Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Robert Eggers both divided horror fans and revitalized the horror genre with "The Witch." I fell madly in love with the movie. I am still in love with the movie. I get drunk every time I see it, flipping for it every time. Ever since, I've been patiently waiting for the next thing Eggers chooses to do. Heck, it didn't even need to be a horror movie, I just couldn't wait to see what he was going to do next.
"The Lighthouse" is what's next for Eggers. It stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The first trailer is pretty creepy. A different style of creepy compared to "The Witch," which I like. I love it when directors in a certain genre explores all the corners of said genre. I can't really tell you what this is about. I know it was fairly talked about at Sundance this year. I also know it looks creepy as shit.
Anybody still doubting Pattinson as Batman should take a look here. Not a sight of "Twilight" anywhere to be seen.
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
We've been told for a few years now that Quentin Tarantino is planning on retiring from filmmaking after he makes his tenth film. "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" is his ninth film. The thought of so little Tarantino coming to my screen is incredibly sad to me. This is one of the guys that really got me to love movies. This is a guy that led me on a crash course through genres and films and actors and filmmakers that have definitely shaped me into the movie nerd I am today. He's a filmmaker I feel like I know inside in out. I've noticed he's a consistent filmmaker, perhaps the most consistent I've ever seen. He seems to get better with age, and his style has aged like wine, which makes me doubly sad that he's thinking of turning in after ten films.
"Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" gave me something I didn't expect from Tarantino though. On one level, its another great Tarantino movie. All of his favorite fetishes, homages and likenesses are all on full display. The movie is a celebration of everything Tarantino has ever enjoyed. There might not be a bigger movie nerd working in the business right now other than Tarantino, and he seems to cram everything he's loved most into this movie. On another level, Tarantino has pretty much summed up his own career with his movie. He fetishes Westerns like he did in "Django Unchained" and "The Hateful Eight." He pays homage to the old World War Two movies like "Inglorious Basterds." There is a fight that will remind you of "Kill Bill." The movie breaks into old fashioned horror-show like "Death Proof." There is a round-table dialogue exchange a la "Reservoir Dogs." There is a moment in a car that will remind you of the best scenes with John Travolta and Uma Thurman from "Pulp Fiction."
If anybody could pay homage to their own career without making themselves look conceited, its Quentin Tarantino.
Despite everything on display, Tarantino's new movie hit me on even another level. Do you guys think its crazy that despite his usual style, despite the fun bits of monologues and dialogue, despite the moments of great intensity coupled with the moments of hilarity, that Tarantino made a movie we need right now? It may seem weird, but its absolutely true.
The main gist of "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" revolves around Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) who down on his luck. He was a big star on TV in the 1950's. Its now 1969, and television is fading, and its starting to look like movies will be the medium if you really want to make a career in acting. That probably looks weird in 2019, because we are still living in a Golden Age of television, and that medium is no longer seen as second class. All sorts of actors will show up on TV these days, and that simply wasn't the case in the 1960's and for a few decades after. Dalton believes his life to be over, he laments about all of this with his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), an interesting guy in his own right. He may or may not have fought Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) on the set of "The Green Hornet." He may or may not have killed his own wife.
Dalton sees the Western as a dying breed, and he's seeing the business changing all around him. Does any of this sound familiar? Anybody who really understands trends in movies may be able to figure it out. Quentin Tarantino was an indie filmmaker who came out of the 1990's indie scene. He came from the same group as Kevin Smith, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater (among others). There was a time indie filmmakers could make it big, if they had the right movie. These days, the studios are chasing the big tentpoles, the massive franchises. So much so, that those types of movies seem to be the only things playing. A-list actors aren't used as special effects anymore. All the big entertainment conglomerates are buying everything up, putting smaller studios out of business. Our culture has also allowed this to thrive. While you may be loving all the nostalgia and all your favorite things becoming film franchises, its destroying creativity in the business. Hopefully, it will all come back around again. But right now, the business is changing, much like it is for Dalton. As an older actor, its hard getting his foot back in.
All the while this is all happening, Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) move in next door to Dalton, and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) is already scouting them out. These two stories will eventually collide at the film's climax, but not in ways people will expect. I had to laugh pretty hard when people thought Tarantino was going to glorify a serial killer. Nope, not even close. Tarantino lives in his own little world, and honestly, its a world I wished I lived in too. I think people will be blown away where this movie leads.
Its interesting seeing Tarantino not working in the revenge fantasy outlet. This movie lets loose in a much different way and we are seeing a very different Tarantino with this movie. This is a movie that is made by a more mature Tarantino, and the end results is just as powerful as ever. He's still got a great ear for music, and the films soundtrack is addicting. His movie feels like an authentic time machine, making you feel like you are living in the late 1960's. He's once again put together a stellar cast, and I love how he uses his actors to such effect. Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Margaret Qually, Emile Hirsch, Damien Lewis, Bruce Dern, Dakota Fanning, the late Luke Perry, Michael Madsen, James Remar. All names, new and old to Tarantino become total characters. I think actors know that they are in for a unique experience in a Tarantino movie, that's why so many have been eager to work with him. Everyone, little or small is memorable.
If you've never enjoyed Tarantino's style, this isn't going to win you over. This is a Tarantino movie, through and through. It just seems he's exploring his voice and his beliefs and his ideas in a different way this time. "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" isn't just the best of the summer and possibly the best of the year. I didn't expect this, but its a movie we need right now, and I movie I didn't know I needed right now.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
He's a guy that should have been more well known than he was. He actually had a really big career and appeared in several films. He's a guy I will miss quite a bit.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
The Lion King Review
Whether its watching your favorite superheroes come to life onscreen. Whether its the ignition of the "Star Wars" franchise. Or whether its rewatching your favorite cartoon movies as a kid now as live action remakes, Disney has become comfortable just selling your nostalgia right back to us. Sure, they call it merely making old favorites for a new generation. But isn't that what they all say? Aren't they just counting on the old generation to bring their kids, to see if maybe they can remaking their classics again for the generation after that?
Your enjoyment of "The Lion King" will depend on how powerful your nostalgia is for the old movie from 1994. I would gauge the same thing for all of these live action Disney remakes. How far outside the box they decide to go while still remaking the movie are the ones that stick out the most to me. The others? Well, they feel like watching somebody sing karaoke of your favorite song. Jon Favreau did an impeccable job making a live action Jungle Book. Out of all the Disney live action movies, that is currently my favorite. "The Lion King" is my favorite Disney movie ever. So, if any of these remakes forced me to carry some heavy baggage into the theater, its this one. But since Jon Favreau did such a tremendous job on "The Jungle Book," we are good hands, right?
First and foremost, "The Lion King" is breath taking to behold. Breath. Take. Ing. If "The Lion King" is anything, its a showcase of the sheer power of special effects, and I am sure we are looking at an early front runner for Visual Effects Oscar for the winter. The movie itself? Well, it's an oddly passive experience. The whole time it tightrope walks on the line between being a nostalgic rush and being just another karaoke version of a classic tale. Sure, the pretty pictures are just that, pretty. But if you are looking forward to something more, the movie just kind of runs on autopilot.
The biggest eye-opener is that Jon Favreau did very little to make this movie stand out. I love "The Lion King," I grew up with "The Lion King." Its a movie I definitely feel like I know inside and out. With these remakes, there needs needs to be an angle that feels fresh and innovative. "The Lion King" just seems like a frame-by-frame retelling of the original animated movie, partially on fast forward. There are only a few superficial changes to certain things, but basically what your watching is the animated movie in live action.
I visited New York City in 2003 with my family and one of the things we did while there was see "The Lion King" on Broadway. It was spectacular show. Just dazzling and mesmerizing, a experience that goes beyond detail. The difference between the 1994 movie and the Broadway musical isn't simply me watching actors dressed like animals. There were a few different songs and a couple scenes that slightly change the meaning or highlight a theme differently. Sure, a stage musical and a movie are two completely different experiences but he musical went beyond to make a different experience too. Live action "The Lion King," if we can even really call it that, works basically as an updated version of the original animated movie. Its basically the same movie with different voices. I wonder why pay money for a movie ticket for the same experience you can have at home, albeit more kiddy?
The best live action Disney updates do something different with the material, but "The Lion King" plays it so unbelievably close to the original movie that, put side by side, just look too identical. Not only that, a lot of the movie suffers from a lack of feeling. The live action movie misses some of the humor and emotion that made the original film a keeper. Movies are empathy machines on a level I've never seen before, and the best movies don't just allow an audience to watch something, they feel it. The original "Lion King" still gets me today. This new one doesn't hit you in the heart the same way the original did, and I know that's possible because Favreau did that with his "Jungle Book."
Choosing regular actors to voice animated characters can be made or broken by which actor is chosen. I have to be dead honest, as much as I like Seth Rogen, his work as Pumbaa took me out of the movie. Every single time, it took me out of the movie. Rogen's voice is so distinct, and so on-the-nose iconic that you feel like your almost watching a parody of "The Lion King." I liked John Oliver as Zazoo. I liked Donald Glover and Beyonce Knowles-Carter does good work as Nala. I am going to go ahead and assume they both did their own singing, and of course its good. As much as I love Chiwetel Ejiofor is a masterful actor, but I don't think his voice work can honestly compare to the work by Jeremy Irons as Scar.
If you need a nostalgia overload, go ahead see it. If you need to see one of your favorite movies from yesteryear, go ahead see it. The visuals will definitely knock you flat. Just know this isn't going tug the heart strings as much as the original did. Even knowing the original isn't going to make you interpret this one any differently. This feels like a movie that was merely made just so more billions of dollars can flood to Disney, billions they really doesn't need, without anything new to bring to the table. Without the fun and humor of the first film. Sorry, but I'll take Ninja Rafiki over brawler Rafiki any day of the week.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Monday, July 22, 2019
Point Blank Review
We have a nurse whose wife is three weeks away from becoming a dad. We have a criminal who is trying to release information on a corrupt cop ring. Over the course of a day, the two will collide in order to bring down the corrupt cops. This is "Point Blank," with Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo. So, if you've ever wondered what it would be like for The Falcon to team up with Crossbones, look no further. That's at least the simplified version of the story. "Point Blank" is an action thriller that tries really hard to be clever, and the more clever it tries to be, the more confusing the experience becomes. But hey, we got Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo to chew up macho-man scenery, the only question is "Is that enough?"
Mackie plays ER nurse Paul Booker, who has to oversee the career criminal Abe (Grillo) who was hit by a car after fleeing a shootout that got a politician killed. Abe's brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) kidnaps Paul's very pregnant wife in order to get Paul to break Abe out of police supervision at the hospital, so they can pay a debt to a gangster. That right there is a nice plot for an action thriller and would have been more than enough to get the movie going on the right foot. A nice time bomb set up for an action movie. "Point Blank" eventually gets bogged down into too much plot. When it starts throwing in corrupt cops, Abe and Mateo being kind of bad guys but not really, and watching a pregnant women unrealistically go through lots of grief without giving birth and you start to understand how "Point Blank" loses its way.
The thing I can't stand the most is clueless the movie is in terms of tone. Is "Point Blank" intended to be an action movie or an action comedy? We get see the mistreatment of a pregnant lady one minute, then a quasi-goofy scene with a popular pop song blasting in the background. We get a scene where a many is severely beaten, then go right to a scene where we have a post-Tarantino gangster talking about movies and video games. Its an odd movie simply to watch from start to finish. Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie look like their in one movie one minute, then a totally different movie the next.
There is no denying that Frank Grillo is one of the best action stars of his generation, and his performance alone certainly keeps the movie interesting. Sure, you could stack all of his performances up next to each other and he's pretty much made a career doing the exact same thing. But hell, he does that thing very well. Anthony Mackie is probably the only actor that does a decent job rolling with the tone that goes every which way in this movie. He knows when to play a scene straight and he knows when to have a little fun. He's definitely becoming one of the most interesting actors of his generation.
It's a good thing Mackie and Grillo came to play because "Point Blank" would have been an embarrassingly awkward experience to sit through.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Sunday, July 21, 2019
One of the earliest things my family used to watch was "Star Trek," and the first "Star Trek" show I watched was "Star Trek: The Next Generation." One of the earliest heroes of TV I got introduced to was Captain Jean Luc Picard. I can't say that I remember every episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I also don't think I saw each of the movie with that particular cast, but everything I do remember, I enjoyed.
I love the idea of Patrick Stewart returning as Picard and getting his own show on CBS All Access. The trailer looks awesome, and I really like that he's going back up into space with a new crew. I love that Data is coming back and Jeri Ryan from Voyager will be making an appearance. I have no clue if this will even parallel Discovery in any way, because I really haven't been watching that. I have no clue where at in the timeline that show would fall. All I can say is that this definitely looks intriguing.
I've been waiting patiently for the second half of "It." I've been a big fan of watching the adult casting come into focus and I am happy to see the actors I know and curious to see the actors I don't know. This second trailer for Chapter Two looks terrifying and I am curious to see how the things that aren't in the book play into the movie.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
We got our first look at what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to look like post-"Avengers: Endgame." The future looks beautiful.
For the movie side of things; we are getting a fourth Thor movie. "Thor: Love and Thunder" will star Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Natalie Portman. Yep, Portman is returning as Jane Foster, and she's going to be worthy! Literally. We are getting female Thor! The next sequel is "Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness" it will apparently be the first horror film in the MCU and will star Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen, which I guess makes sense. The "Black Widow" prequel is coming, and will star Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, a damn good cast.
"The Eternals" is probably the most ambitious movie coming in the future, and will apparently be different from anything we've seen so far. It will star Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Don Lee, Kumail Nanjani, Bryan Tyree Henry and Lauren Ridoff. From that cast alone, I'm sold. We will also be getting "Shang-Chi" and that movie will involve The Ten Rings and we will finally be getting THE REAL MANDARIN.
The announcement also revealed some shows coming to Disney Plus. Comic-Con Patrons got a look at "The Falcon and Winter Soldier," "Hawkeye," "Loki," and "WandaVision" all live-action shows that will involve the characters we know and love (Loki will be a prequel show). We will also be getting "What If" which is based on a Marvel comic line and asked the simple question of what would happen if certain events happened a different way. It will be animated and will feature our favorite MCU characters being voiced by the actors who play them.
Kevin Feige also announced A new Blade coming to the MCU, will be played by Mahershala Ali! Don't know if it will be a movie or show. But that is big news.
Kevin Feige didn't have time to talk about anything else on the horizon, but he did confirm that "Black Panther 2," "Guardians of the Galaxy 3," and "Captain Marvel 2" are all in the works. Also he announced that "Fantastic Four" is being worked on. He ended the Marvel panel with the quote "No more time to talk about mutants." So that pretty much confirms we will be seeing the X-Men in the MCU very soon too! I know it was a battle to acquire the Fox characters, but its going to be so cool to see a complete Marvel universe in live action! This is the thing I've been dreaming of for years now!
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Kumail Nanjani was in "The Big Sick" in 2017, and he also guest appeared on a few episodes of "Archer." I also really enjoyed "Silicon Valley." Dave Bautista got lots of tough guy roles starting out thanks to his macho persona as a professional wrestler. But "Guardians of the Galaxy" proved that he had some good comedic timing and could be surprisingly sincere at times too. The two of them together should make for a pretty great comedy. When it was announced they'd be in "Stuber," a sort of buddy comedy of sorts, I figured it would be a big win for the summer.
For the most part, "Stuber" is pretty good. Both Nanjani and Bautista have some really good comedic timing and they carry the movie with charisma. Nanjani plays a disgruntled Uber Driver named Stu who is forced by an aggressive cop Vic (Bautista) to drive him around town in order to find a drug lord Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais). There is some good dialogue and some silly situations with the pair. Nanjani has that deadpan anxiety that he has very well perfected. Bautista has that mild-mannered persona on full force and that stern voice throughout. They surely are funny together.
The movie itself feels like its over before it really begins. It moves pretty fast. Vic has a dilemma of not being there for his daughter (Natalie Morales). Stu has problems with his other job and also doesn't know how to tell a girl in his life that he has feelings for them. It's all pretty pedestrian as character development and the movie never really takes the time to explore anything to its fullest degree. Things seem to happen out of convenience instead of actual development. While Nanjani and Bautista have some funny scenes together, they are mostly few and far between. In any comedy, the most important thing that should happen is how often I laugh. If I am not laughing that much, I call that a serious problem with any comedy. These guys are both hilarious, they deserved a better script.
One thing I did like was that Iko and Bautista throw down, that was awesome.
"Struber" boils down to pretty much how you think it will. If you don't need too much from your entertainment, these two guys should have enough starpower to carry the day. Its passable, I just wish it wasn't such a rushed experience.
FINAL GRADE: C
Monday, July 15, 2019
It seems like we are entering a period of time where we get one summer movie that only exists to please. Last year, we got "The Meg," a big-budget movie about a giant shark. I believe I remember saying that it was like those cheesy movies you see on the SyFy channel, except it happened to star Jason Statham. This year, we get "Crawl." About a strong hurricane that hits Florida and how a daughter must save her father entrenched in a flooding house. Oh, and also, they are being hunted by alligators.
Your enjoyment of "Crawl" is going to depend solely on you. Make no mistake, "Crawl" as a movie does kind of stink. But its not an offensively bad movie. Its not an embarrassingly bad movie. Its not the type of bad movie that will make you feel bad for watching it after. Its a goofy bad movie. It could very well end up ranking highly on your guilty pleasures list. The acting is better than whatever you see on the Syfy channel, so there's that. The special effects isn't bad, sorta. The movie has some one-liners that will either make you roll your eyes or snicker to yourself. Best of all, there is a sweet dog in the movie and it survives to the end. That spoiler I will share with you.
The two main players are Haley Keller and her father Dave Keller. Kaya Scodelario plays Haley and Barry Pepper (where the hell has he been?) plays Dave. Haley has been swimming for many years, and while she's been a very good swimmer all of her life, her father used to coach her. Dave is the kind of coach who is kind of cold and kind of a hard-ass, which rubbed Haley the wrong way, so he doesn't coach her anymore. Alas, she still loves him, so when a Category Five hurricane hits their home deep in Florida, she goes to check on him while their town gets evacuated. Haley finds her dad in a flooding house and like I said, alligators eventually attack. There is pretty thin layer of character development just to get things going, but not much development is inflated from there. We get just enough to set up two characters to survive and work with each other against the alligators. But do you really go to a movie like "Crawl" for character development?
No you don't. This is a great audience movie. This is something you go to a big auditorium full of people who want to see it. This is a movie to hoot and holler for. You can't get that kind of experience at home. This is not a movie you nitpick for what makes a movie a movie, because "Crawl" only exists to please, that is all.
Do you need anymore reason to see this?
FINAL GRADE: B-
Friday, July 12, 2019
Last year, Ari Aster stomped onto the scene with "Hereditary," an independent horror movie that took the world by storm and became a bold statement for Aster as a filmmaker and artist. This year, he returns with "Midsommar," another horror movie. One thing is evidently clear about Aster now that I've seen "Midsommar" and being a fan of "Hereditary," he is going to be joining a list of directors which includes Nicolas Winding Refn, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Thomas Anderson and Stanley Kubrick (may he rest in peace), where he's making movies that aren't for the whole audience. In fact, much like the directors I listed above, the audience seems secondary to the cinematic process for Aster. The horror genre is already a fairly uninviting one, simply because not everybody out there likes being scared. There are many different sides to the horror genre too though, and "Midsommar" is definitely not what people might expect.
I read and reviewed the script back in March. I remember feeling that Aster was going to have another hit on hands and it solidified him as a storyteller. I also knew that, much like his "Hereditary," this was going to divide audiences. Already on my social media accounts and looking through YouTube videos, its clear that "Midsommar" polarized audiences. The script I read was two years old and the thing I was scared of the most was that the final movie would change dramatically and lose some of its power. You may not even realize how often that happens, things change and a lot can happen to a movie within two years. Hell, Steven Spielberg changed the entire meaning of "Minority Report," simply by lifting one sentence of dialogue out of the movie's ending. The smallest details can change your movie, for better or for worse.
Thankfully, the "Midsommar" playing in theaters right now is pretty much the same as the script. There are a couple of minor changes to how we learn information and certain tweaks to things, but essentially its the same as the script. Thank god for that because it made "Midsommar" quite a frightening experience for me. There are a couple things from the script I wished we could have seen, and a scene in particular that may have explained one detail of the movie a little bit better. But Aster has already announced a director's cut so maybe I will get to see it when that is released. "Midsommar" ended up being exactly what I wanted it to be, a slow-burn, dreadful experience, filled with mood and atmosphere.
If you haven't read the script or have only seen previews, the story is fairly simple. Dani (Florence Pugh) is a girl suffering from severe anxiety, she's got a boyfriend named Christian (Jack Reynor) who she's kinda-sorta on the outs with. She's got some trouble with her family. Christian is ready to break up with Dani when her sister commits a murder-suicide, killing herself and her parents. Christian then remains with her. By chance, Dani finds out that Christian and his friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter) are going with Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) to Pelle's Swedish village for a midsummer festival, which is rarely held. While Dani and Christian bicker about Dani not knowing Christian was going, he awkwardly invites her along. Seeing it as an avenue to get away, she agrees.
There is definitely a familiarity that sets in when Dani and the group settle in Hasingland for the festival. If you've seen plenty of cult horror movies, you know everything looks stunning, and beautiful and everybody is so happy and chipper. Everybody starts taking drugs and going on trips and it all looks like a fun free-for-all. But slowly and surely, dread starts to set in. Something bad is going to happen to someone, right? Someone is going to get sacrificed, right? I have heard some people complain about predictability in "Midsommar," and yes, once it really gets going, its not surprising how things end up. If you are fan of movies like "The Wicker Man" or the criminally underrated "The Sacrament" or the segment from "V/H/S 2" called Safe Haven, you know something bad is going to happen in paradise. But that's the cult horror genre. Slasher movies are all pretty much alike but do Ghostface, Leatherface, Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees have lots in common? Not really. You could stack up several movies in one genre and call them predictable, but its the smaller details that shine through. Deeply analyzing "Midsommar," "The Wicker Man," "The Sacrament" and "Safe Haven" would prove that all four of those movies are very different from each other in many ways.
As "The Wicker Man" was a police story with a shocking ending, "Midsommar" is a horror version of a bad break-up. Christian is constantly looking for an out with Dani and when tragedy strikes her life, it makes it difficult for Christian to find an out. They barely seem interested in each other at the Swedish commune and Christian even forgets Dani's birthday. After reading the script and seeing the movie, Christian is definitely a jerk. He represents something toxic for Dani, something she needs to rid herself of and she'll be much better.
Not only that but the movie is very much about community and family. Dani loses her family, and while in a toxic relationship with Christian, life seems very dour at the moment. What "Midsommar" proudly proclaims is that whether your close to your family, or your best friends are considered your family, or both, you need community. You need a core group of people you can count on to be there for you and to love you. If you don't have that, you are adrift and you may not come back from it in a positive way. Realizing you've found your people is one of the most uplifting experiences one can actually have. And yes, "Midsommar" is definitely the horror version of that too, but its incredibly important to the movie.
One thing I can agree with dissenters on is the pacing. When I initially read the script in March, the script did not read like it was a long movie, and at two hours and thirty minutes, you definitely feel that timing. Yes, I like slow burn horror, its some of my favorite kind of horror. But there is definitely a difference between Making The Audience Feel The Dread and Boring The Audience To Tears. I think Aster walks between those two differences like a tightrope sometimes in this movie. Sometimes the movie is on the verge of getting away from him.
In "Hereditary," Toni Collette gave a masterful performance, and the only bad thing that came out of that is she was not nominated for an Oscar for her incredible work. Florence Pugh gives a incredible performance here as well. She drives the whole thing. She makes you feel her anxiety and uncertainty. She sells the idea of the fear and confusion she's feeling from the strange cult she is watching unfold in front her eyes. Its a grand performance, something that can make somebody into a star and now I am really excited to see what she has to offer when she shows up in the "Black Widow" prequel Marvel is making. Poulter and Harper do good work as Christian's friends, giving life to two characters who seem fairly one-dimensional on the page. I also have to say that Blomgrend was absolutely perfect as Pelle, there is a subtly charming/ subtly creepy vibe Pelle is supposed to have and I think Blomgrend focused that energy well. The commune at Hasingland, it is full of charmingly creepy people, and the Swedish actors chosen here all do impeccable work.
The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski is breathtaking, making "Midsommar" the most gorgeous horror movie in recent memory. It certainly makes "Midsommar" a bit unique in the way that horror is all seen throughout the day. Even in "The Wicker Man," much of the strange and off-putting material in that movie happened at night. There is something extra shocking about seeing stuff happen in the sunshine and Aster uses that to his advantage.
Perhaps one day Ari Aster will have his own personal "Drive" and he'll make something so profound that it sticks with all audiences. For right now, Aster is making the type of horror that I buy into. All of sudden it seems something woke up in the bowels of Hollywood and people are making horror movies strictly for me. I don't like most of the found footage stuff. I don't find gore and blood scary. I don't find teenagers who can't act dying in grotesque ways scary. My favorite kind of horror involves tension, mood, atmosphere. I like the feeling that nothing is what it seems. There is some stuff in this movie that happens off-screen, and while some may not like that they didn't get to see what happened to a particular character, that stuff scares me more when handled right. When a director makes my head spin imagining the fate of a character, that's scary to me. My expectations were incredibly high for this one, and it just plain worked for me. But I can understand why it doesn't work for everyone. But knowing cult horror and folk horror, I don't know how it could have went any other way. You know the kind of horror you like, so if this sounds up your alley, take the ride. Aster has proven he's one of the greats.
FINAL GRADE: A
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Have you ever imagined being the lead singer of a certain band? Have you ever wondered if you could choose the career path of a particular band or singer, which one would you choose and why? Not only that, but have you ever wondered if a particular band from the 1950s or 1960s didn't exist, and you wrote their songs, would they still carry the same popularity today? Many people have theorized if The Beatles formed today instead of back then if they'd really be as big today as they were back then. Simply because music is so different today, although can any song of today beat the lyrical meaning of The Beatles?
That is precisely the game being played in "Yesterday." Himesh Patel is an actor I am unfamiliar with, but he plays Jack in this movie. Jack is an aspiring singer who just can't get his foot in the door. He can barely get his foot in any type of door and he feels like abandoning his passion for music completely. One night, driving home from work, he gets hurt during a power outage. After recovering, he slowly begins to realize that nobody around him recognizes any Beatles songs. Not any obscure Beatles work either. Nobody recognizes "Yesterday," or "She Loves You" or their biggest of big hits. He Googles it and finds out that somehow after the outage, The Beatles simply disappeared from existence.
Sounds like a goofy premise in order to celebrate one of the best rock'n'roll bands in history? Oh yes, that's entirely true. For the first hour or so, the movie is a celebration of the music and the work done by The Beatles. Jack uses the Beatles music to get into the music scene and he quickly becomes popular. Gets noticed by a record label. Swoons people left and right. He even beats Ed Sheerin in a song writing and performance contest (Sheerin plays himself in this). For the first half of the film, it does feel like a silly yet sincere way to celebrate the music of the Beatles.
For the second half of the movie, it suddenly becomes an episode of Sesame Street. The movie takes a left turn into moral fable with outcomes so pedestrian you'll think the movie was made for children. Jack is close friends to a girl Ellie (Lily James). Does he want to be more than friends? Will his newfound fame interfere with that relationship? Will Jack admit to plagiarism to choose Ellie even though The Beatles no longer exist and he doesn't really have to? These are all outcomes that come a mile away. The movie makes no effort, to venture into new avenues and never tries to make anything new or exciting. It just kind of happens and ends.
Kate McKinnon shows up as a record label producer, the kind that doesn't have the best intentions for Jack. If she were a dude, she'd definitely have a mustache to twirl. She has some good funny material here and they make use of McKinnon's comedic timing well. I think Patel is good actor and does exactly what is needed to sell the strange idea at the heart of the movie. I don't know if he does the singing in the movie or not, but I think Beatles fans will enjoy the renditions of the old Beatles tunes. They are very well done and if Patel sings then he is a remarkable performer.
Is this a movie Beatles fans will like, yeah probably. Is this a movie that I think celebrates the Beatles? Ehh, I'd say that's 50/50. I think the movie would have been stronger overall had it remained to its convictions. But I guess movies like this have to have some kind of story for people to maybe enjoy. I did like the music and I did like the performances, but I think "Yesterday" ends up being a little too fluffy.
FINAL GRADE: B-
Monday, July 8, 2019
Review: "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" is elegant indie film in the midst of summer blockbusters
The Last Black Man In San Francisco Review
There is a pretty bizarre scene right in the middle of "The Last Black Man In San Francisco." As we see the main character sitting, waiting for his bus. Another gentlemen joins him on the waiting bench. This gentlemen puts down a protective plate on the bench to sit on. The gentlemen is also completely naked, absolutely no stitch on the guy. Somehow, our hero is unfazed by this. The two men begin to discuss how San Francisco has changed over the years. How new people have come out of nowhere to claim a city that has always been there's.
One of the many themes of "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" revolves around those claiming something as theirs, possibly not understanding what is precious and important about what they are claiming in the first place. "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" at its core is pretty simple. Jimmie Fails plays a fictional version of himself (he also co-wrote the movie and based it partially on his own life) who hangs out with his friend Monty (Jonathon Majors). At the beginning of the movie, he comes across the house his grandfather built, and he constantly has to correct the real estate agent showing the house. Jimmie's grandfather did really build the house after he came home from World War II and Jimmie sees this house as his birthright. As the agent fumbles his facts, it becomes evidently clear that nobody will understand the importance of this house over Jimmie. The two friends embark on a journey that will connect with their past, challenge their friendship and make them see a city they don't recognize anymore in a different light.
It's interesting how that happens. I currently live in Aurora, IL (forty-five minutes southwest of Chicago) and I have lived here since the tail-end of 2012. But I grew up in Peoria, IL (two and half hours south of Chicago), ever since I've been in Aurora, I rarely go to Peoria. Especially since my parents moved up closer to me ever since I brought my first child home. When I set foot in Peoria, I find myself not recognizing the city I grew up in. Anybody who is a newer resident of that town doesn't even know what it used to be like. You definitely get a sense of that same feeling with Jimmie and Monty. They both love and hate the city, and they know they can't love San Francisco without hating it too.
There is a magnificent rapaport between Fails and Majors. Danny Glover plays Jimmie's grandfather, who also does some good work here. Jimmie is challenged by James Sr., played by Rob Morgan. Morgan is an actor who seems to have shown up in every Netflix original TV show and movie at this point, and he always delivers no matter what. The acting is solid all the way around.
This time of year, its always the summer blockbusters that get all the glory. So its important to see something smaller. This is an elegant story. But strange and silly throughout and challenges you with a host of themes that are easily relateable.
FINAL GRADE: A
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
I wonder if every high schooler wished they had an adult who invited them into their house so they could drink and smoke weed. I'm sure my high school friends and I would have got into drinking quicker than we did had that been the case. But alas, nothing of the sort ever happened. Such is the case for "Ma." A group of teenagers one day try begging adults to buy them alcohol, and Sue Anne (Octavia Spencer) takes them up on it. Then eventually she invites the group over to her house, sets some ground rules and allows them to party at her house. Sometimes she even participates in the fun times. Sounds cool, huh? Ripe for satire.
The movie actually takes a huge left turn. "Ma" ends up becoming a horror film. Its got kind of a predictable outcome but Octavia Spencer is so good that she keeps you watching. There are some twists and turns along the way, but ultimately its a horror movie with no scares. Instead, its a dark moral fable that asks the audience not to bully people and to never accept alcohol from strangers.
Diana Silvers plays Maggie Thompson, who moves to Ohio with her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis). This is her hometown and she needs to find work because Maggie's father left them. Maggie quickly meets friends and starts flirting with boys when they meet Sue Anne. When they first start going to Sue Anne's house, it all seems fun. Sue Anne does some questionably weird things at times, things in which any teenager would get the fuck out of that house pronto. But hey, you know teenagers HAVE to be dumb in horror movies otherwise the sub-genre can't function. Soon enough, Maggie gets the idea that Sue Anne is out to harm them.
Sue Anne is, at the very least, an interesting villain because she's very much a victim. Much like Freddy Kruger, Sue Anne is making the children suffer for the sins of the father. Maggie begins to fall for a boy named Andy (Corey Foglemanis) whose father Ben (Luke Evans) knew Sue Anne as teenagers, along with Erica. Erica, Ben and their friends as teenagers did something very, very horrible to Sue Anne and now she's getting her revenge. It plays for a nice dramatic left turn, but with the concept of a woman who invites teenagers over to drink and smoke weed, the possibilities are endless and the movie just never aims high.
The acting is okay, all the teenagers are fine. They serve a certain purpose in movies like these, and the kids roll with it as best they can, making their characters' dumb decisions seem tense. The all-star of this is no doubt Spencer. She throws herself into her role and takes the whole thing seriously. She even almost makes you buy into the absurdities of the movie. Most of the other well known actors are fine, but not used much. Luke Evans is fine, although its never explained how an American teenager developed a slight British accent as an adult.
While some moments in the film hurt, and while Spencer is really great. "Ma" kinda just feels lukewarm from beginning to finish
FINAL GRADE: C
Monday, July 1, 2019
This sequel looks awesome. It looks like its going to work.
The Rock impersonating Danny DeVito? I'm there!