor, but also takes a real stand. Spike Lee has always been righteously angry, in cases both deserved and undeserved. Here, this is righteousness I can get behind. It helps when Lee adds some of the best humor in any of his films since "Do The Right Thing." It helps that he has put together one of the best acting ensembles he has ever had. John David Washington may not be a name that jumps out at you yet. In fact, if you've never seen HBO's "Ballers," you've probably never seen the guy. That will change as of 2018. He is getting on next years' Oscar ballot. I can't fathom how he won't. Washington plays Stallworth with an absolute perfection of the craft. I don't know if I have anything else to say about Adam Driver, the guy is just amazing, and he plays Zimmerman here. You may remember Laura Herrier from "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and she's great here as Stallworth's girlfriend. Topher Grace plays David Duke, the David Duke. Grace is really good at playing these low-key assholes, and he does a miraculous job here. Also look for Alec Baldwin in the early moments of the movie, giving us one of the film's biggest laughs.

There is a big difference between making something look like a particular time and making your film look like a community theater presentation. The small details DO matter in a movie, at least to me anyway. Spike Lee went all out with a crew of amazing individuals, and the costumes, the places and the general attitude of the film feels like the 1970's. There is a genuine realism to each and every scene that only added to the film's craft. I love it when history movies feel like time machines and not actual movies. While there is a comedic style to the film, its also amazing just how lived in this world feels.

The film ends with various footage of the Charlottesville protests, and while that may seem like a random thing to put into the final reel, it actually makes striking sense. I don't think it was an accident that this film's release date was the one-year anniversary of the protests. I think Lee is saying, loud and clear, that no matter how many steps forward we make, we then take just as many steps backward. No matter how well renowned we are as a nation, its still taken us hundreds of years to solve the race issue in this country. Worst yet? We still haven't answered it. While "BlackKklansman" is a funny movie, and certainly brings the entertainment factor. It also cut deep in a very meaningful way.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Summer 2018: The Retrospect

There has been something special about summer movies ever since the 1970s. The summer movie season has become an event. How hard can the studios entertain the audiences? It seems that has been the ultimate dare from studio to studio. Why not? The schools are out, people are planning vacations, the mindset is ultimately relaxation, or at least, as relaxed as you can get being a working American these days. I've always loved the summer movie season and I am always curious to see what the studios cook up while I enjoy much needed free air conditioning.

This summer though, everything changed for me. My wife and I brought home our first baby girl. This summer has been the best summer of my life because of it, and I hardly got a chance to step into a movie theater. There were some things I missed this summer. I missed "Mile 22" and "Slender Man" and "Mamma Mia 2" and "Adrift" and "Alpha." There were some big independent market movies like "Sorry To Bother You" and "Blackkklansman" that I've missed too. But that's okay, there will be plenty of time to catch up on all of those. Based upon what I did end up seeing though, I can say that summer 2018 was overall good.

There were a couple surprises like "Ocean's 8," simply because I didn't expect to like that movie. There was once again, a great superhero output. I hope you are all caught up on your Marvel movies, because 2019 is going to be a big year. No matter which comic company you prefer. The independent films I did see, "Book Club" and "Tully," were both good movies, but nothing I'd call great. But that didn't matter. We had "Mission: Impossible" and "Incredibles II" and sequels we didn't ask for, but ended up being fun in the first place.

The biggest error for me was "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." It was just a mere retread disguised as a new sequel. Nothing new or invigorating. Just the same old stuff we've come to know from the franchise. But in a summer movie season, one reason to be disappointed is a good thing. There were plenty of other surprises, but those surprises were good. That is the most I can ask for in a summer movie season.

While I didn't review it on my site, the last real summer movie I saw was "Crazy Rich Asians." Which was wildly entertaining. Is it predictable? Absolutely. But I think its predictable by design. There was no other way. The movie bends over backwards to entertain though. There are many funny moments and the cast is spot on every turn. I think Constance Wu is poised to become a big star and she certainly deserves it.

For all that I missed, I hope you all enjoyed it, I will do my best to catch up with everything. After its all said and done, I think summer 2018 ended up being a good one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good summer movie season in my book. As the weather begins to chill and the leaves begin to change, I will forever cherish the moments made here, as I always have.

Review: Netflix's "NextGen" is visually arresting, but doesn't really feel like a family movie

NextGen Review
It seems like more and more companies are trying to get into the children's family business. I can hardly blame them. Lots of these movies, except unless they come from the Disney vault, aren't based upon other sources. If they catch on, that's usually not just one or two, but sometimes three or four tickets that get bought in one sitting. If they really catch on, families will back again and again. Then, boom, you've got yourself a film franchise. It seems Paramount and Sony and Dreamworks are all working hard to compete with the Disney-Pixar machine, and why not? Competition is a good thing, no matter if Disney is eyeing to buy the whole damn world, competition is a good thing. It seems Netflix getting into the children's film business was only a matter of time. Why does a family have to spend tons of money on growing movie ticket prices and overpriced snacks when you can cuddle up on your own couch and make your own snacks for free?

"NextGen" is a bold statement for the animated family film by Netflix. I am not sure it works as a satisfying whole. But there are a couple of things that the movie does so right that I have to give it a recommendation. It's not flat out awful like so many Netflix original films are. There are some familiar voices in this movie, including John Krasinski, Jason Sudeikis, Constance Wu, David Cross and Michael Pena, just to name a few. For some reason, it never feels forced, the voices don't stick out like a sore thumb like the big celebrity voices can sometimes do. The computer animation is absolutely breathtaking. It's so richly detailed that while you are sitting at home, depending on how awesome your home television is, its a dreamlike vision. There is some action in the movie, and I was impressed that the action felt more cinematic in a grounded way instead of action feeling very childish. I'm not trying to sound negative, I just think that there is a certain style of acti81,on you find in animated kids movies, but "NextGen" makes something that feels more for the movies.

The story is going to sound wildly familiar. Millennials and young parents may find themselves dosing off depending on what they think of the storyline, because like I said, you've seen this movie before. It is essentially a "kid falls in love with their giant robot" movie. If you've seen "The Iron Giant." If you've seen "Transformers." If you've seen "Big Hero Six." There have been versions of this story that haven't involved robots, but aliens or monsters or whatever. It's an old, almost cliche story device at this point. Charlyne Yi voices Mai, a girl whose father walked out on her when she was very young. She's grown up with her mother (Wu) but still feels distant from her when lots of technology starts taking over. Every home has a personal robot thanks to IQ Robotics. Sudeikis gives voice to the charismatic Justin Pin, who is introducing a new line of personal robots. Pin has a little sidekick, who is working on some side projects and one of them gets away and finds its way to Mai.

The first half of the movie is the best part. The film does a really good job of setting up Mai and the renegade robot 72281, voiced by Krasinski. The film eventually boils down to a broken robot and a broken girl having an inseparable bond, and that is a very sweet message. Like I said familiar, the characters both save each other, but there is some semi-mature content in this film, and it will take some serious discussions between parent and child afterward, which can be rewarding.

But there lies the problem as well. This movie can't decide if it wants to be a children's movie or a movie about childhood. Yes, there is a huge difference. "Where The Wild Things Are" is a movie about childhood, it has nothing in common with your typical Pixar movie. There are some big themes this movie is playing with, and I love the ambition. But the tonal shifts almost become too hard to bare. Is the film intended to be something kid-friendly, or something to be taken a little more seriously, the movie can't decide, so how can we? It can't even decide on its humor. There is a pet dog in the movie, and in the middle of the movie, it randomly begins talking. The movie bleeps out two words that were meant to be F-bombs, and it becomes awkward to listen to. Plus, the dog only talking through mere parts of the movie makes no sense with the rest of the movie.

No matter how you look at it, even though inconsistent, "NextGen" still manages to pull off an ultimately enjoyable experience. Thanks in large part to its beautiful animation and its cinematic action sequences. There are couple moments that I want to just watch again, and that's the beauty of having these movies on hand due to the streaming services. Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu and everything coming in the future are only going to get more competitive, and if they keep reaching like they did here, the audience will be the winners every time.


Friday, September 7, 2018

RIP Burt Reynolds

RIP Burt Reynolds

Yesterday, legendary actor Burt Reynolds passed away at age 82. He was always an actor I admired, and I do remember hearing his name much over the course of my life. I am about to show my age here, so please bare with me. As I looked throughout Burt Reynolds' filmography, there was very little of of his work that I actually saw. Most of the things he's well known for, I can't even attest to. I almost feel like a bad movie fan to admit that. But I think I've seen enough to discuss just what an impact he left on the world of filmmaking. He's also one of those guys who appeared all throughout pop culture. Not just movies, but television and even lending his voice in video games. He kind of did it all, which is why he resonated so much with me even though I didn't see a ton of his movies.

One movie of his in particular is a grand favorite of mine. I am talking one of my ten favorite films of all time. I bought "Smokey and the Bandit" on a whim back in 2012. A Blu-Ray disc to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures. I never buy movies on whim, my collection is jam-packed with favorites, I like to get movies that I know I love, and will watch again and again. No time to put stuff in my collection I am not going to watch ever in the foreseeable future. There was something about that cover that appealed to me. I brought it home, I put the disc in my player. I began to watch. The premise is set up fairly quickly and when the iconic theme song plays, and Bandit drives away, following a semi-truck full of Coors Light, I knew the movie had me. I don't know how many of you have watched a movie and before it really got going, you knew in the back of your head that you were going to love it. That's the feeling I got from "Smokey and The Bandit." My love for the movie has grown and grown the more times I watch it. I actually watched it tonight to celebrate the career of Reynolds.

I've seen "Deliverance" and I did enjoy that one, its one of the better horror movies ever made. I could discuss "Deliverance." I could discuss "The Cannonball Run." I could discuss how the newer "Longest Yard," inspired me track down the old "Longest Yard." I could talk about the Smokey sequels. But there is another big Reynolds movie, big to me at least, that I bet most people aren't talking about. In the 1997 film "Boogie Nights," Burt Reynolds plays a porn director. He was so smug and silly and business-like all at the same time. Its truly was a mesmerizing experience just watching him in that movie. In a movie already full of great actors, he really stood out. 

When I say he lent his voice in video games, one in particular was "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." I am not a HUGE gamer, and it usually takes something very special to get me to constantly play. I haven't been obsessed with too many video games. But one series I have been obsessed with is the GTA  series. Simply put, I love how cinematic their storytelling is, and its just fun to let loose in any way fashionable. I liked Reynolds' Avery Carrington. He didn't give your character lots of missions, but he made his presents known, even though he was only doing voice work.

I feel the need to discover every corner of Reynolds' career now. It seems so rich that I need to get going right now. I've loved him in everything I have seen him in though, and Hollywood doesn't quite seem the same without him now. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

First Look at Marvel's "Captain Marvel"

Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly gave us our first look at "Captain Marvel." The upcoming superhero movie to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this March. The day before yesterday, star Brie Larson had some fun on Twitter with Entertainment Weekly. They were getting everybody ready and hyped up for the big announcement yesterday. We got some stills from the movie as well as some information from the movie.

It looks like "Captain Marvel" WILL NOT be an origin story. Which is an interesting take. I guess we've reached the point that we can make these movies where every superhero doesn't need an origin story. I am sure everything important that needs to be explained will be explained. But its certainly a bold choice to make her debut without the usual origin story. We got our first look at the Skrulls, the shapeshifting aliens who will be the villains in the movie. We also got a look Samuel L. Jackson as younger Nick Fury. He has digitally de-aged 25 years, as will Clark Gregg, the first time this has happened in a movie.

We also get our first look at Jude Law as Mar-Vell. As well as some familiar faces if you know your Marvel movies. I think Larson looks awesome! I am very curious to see a trailer now! Which If I could guess, will probably be heading our way soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: "The Happytime Murders" is a wasted effort, a missed opportunity and the years biggest disappointment

The Happytime Murders Review

This seemed totally in my wheelhouse. A movie made by Brian Hensen, the son of the legendary Jim Hensen. Following in his fathers footsteps with the use of puppets, but in a completely different direction. Make a buddy cop comedy movie starring a human and a puppet, set it in a darker version of "The Muppets" and let the laughs roll. Cast such humans as Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph and Joel McHale and you're set. Right? Right? What follows is a movie that has hotly divided audience since its release, and has been ripped to shreds by the critics.

Well, I side with the critics, almost overwhelmingly. "The Happytime Murders" is a big piece of shit. I don't even feel bad saying it. In fact, I feel so good, I'll say it one more time. "The Happytime Murders" is a big piece of shit. A total miscalculation that slogs along way past its welcome. Completely unfunny in every form and fashion. A cliche-ridden mess that is a total waste of actors, a total waste or resources and a total waste of time for the audience. I was looking at this project with much more hopeful eyes than it deserved. I not only got punched in the face for my efforts, I got hit by a car, struck by lightning and then had a beehive land and crack open on me for my efforts. 

Before we really get into it, let me just set the bar straight. When a movie so effortlessly divides audiences like this film has, the easiest argument the supporters of said movie can muster is simply stating "you just didn't understand it." or in this case, "you just don't like raunchy comedy." These are the laziest arguments one can make. Smart people can still have opinions on smart movies, and you can be a fan of raunchy, out-of-control humor and not like EVERYTHING that subgenre has to offer. Look back over the course of this blog. I have recommended such movies as "Sausage Party" (which is somehow being compared to this tripe) and "Re-Animator" and "Mail Order Wife." I enjoy raunchy comedy. I enjoy darker comedy. I like these types of comedy of all ages, throughout all of time. I am not a card-carrying Politically Correct member of society. I can take a bitter joke. I also pride myself having a broad sense of humor. I am almost thirty years old and I still laugh at farts for twenty minutes. It could very well be that I am immensely immature for my age. It shouldn't take much to get me laughing, and when I sit in a theater, watching a comedy I've been dying to see, and I don't laugh at all. That's an automatic red flag.

That is just my long winded explanation of how much of a chance I gave this movie. I gave it a fair shot, and I can say with honesty and with ease that "The Happytime Murders" is a failure. When people try to say that its comparable to "Rick And Morty" or "Venture Bros" or the half a dozen other superior pop culture events, those people are overselling you. I love "Rick and Morty," I don't love "The Happytime Murders." Not one bit. I call the movie a wasted effort because so many great artists went into this only to make a cliche murder mystery and followed it with a bunch of unfunny jokes. I bet Brian Henson has seen several film noirs in his day, and if he wanted to make a riff on that genre, cool. I get that the genre has certain rules to follow. But if you don't want to break those rules, or even properly parody those rules, then I honestly don't get the point of making it in the first place.

I call the movie a missed opportunity because there was actually lots of potential in the idea. The movie takes place in a seedy alternate Los Angeles, where puppets and humans share the city. There is some animosity between the two races. This movie could have worked as a funny version of Netflix's "Bright," but the cast and crew fail to make any serious points or land any of their jokes. Time after time, the movie is continually unfunny. They touch on the everyday prejudices that sadly still plague our world, but there is never any serious inquiry. There are never any clever metaphors through humor. "Sausage Party" was a surprise because not only was it laugh-out-loud funny, but it was actually an interesting commentary about how we share this country and this world, we all want different things and we all come from different backgrounds, but when the chips are down, we come together to help each other. It's a sentiment more Americans could stop and live by without making everything little thing that comes into their lives political. It's a message I would have never thought to see in an R-rated movie about food.

"The Happytime Murders" just wants to tell a simple noir story, without even trying to parody it. It features a huge slew of unfunny jokes. I guess I should have expected the worst when the silly string jizz scene made famous by the trailers went on a half hour too long in a two minute trailer. I had high hopes. I mean, there is a scene where the lead detective walks into a porn shop and sees a woman milking a cow on its back in a masturbatory motion. I should have laughed out loud, its wickedly hilarious on page. But none of the laughs work onscreen. The detective mystery has its own set of rules. Film noir has its own set of rules. Jim Hensen's career was based solely on innocence and laughter. This movie was ripe to be so funny it caused a stomach-ache. But no, zero effort was made on the laughs, and that is always the most disappointing thing about a comedy.

If you haven't spent money on this already, I recommend you don't.