Thursday, April 30, 2020

SXSW on Amazon: Short Films

Amazon Prime Video is offering some of the films, shorts and TV shows that were going to premiere at this years South By Southwest Film Festival that got cancelled last month due to COVID-19. I am planning on seeing and watching as much as it as possible over the course of the next ten days, where it will be free on Amazon Prime Video.

I took some time to watch a few short films last night provided by the SXSW film festival, and there were a few that I really liked. Its amazing just how much storytelling and development you can jam into fifteen or twenty minutes. Some of the short films I watched last night were only four minutes. Still, no matter how short, many of them were able to create a whole experience in such a limited amount of time.

"A Period Piece" is about two people having a sexual affair and they meet up while the woman is in the middle of her period. As they continue with their business, some menstrual blood lands on some furniture that it absolutely can't land on, given their situation. It ends up with some big laughs, but there is also a peak of how an affair can say something about the people in it.

"Affurmative Action" is a goofy movie that investigates workplace diversity through meet and greet teams. I am not sure I bought the significance of this one, but it had a few laughs as well.

"Basic" The film begins with an obnoxious user of social media, taking several selfies with some self-indulgent voice-over monologues going on. The twist at the end is the woman looking at this particular girl on her social media is dating a man she used to date. The man can seem to figure out why his new girlfriend is so obsessed with his ex-girlfriend that he really didn't date long in the grand scheme of things. It's a nice punchline right at the end.

"Blocks" This one is probably my favorite. As a parent who is about to add another child to his family, I relate to this one in a big way. This is an existential comedy about being a parent. A mom get up to her head being a parent that it starts to mess with her mind a bit. She starts puking up LEGO bricks. Its really funny, but it certainly comments on the roller coaster that is raising a child and it spoke to me completely.

I enjoy these little stories and maybe you will too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

SXSW on Amazon: "Gunpowder Heart" Review

Amazon Prime Video is offering some of the films, shorts and TV shows that were going to premiere at this years South By Southwest Film Festival that got cancelled last month due to COVID-19. I am planning on seeing and watching as much as it as possible over the course of the next ten days, where it will be free on Amazon Prime Video.

"Gunpowder Heart" is so under the radar as of right now that there is really not much you can find on it. It's an import from Guatemala that was to be shown at South by Southwest last month. It was written and directed by Camila Urrutia, and is somewhat based on experiences that she was at least around while living in the country. Not much can really be found on the movie itself. But boy, was it a powerful experience.

Claudia and Maria are a lesbian couple. They seem to love and care for each other very much at the start of the movie. We seem to get the idea that they've been together for at least of couple of months. They cuddle, they joke, they seem very comfortable with each other. One night they go out for a night on the town. Nothing too crazy. They go to the mall, they dance and drink a little. They eventually make their way to an amusement park that seems kind of isolated. They do bumper cars and other games and rides and when they can't seem to find a bathroom they decide to hide and pee in the nearby trees. That's when trouble finds them. Three men assault and nearly rape both of them, until they are caught by park security.

Claudia and Maria try for a normal life after surviving the assault, but things grow weary between the two of them. Claudia attempts to report the attack, but she has to wait a very long time for the police to serve her only to find out that the precinct has run out of paper. So her complaint isn't taken. Maria has a more personal touch, she plans to use a gun, hunt the men down and kill them. You may think you have "Gunpowder Heart" figured out by this description, but I must say, don't assume anything.

This isn't some cliche, typical revenge fantasy. Instead, its a character study about how people survive assault and how they begin to move on afterward. Its a movie about how the legal system is stacked against the victims and the laziness that can emerge from that. It's a movie about how you want revenge when you've been wronged, but when you are a normal person and not an action hero, how do you achieve it? Should you achieve it? Are you capable of achieving it? What can normal people to make themselves feel better? "Gunpowder Heart" is an unforgiving look when regular people look to violence when we feel like we have no other option and how taking that road affects you.

The two leads dive right into this movie and make the premise believable. This is such a singular, personal take on this material that it doesn't feel familiar, and I love that. There is a very authentic style portrayed through the film. The rape scene is handled delicately to show us it matters, its nothing cartoonish or exploitative like so many movies mistakenly do time and time again. This movie may not go down smooth but its got something to say.

FINAL GRADE: B

Monday, April 27, 2020

SXSW on Amazon: "Cat In The Wall" Review

Amazon Prime Video is offering some of the films, shorts and TV shows that were going to premiere at this years South By Southwest Film Festival that got cancelled last month due to COVID-19. I am planning on seeing and watching as much as it as possible over the course of the next ten days, where it will be free on Amazon Prime Video.

Whether we like it or not, immigration is a big topic in our country right now. It has been ever since 2016 hit. How to control immigration, how we let people into our country, who are good and who are bad, we seem to not be able to get away from it. Sometimes forgetting that the topic we are dealing with is people, human beings. Usually, these people are treated with scorn, even though all we really know about them is they are simply people. That scorn can turn to xenophobia in a hurry and can come off justified if we aren't careful.

"Cat In The Wall" follows a Bulgarian family who has legally immigrated to London, England. It is on the eve of Brexit in the country. Irina Atanasova simply plays Irina. She is married to Vladimir; played by Angel Genov and their son Jojo is played by Orlin Asenov. Vladimir is having trouble finding good work. They live in a municipal building in the multicultural neighborhood of Peckham. Much like other immigrants in the neighborhood, they are not treated the best by their British neighbors. They are just getting by, and Irina is trying to make the best possible life for her family.

One day, the family finds an abandoned cat and bring it into their home. They take it back to their apartment to take care of it. Despite all the negativity and the stress in their life at the time, this little cat slowly brings the family together in a special way. Not just with the kid, but it strengthens the bonds of this family.

You can almost relate. There is a lot of craziness going on simply due to this COV-19 going around. People are doing lots of crazy things. In times like these, its important to remember the little things that give us hope and pleasure. Remembering those things will help us through the times. There is a specific reason why people say its the little things in life. That really makes sense when you really pull that apart.

Having the cat in the house eventually leads to some confrontations with British neighbors, who claim that the cat is there's. These leads to a tense face off  between the two families. This may sound like the movie veers into comedy, but its anything but. This is when the movie really comes to ahead. For most of the movie, the cat in the apartment really isn't the point of the movie, its the wrap-around narrative as the family bounces off what's going on in their neighborhood with gentrification and how their country is on the brink of change. The deal with the cat certainly plays into how the movie ends. This is a stark look at how immigrants are treated in some parts of the world and how easy it is to manipulate a situation through xenophobia.

The cast is solid throughout, and there are great moments packaged here. Sometimes the action slows down a bit at times, but the ending really hits hard and the points are all crisp and clear. Not a bad way to start this little festival at home. Not bad at all.

FINAL GRADE: B

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Warner Brothers is betting big, keeping "Tenet" release date

Christopher Nolan's next film, one of my most anticipated of all 2020, is still full speed ahead on their July 17th 2020 release date. That's pretty bold in the COVID-19 climate we are living in right now, since it seems everything under the sun has been removed, released later or released to be enjoyed at home. I don't know if its Warner Brothers doing this or Nolan, but they are standing their ground on keeping "Tenet" in theaters for July. In August, the studio will also release the highly anticipated sequel "Wonder Woman 1984," which was originally set for release in June.

This will either be good for the studio or bad. It really depends on how well each state begins to flatten the curve in their respective areas. My state's governor just extended our stay-at-home order until May 30th. So I really can't say for sure we'll be out of the woods on this thing by the summer. Even if we are, going to the movie theater will be a totally different experience. Why? Because life is going to take on a new normal as we slowly begin to reopen places. Even once things are clear, I can't imagine people will just go flocking to the movie theaters. So keep that July spot is a huge gamble, no matter what happens between now and July.

Good bet or bad bet? I guess we'll see. All I can say is that I can't wait to see it. For me, how much money a movie makes doesn't really represent its quality. It could still be one of the best movies of the year even if it doesn't make a dime. Christopher Nolan hasn't let me down at all so far, I hope he doesn't start now.



Not only is it a gamble to release this movie in July, I also wonder if there will be much entertainment value in a movie about stopping the end of the world. Especially since Nolan tends to bend more realistic with his science fiction. It may not be a financial flop, but it could just be the wrong movie at the wrong time.

"The Batman" starring Robert Pattinson got moved from June 25th 2021 to October 1st 2021. Shazam! 2" was going to come out on April 1st 2022 and will now be released on November 4th 2022. There's also tons of movies that have been shelved across several studios.

Yep, its definitely safe to say this virus will change life as we know it.

What do we think of "Tenet" release date?

The Golden Years: 1996

The Golden Years is going to be a column where I take a year that was absolutely profound for movies, where the pros overwhelmingly outweighed the cons, and discuss why that year was so great. I will look at years that have been lauded by several critics and movie fans alike to dish my two cents on them as well. It's no secret that some movie years are better than others, so why not celebrate them?

If you were to ask the average movie fan what the best year of the 1990's was for film, you are likely to get one of two answers: 1994 or 1999. I honestly can't argue with that myself. For my money, I rank 1999 over 1994. The thing is, it seems when recalling the best years of the 1990's, we seem to leave off another important year. A year that I think makes the Holy Trinity of 90's movies complete, along with 1999 and 1994. That year is 1996.

What was so great about 1996? Well, quite a bit actually.

1996 Was the start for the Anderson's
Two of the most amazing gifts 1996 brought us was the beginning's of the Andersons. I am talking, of course, about both Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson. Two of my most favorite filmmakers working right now. Wes Anderon gave us "Bottle Rocket." Of course, it starred the Wilson brothers. ALL of the Wilson brothers. You may know Owen and Luke the best, and that's okay, they are the biggest. But there is also their older brother, Andrew. Telling from "Bottle Rocket," Andrew is funny as hell, and I can't believe his career didn't take off like his brother's did. "Bottle Rocket" may seem like a dimwit comedy about dimwitted career criminals, but in the hands of Wes Anderson, it made to feel original. Everything you love about the Wilson brothers is right here, and some of Anderson's quirky signatures were created here. This is ground zero, and Anderson needed this in order to lift off.



Paul Thomas Anderson's first film was "Hard Eight." As you watch "Hard Eight," it may seem very random. A man named Sydney, played by the amazing Philip Baker Hall sees a man sitting in front of a diner. This man is named John and John is played by John C. Reilly. (both actors would be PT Anderson regulars throughout the 90's). Sydney offers John a cup of coffee, and Sydney then finds out that John has been unsuccessfully gambling and needs $6,000 to pay for his mother's funeral. Sydney is actually a great gambler and decides to take John under his wing. He then takes him to Las Vegas where teaches him to comp hustle the casinos. Two years later, John has payed off his mother's funeral and has become Sydney's protege as a gambler. The plot only thickens from there, and PT only keeps things riveting. It's a wonderful character piece. In both films, you can see the potential each of these men had, and why they caught on with viewers.


Even though his last name isn't Anderson, I have to give it up to Baz Lurhmann for making quite the sensational footprint in 1996. Now, "Romeo + Juliet" wasn't his first movie. "Strictly Ballroom" was his first movie, but it was "Romeo + Juliet" that put him on the map. I'll be honest, I didn't really take to "Romeo + Juliet" the first time I saw it, but then again, I didn't take to "Moulin Rouge!" the first time either. Both of those movies I love unabashedly today. When you walk into a Baz Luhrmann film, you need to be able to open your mind and give yourself completely to it. Otherwise, there is really no point, and you'll be bored. Taking William Shakespeare's classic play and putting a modern, futuristic, colorful and stylish spin on the whole thing was weird the first time, but I can acknowledge the genius of it now. Shakespeare's plays never existed in our reality, just listen to the way he wrote dialogue. Shakespeare survives through reinterpretation, and if I want to see a regular museum piece, I will...simply go to a museum. Much like his other films, Luhrmann creates a world that you positively want to get lost in. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes seem up to the task of interpreting this hyperactive world and they do so with aplomb. But man, the underrated Harold Perrineau nearly steals the show from them.



One of the Best Movies of the Decade
As this column move forward, one thing you will probably notice is that anytime I write about a great year in film, the year question will more than likely feature a Coen Brothers movie. 1996 was no different. One of the best films of the entire decade. I am talking, of course, about "Fargo." "Fargo" is a movie that still blindsides me every time I watch it. Everything comes together in it perfectly. I love the characters, the actors, the sets, every piece of music. Everything is the perfect ingredient and it all works well together. This is the movie that pretty much made William H. Macy a star, and its a little funny how much the script through him off. Frances McDormand has never, ever been better and she's been amazing before. Its quirky and it is stone cold and I am forever mesmerized how the Coen's can keep so much control over the thing. It's cred has moved up as "Fargo" has made its way further into popular culture, but just seeing where that all started is important.



Best Marketed Movie of the 1990s.
1996 was the year that I really saw the power of marketing and how it can be used to get people buzzing to see a movie. Even at a young age, I watched marketing cast a spell over me that nobody could shake. I would argue that "Independence Day" was probably the best marketed film of the 1990's. Those early commercials, of the giant spaceships covering the big cities, it definitely drew me in. Seeing a spaceship blowing up the White House, that was the image that struck everybody though. Due to a recent terrorist attack at the time, there was talk of getting rid of the image, but Fox held firm and it certainly paid off in the end. I've loved "Independence Day" all my life, yeah its a goofy alien movie, and I love every moment of it. I don't care who knows.



The Best Bad Movie of the 1990's
It seems every decade needs their "Manos: The Hands of Fate" and their "The Room." A bad movie that somehow is able to draw viewers in, making remarkably striking moments and characters out of a terrible, terrible script. Taken as a whole "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is a trainwreck. It's true, its a trainwreck. There's a great documentary on Amazon Prime Video about the making of the movie and it was riddled with problems from the very beginning, its profound a movie even came out on the other side. Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer are so over-the-moon strange in the movie that it NEEDS to be seen to be believed, and the humanoid animal make-up was pretty stellar, so good it belongs in a better movie. It's pure madness caught on film. It may not be great, but you won't be able to look away.


Beginning of a franchise
In 1995, "Goldeneye" was released, and it brought James Bond to the 90's. Due to the popularity of the N64 game, this was a movie I never got away from growing up. I love "Goldeneye," but one of the things that eats at me today is how it refused to bring Bond into our post-Cold War world. It feels like a Bond movie made in the 1970's, not 1995. When "Mission: Impossible" came out a year later, that's what felt like real modern reinvention. It was still "Mission: Impossible," but for a brand new era. It does kind of do its own thing as well. I've seen the film dozens and dozens of times at this point and I'd still most likely fail a test on it. Its still such a lush stylish experience, I love every moment of it. I know fans didn't really like it and couldn't stand that Jim Phelps became a bad guy. But I still dig it as a fan of the old show.




Nostalgia
If there was one movie that defined the year for me, it was "Space Jam." At least, that's what my 1st-Grade self would say. I mean you have to remember where I was in my life when I first saw this movie. I was in first grade, and I was doing first-grade dude things. In my first-grade mind, any movie with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan in it was the coolest-greatest thing in the universe. Bar none. Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny playing basketball with the other Looney Tunes against invading aliens? Even cooler. As I have grown, I don't think the movie is nearly as good as I used to. It is a silly, weird movie. Why Michael Jordan's children wouldn't be freaked out by cartoon characters in their house stealing their father's clothes is strange. How Bill Murray knows where to go to play basketball at the right time doesn't make sense. Logic and development go out the window really quick. But it was about the ball-handling and the silliness and nothing more. Still though, a part of me can't part away from it.



Other 1996 Highlights

Breaking The Waves

Secrets & Lies

12 Monkeys


The Rock


The Cable Guy


Sling Blade

Scream

Mars Attacks!

From Dusk Till Dawn

That Thing You Do!

With all of these fine examples, I hope you agree. 1996 was a keeper!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Review: "Selah and the Spades" mixes crime and high school in a delicious cocktail

Selah and the Spades Review
Can you remember high school? I am 31 now, so its been a little bit since I was a teenager. Perhaps some of you are in high school right now. If you weren't, were you popular when you were in high school? Are you popular there now? (As popular as anybody in quarantine can possibly be). How much power did your popularity give you?

Imagine having so much power that people wave to you without knowing you. Imagine being able to sell drugs with ease. Such is the world of "Selah and the Spades." Had John Hughes made a serious teen drama instead of a teen comedy, it probably would have looked like this. Enter the world of a preppy boarding school where everything is seemingly run by a group of 'factions.' These factions run the entire student body. From paying peers off to do their homework, to things much more interesting like drug sale and underground casinos. Selah is a popular girl who runs one of these factions. Selah, played with conviction by Lovie Simone, is moving on to bigger things after the school year is done and she wants to find a replacement. Somebody who is going to keep her faction going.

Selah meets Paloma, played by Celeste O'Connor, and Selah is drawn to her. She thinks she could be the one to take Selah's place as she goes off to college. Selah takes Paloma under her wing as she shows her the ropes, they become close. But, as these stories usually go, nothing is ever what it seems.

I am not going to get into anymore story in this review. This is one of those movies that you'll probably enjoy more if you know less about it. You can know that its a first for writer/director Tayarisha Poe and it's one hell of a start. This is a wonderful display of several great young actors, all giving their all to this movie. Look for Jharrel Jerome from "Moonlight," who I truly believe is going to big things. The execution is near-flawless and the entertainment factor is fairly high. Check this one out on Amazon Prime!

FINAL GRADE: B

Friday, April 17, 2020

RIP Brian Dennehy

RIP Brian Dennehy
I meant to write this up last night, but being a father, sometimes I just plain fall asleep on the couch. Please forgive me.

There are several great actors who never get their fair due, never get their true respects. Brian Dennehy had a lengthy career in movies, television and stage, starring in a wide assortment of roles. I wish he was better known than he was because he certainly shined in everything he did.

My first exposure will probably be surprising to many of you. It wasn't "First Blood," because I saw that later in life and I will say he was great in that. It wasn't even "Tommy Boy," even though he certainly makes due with the limited time he has in that movie. My first exposure to Dennehy was for an ESPN made-for-TV special. "Season on the Brink" where he played famous coach Bobby Knight. The genuine ferocity of performance he brought to role felt nearly groundbreaking to me. The total control of character and theme was riveting. I knew I wanted to see more of him as soon as possible. Sure enough I did.

What I didn't know was that he was an actor of the stage, and had received several Tony awards for his work. I would have loved to have seen him on stage had I known.

He was great and he will be missed.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Off The Cuff



My latest thoughts on last week's episode of "Survivor: Winners At War." Also, tonights episode

Monday, April 13, 2020

First Look At Dune!

I sure hope all of this COVID-19 stuff is done with by the time December rolls around. I cannot wait for this movie. This has been the movie I have been most looking forward to all year. Today, we got our first image from Denis Villeneuve's "Dune." The above image is Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides. It's a pretty simple image but it is something. It makes me wonder if a trailer is right around the corner??

I love the idea of Timothee as Paul, and I've been pretty excited for this cast for awhile now. Now just give me a trailer, already!

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2020/04/a-first-look-at-timothee-chalamet-in-dune

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Nights in Gotham. Part One. The Dark Knight Trilogy is the superhero equivalent to the Godfather Trilogy.

Welcome to Nights in Gotham. An ongoing project where I'll be taking a look at Batman in various forms of media and reviewing and partially analyzing the character through the years. As a fun lead-up to the upcoming "The Batman" in 2021.

I remember, quite vividly, when "The Dark Knight" came out in 2008. I'm sure just about everyone does. It felt like the world as we knew it shifted. It felt like movies were going to be redefined. Not just comic book movies, but actual movies as well. There were many people that were calling "The Dark Knight" the Godfather of superhero movies, and now over ten years away from the hype, it kind of funny how that sentiment has echoed in my mind, especially since that seemed a bit hyperbolic at the time.

Both "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" are over ten years old at this point and "The Dark Knight Rises" is nearly ten years old at this point. And one thing I have noticed in that time as I have continued to enjoy the trilogy is this. Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" is the superhero equivalent to "The Godfather Trilogy"

Think about it...

When "The Godfather" came out in 1972, people thought they had gangster movies figured out. They thought they would know how "The Godfather" would play but what Francis Ford Coppola showed audiences is that any genre can be retooled, that you can say something new by just approaching it a different way. That's exactly what Christopher Nolan did with "Batman Begins." After both Burton and Schumaker's run, we thought we knew what to expect from Batman movies going forward, but then Nolan makes a movie that blindsides our expectations. Just as "The Godfather" did for gangster movie in 1972.

In 1974, "The Godfather Part II" came out, it transcended the gangster movie to such a degree that it felt like it rewrote the genre as a whole. Not only is "The Godfather Part II" one of the best gangster movies of all time, its easily one of the best sequels of all time. "The Dark Knight" is likewise one of the best sequels of all time. The list of Best Sequels is pretty small list. Most sequels are just a good time, even more than that just tread water, remake the first film because it made money. Rarely, do sequels present a new challenge for their characters or just, at the very least, stick them in a new situation altogether. Sequels tend to swing on familiarity. There was nothing familiar about "The Godfather Part II" and there was nothing familiar when watching "The Dark Knight." Both movies set a new precedent for their genres. They expanded the history and development of their characters and their worlds with glee. While saying "The Dark Knight" is the "Godfather" of the superhero genre is a high compliment, it has much more in common with "The Godfather Part II" than it does with the first movie.

Then there is "The Godfather Part III" and "The Dark Knight Rises."

Look, its not that "The Godfather Part III" and "The Dark Knight Rises" are bad movies, I mean both movies got decent Rotten Tomato scores, since that matters to lots of people out there. They both were so hotly divided viewers that they merely look like failures when compared to their two previous installments. I wasn't alive in the 1970's and I was just a wee lad in 1990, so I don't know what the hype machine for "Godfather Part III" looked like. All I can say is that "The Dark Knight" felt like lightning in the bottle in 2008 and many people, like me, thought that "The Dark Knight Rises" would be not just a great movie, but God Gift To The World. Then the movie hit, and it just wasn't. There are things I like about "The Dark Knight Rises," as there were things I liked about "Godfather Part III" but there is such a gigantic reduction of quality in the filmmaking of both threequels that its hard to believe the same guy that made the previous movies (in both cases) was responsible for the third.

The weird thing is though, in both cases, the first two entries are so beloved that we seem to forget that the third entires in each trilogy ultimately disappointing. That doesn't happen as often as you'd think. Many fans were divided on "The Matrix" sequels to the point that everybody brings it up. People always seem to say that the third "Back To The Future" isn't as good as the previous two, that "The Last Crusade" doesn't have the same magic as the first two Indiana Jones', that the prequels (and now sequels) have stunk up "Star Wars" to the point of no return. "The Godfather" parts one and two seem so disconnected from part three that you'd almost think part three didn't exist. Now, I think "The Dark Knight Rises" is just a bit more remembered, simply because its still kinda fresh and also Tom Hardy's performance as Bane became iconic. Like to the point that its still parodied today. So perhaps "The Dark Knight Rises" won't fall by the wayside that "Godfather Part III" seems to, but perhaps history will continue to tell the tale. We will just have to wait and see.

The big similarities seem so spectacular that I can't help but think of them. For better and for worse, for both their successes and failures, they are similar. I proudly declare that Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" is the superhero equivalent to Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather trilogy"

Agree to disagree, of course.

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains concludes. The winner is...

It started with 64 characters. They ranged from TV shows as popular as "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" to quirkier and older stuff such as "Batman '66" and "Adventure Time." They also came from the realm of movies, where recent figures such as Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur Fleck and Adam Sandler's Howard Ratner faced off against older 80s characters like Maverick or Uncle Buck. For the sixth year in a row, I assembled some of the biggest heroes and villains from the realms of television and movies to compete to see who is the most popular. We have finally crowned a winner after a long, hard-fought battle.

And the winner is...



Batman is now five time champion of the annual March Madness Heroes vs Villains poll. He won unanimously against Harley Quinn among each poll that I created across Google Forms and social media. He easily defeated much the likes of Uncle Buck, Shazam, Miles Morales and The Mandalorian to get there. Nice touch on getting two Gotham City alums together for this, even though I am not sure that was intentional.

Thank you all for participating in this years poll. As always, we'll be back next March where Batman will face off against a new slue of characters, waiting patiently for their shot to top the king.


Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: "Onward' is mid-tier Pixar, but still possess profound magic.

Onward Review
As the Corona virus quarantine continues, studios are doing what they can in order to get the newest, coolest material to people. Over the weekend, HBO is began to offer certain shows and movies on their apps for free. This will last for a month. Amazon and SXSW are joining forces, and in the near future, most or possibly the entire festival that got canceled in March will be available to watch for ten days. You WILL NOT need a subscription to Amazon Prime to view this. People know others are getting bored, and whether you like Hollywood or not, many people are turning to artists to keep themselves entertained. Disney is also putting out newer movies on Disney+ to view, one of them being "Onward."

Much like Marvel, Pixar has really created a seemingly unbreakable formula and has stuck close to it. You can see the pieces of what has come before in many of their future movies. All of their movies all kind of feel like they are built from the same kit. That doesn't necessarily make them bad. I mean, unless you started reading this blog today, I am an out-of-my-mind Marvel fan, and I recognize how those films are alike and how they aren't. Pixar does the exact same thing. The big difference here is, Pixar seemed unstoppable in their early days. They released masterpiece after masterpiece without breaking a sweat. Then the 2010's began, and they started playing the sequel game and they started playing the prequel game. Then suddenly, all of their movies began to look alike.

"Onward" has much in common with movies of Pixar's past. It revolves around Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older, boisterous brother Barley (Chris Pratt). They are elf brothers who live in a far away land of other mythological creatures. Their land once resembled most fantasy worlds we see in pop culture, but then somebody discovered electricity and suddenly the world lost all of its magic. Now we are experiencing a Pixar version of an urban fantasy. With several clever Pixar puns on display. The skyscrapers in this world resemble both buildings and castles, there are funny names to places, etc.

Ian and Barley's father passed away long before Ian knew him (how original, Pixar). On Ian's sixteenth birthday, his mother gets him a staff, a rare gem and a "visitation" spell in order to see his dad for an entire day. Ian is able to complete the spell, but it only brings back his father's legs. Ian and Barley set out on a journey to find another gem in order to complete the spell before the end of the day, otherwise their father's legs will disappear and the spell will be broken.

The movie is about family. How you may not realize how strong a bond you have with someone is until you really spend time with them. Maybe you look at someone a different way. When tragedy strikes, you build yourself back up again. I am talking around plot points here, but just discussing this, you may be able to guess where the movie heads. The thing is, the film punches you in the heartstrings as hard as you think a Pixar movie could. The studio knows how to work an audience. The studio is well seasoned in that aspect, you just know where its going pretty fast.

The animated detail is, as expected, amazing. The attention to detail only seems to improve movie to movie. There's laughs, there's joy, there's comfort and there's hope. If you've been impressed by the Pixar machine thus far, this probably won't disappoint, I just don't think they made The Next Great Pixar Adventure here. But cuddle with your family and enjoy yourself!

FINAL GRADE: B

Sunday, April 5, 2020

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains FINAL ROUND

This round of voting ends April 7th

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains FINAL FOUR voting results

What an exciting turnout.

We have our Final Hero.

We have our Final Villain!

I'm pretty surprised too.\

FINAL ROUND

BATMAN VS. HARLEY QUINN

YOU HAVE UNTIL APRIL 7TH TO VOTE

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: "The Way Back" redefines the sports movie

The Way Back Review
"The Way Back" is the best sports movie I've seen in a long time. It's not the sports movie you think it is. It's amazing to me how its a movie that follows all of the cliches of a typical sports movie, while also rolling them all up into a trash ball and throwing them into the garbage can.

Ben Affleck plays Jack Cummings. A former basketball star who has now turned himself into a washed-up drunk. (What a twist, huh?) He gets offered to coach his old high school's basketball team because something bad happened to the former coach. The team is showing signs of not getting along well (big surprise there, huh?) and...you guessed it, they have a losing record. So Cummings whips them into shape using tactics they aren't used to. Cummings also goes from not really caring to caring too much.

Does all of that sound familiar? It certainly plays that way...to a degree. If you walk into this expecting it all to play out exactly the way I wrote it, you may or may not like the full result. The basketball really isn't the point of the movie. This is a sports movie where the sports is the window dressing. I don't even know if I'm comfortable even selling this as a sports movie. The movie really about the life and times of Jack Cummings. There is a reason why he's washed-up, there's a reason why he is drinking alcohol at an alarming rate each scene. There is a reason why he's isolated himself from his friends and family. There is also a reason this unsuspecting basketball team wins him over and gives him some salvation. 

It seemed like Ben Affleck did some real soul-searching of his own while playing this part. If you have paid any sort of attention to his life recently, I am sure he was basically playing himself in moments of this movie. It's a blisteringly laser-focused performance by Affleck. It shows that a performer can change at a moments notice and further affirms that anybody who doubted him as Batman was way wrong. You can almost feel the pain this man carries around from scene to scene. It's exquisite work on Affleck's part. While there are other players in the movie, this is basically his character's journey and basically how he bounces off of people in his life. 

It truly isn't the movie you think it is, its not just a sports movie. It's about redemption. It's about how we bare our souls to become better people. It's about facing the pain before that pain can become suffering. It's a victory lap for one of the most underappreciated actors working right now. So take the time and check it out.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains FINAL FOUR

This voting block will last until April 5th

March Madness Heroes vs. Villains Round 4 Results

And just like that, we have our Final Four.

Batman prevailed over Miles Morales. The Mandalorian beat The Tick, who had a much more surprising run then I ever thought possible. On the villains side of things, Arthur Fleck beat Lord Voldemort and Harley Quinn beat Saul Goodman. How poetic that Joker is going to go up against Harley Quinn for the Final Four.


Here's your Final Four

Heroes
Batman (1) vs. The Mandalorian (2)

Villains
Arthur Fleck (2) vs. Harley Quinn (4)

The next vote will last until April 5th