In Theaters: Overlord, The Grinch, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Suspiria, Nobody's Fool, Bohemia Rhapsody, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Johnny English Strikes Again, Hunter Killer, The Hate U Give, Halloween, Goosebumps 2, Bad Times at the El Royale, First Man, A Star Is Born, Venom, Night School, Smallfoot
Coming Soon: The Girl in the Spider's Web, Fantastic Beasts 2, Instant Family, Widows, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Creed 2, Green Book, Robin Hood, The Possession of Hannah Grace, Mortal Engines, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Aquaman, Bumblebee
★★★½: Very Good
★★½ : Eh
★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better
★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?
★: Hope You Have A Good Date
½: Little To No Redeeming Value
No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices
Image:"It's never going to heal if you don't stop picking at it!"
Funny how Halloween was just a couple weeks ago, and yet, only now we're just getting something that would of been perfect to see around that time. I mean, what could be scarier than Nazi scientists and undead, bloodthirsty corpses? When you think of evil, you obviously think of Nazis (Or at least, you should...), throwing in a little mad science and body horror is just the bloody icing on the cake.
"Overlord" takes place near the end of World War II, following a young, kindhearted American paratrooper, "Ed Boyce" (Jovan Adepo). On a plane for France, under the command of "Sgt. Eldson" (Bokeem Woodbine), the plan is to destroy a German radio tower, which is located within an old church. The plane gets shot down, resulted in many of the soldiers being killed or lost in the heat of battle. Ed meets the hotheaded "Corporal Ford" (Wyatt Russell), who now leads a small group of survivors consisting of the smartass "Tibbet" (John Magaro) and the dorky "Chase" (Iain De Caestecker) to complete the mission. The group comes across a young French woman, "Chloe" (Mathilde Ollivier), who takes them to hide in her village with her little brother, "Paul" (Gianny Taufer) and unseen, deformed aunt.
Ruled over by the vile Nazi "Captain Wafner"(Pilou Asbæk), the villagers are taken away from their homes to the Nazi base, where they are either never seen again or come back horrifically disfigured. After Wafner attempts to rape Chloe, ignoring Ford's orders to stay out of it, the group ends up capturing Wafner, hoping to find a way to complete the mission, while still remaining in secret. Boyce eventually finds himself within the base, discovering a lab run by mad scientist, "Dr. Schmidt" (Erich Redman). Turns out the Nazis are experimenting on the villagers and their own dead men, using them to create an unstoppable, unkillable army of undead, monster soldiers (Zombies basically) to conquer the world. ("The Thousand Year Reich needs Thousand Year soldiers" as Wafner puts it.) Now tasked with a new mission to put a stop to the insane experiments, the Americans set out to destroy the lab, while experiencing a kind of terror unlike anything they've ever witnessed before.
Produced by J. J. Abrams through his company, "Bad Robot Productions", "Overlord" is an exploitation, Nazi horror that just so happens to be taking place during a genuine war film. The movie actually takes it's time getting to the horror aspect, developing it's characters, and presenting the whole "War is Hell" mentality (I always did love when movies like this portray our heroes in a real life situation before they stumble into something more outrageous). This leads to some legitimate reactions and true terror. In terms of action, it's all very original and pretty clever, with some exciting shots (The plane getting shot down at the beginning is one of the highlights), right down to the climax, which is a little preposterous, but completely awesome. The screenplay, written by Billy Ray ("Captain Phillips", "The Hunger Games") and Mark L. Smith ("The Revenant"), remembers not to take itself too seriously, despite the terrifying images and heavy drama that is still prevalent throughout, there is a clear sense of humor about itself and love for pure ridiculousness. Directed by Julius Avery, the movie rather brilliantly finds a way to blend these genres together, making it so you can actually take it seriously enough when necessary, but also injecting an extra sense of fun, popcorn escapism.
The film is also elevated by some good characters, with committed actors that find stability in the genre and tone mixing. Jovan Adepo (Who received critical acclaim in 2016's "Fences") is terrific, thoroughly likable, and does one great scared face. (He looks absolutely and realistically horrified by what he sees in this movie.) Wyatt Russell is a badass, complicated character, with Mathilde Ollivier getting a bit more to do than be a damsel in distress. (That scene with the flamethrower was very much cathartic.) The supporting cast is solid, with some funny lines from John Magaro, Dominic Applewhite (as "Rosenfeld", Boyce's friend, who winds up in the Nazi lab), and Iain De Caestecker getting to take part in possibly the most twisted, traumatizing sequence in the entire film. Pilou Asbæk also looks like he's having the time of his life as a despicable villain who is the essential definition of the word scum.
On a personal level, this might end up becoming one of my favorite movies this year because there is nothing quite like it (And here I thought Nazi Zomies were a tired concept). This movie utulizes that in a smart, even captivating way. Not without it's flaws, such as some occasionally mediocre CGI and a few cheap jump scares, "Overlord" provides all of the B movie thrills you could possibly ask for. However, the film adds some extra depth to it's characters, who you find yourself very much caring for and hope for their survival and the overall vagueness to what's really going on just adds to the terror. The movie even takes time to delve into the true dread of war, the senseless deaths, and hard, even morally questionable decisions. There are some impressive practical effects, homages to classic, gorey horror, and some humor to go with the insanity. Yeah it's going to drop out of the box office like a fly, but I would say it's what exactly you want in a big blockbuster, that just so happens to have a smaller budget. It's a movie that I can recommend to you by simply telling you that it's just plain awesome. A great, gross time at the movies. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Grotesque Body Disfigurement, Blood And Bile Everywhere, And Nazis Being Nazis.
Image: Santa isn't gluten free.
Haven't we seen this all before? No, not in the 2000 live-action Ron Howard "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Which starred Jim Carrey), that was a massive hit at the time, though is definitely not as good as you remember it. (I mean, Jim Carrey is great in it. The rest of it is kind of....not.) What about the 1966 television special, that has been cemented into the minds of people of every age? We already have the amazing, beloved animated version with a runtime that's shorter than half an hour. This really doesn't need to be here. That one is obvious. The real question is if it accomplishes it's goal of warming hearts and filling with Christmas cheer the way the renowned Dr. Seuss intended it to.
Narrated by Pharrell Williams, "The Grinch" follows the beloved tale of that green, furry, lonely old grump, known as "The Grinch" (Benedict Cumberbatch). The Grinch lives alone with his loyal dog, "Max", up on a mountain outside of the town of "Whoville", which is populated by the always happy, Christmas loving citizens (Or the "Whos" as they're referred to. Kind of a "Who's Who of Whoville). Hating all things cheerful and despising Christmas most of all due to his life of being a loner, The Grinch avoids everyone in the town and keeps to himself, dreading the day that Christmas finally arrives. This year however, learning that the Whos are planning to make this Christmas bigger and better than ever, The Grinch comes up with an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. You get the idea! The Grinch plots to steal Christmas away from the townsfolk, with help from Max and a fat reindeer named "Fred". With a stolen sleigh, a "Santa" disguise, and a sick desire to do bad, The Grinch heads out to Whoville on Christmas night to steal away all of their presents, Christmas trees, food, decorations, and everything Christmas related. Meanwhile a young, sweet little Who, "Cindy Lou Who" (Cameron Seely), wanting to make a Christmas wish to Santa for her caring mother, "Donna" (Rashida Jones), inadvertently threatens to get in the way of the Grinch's diabolical scheme.
Theatrical film adaptations of revered Dr. Seuss stories have garnered mixed results. Starting with the first "Grinch" movie, followed by that......thing they claimed was "The Cat in the Hat" (Remember the part with the "Dirty Hoe"?), the actually pretty solid "Horton Hears a Who", and the mostly meh "The Lorax". From "Illumination Animation", the guys behind "Despicable Me", "The Secret Life of Pets", and the ones responsible for all those "Minions" memes your mom posts on your Facebook wall, this new version of "The Grinch" is much smaller in scale and softer than the live action version. Now that's actually a good thing, considering all the out of place adult humor that was in that movie. It's really tame, right down to the Grinch himself, who is still a jerk, but ends up becoming more of a green version of Gru from "Despicable Me". Which is fine, because it's for kids, and for the most part, there's a decent amount of enjoyment to be had, mostly thanks to bouncy animation. However, there really isn't much to it. The original story is quick and to the point, and while this movie doesn't add anything near to the amount the live action one did, it still feels padded down, with mostly some little subplots and characters just goofing around.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a solid choice for the role, who is still plenty lovable despite being well, a Grinch. He's humorously malicious and gross, but oddly relatable. Really when you get down to it. The Grinch is just the culmination of all of our cynical thoughts around Christmas time. The subplots involving Rashida Jones and Cameron Seely don't amount to much, while Angela Lansbury (as the Mayor of Whoville) pops up for literally just one minute. There are a few funny moments from Kenan Thompson (as "Bricklebaum", an overly enthusiastic Who, that thinks he's best friends with the Grinch), while the best laughs come from Max (Who has always been my favorite character) and Fred, who are hilariously animated and delightful to watch. Pharrell Williams' narration is actually fairly inspired (There's something about his voice that's just so, pun intended, happy...), while the new version of the classic Grinch song by Tyler, The Creator is catchy enough, but not exactly memorable. The characters are likable enough, but there doesn't end up being much a conflict this time around. (I'll give this to the live action version, at least they changed it up by making the Whos jerks too.) It's a pretty straightforward adaptation, that's faithful, but not particularly necessary.
"The Grinch" doesn't add anything new, keeping things fairly simple for the most part, even with the unnecessary filler to get the movie just barely over an hour and twenty minutes. It's still funny, joyful fluff for the kids, that does actually find a way to get into the Christmas spirit. Especially once we get to the end, where the message is still surprisingly strong and heartfelt. It doesn't need to really exist, considering we already have a perfectly suitable, much shorter animated version to watch at home for cheaper. It's also something that's perfectly harmless, wonderfully animated, and sweet, which regardless of quality, is something the old doctor intended in the first place. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG, Though It Really Could Of Been An Easy G.
Image: "I choose to look at this glass as half full."
I knew Melissa McCarthy had it in her all along! There were hints sprinkled throughout many of her performances, and not just the few dramatic ones. Even in her most comedic of roles, you could tell she was clearly talented. However, if movies like "Life of the Party" taught me anything, it's that sometimes it's a little easier to fall down, with an embarrassing thud, rather than show what you're truly capable of. With that said, after this Oscar worthy performance, maybe that's all about to change.
"Can You Ever Forgive Me?" follows the true story of celebrity biographer, "Lee Israel" (Melissa McCarthy). Despite previously being praised for her ability to get into the mind of her subject, Lee has fallen on hard times, unable to find work, having trouble getting money for her rent, and is without friends or family, with the exception of her sick car, "Jersey". Though she finds a new possible friend in the form of the thoroughly fabulous "Jack Hock" (Richard E. Grant), Lee is still in debt, not having gotten any of her writing published due to criticisms of both her writing style and abrasive personality. While doing research for her planned biography on actress "Fanny Brice", she discovers an unknown letter from Brice. Lee finds out that the letter as it is, could be worth something. But after adding a few finishing touches of her own, she discovers how much more letters such as this could be worth. Lee begins forging more letter from other writers, playwrights, and literary personalities, and selling them to buyers, who believe them to be the real thing. However, this catches the attention of the FBI, causing Lee to enlist Jack to become her partner in crime in finding buyers for the forged letters. Things get further complicated from there, as we all know, stories like this have a tendency to go horribly wrong.
Directed by Marielle Heller ("Diary of a Teenage Girl"), "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" is the kind of story that makes for a compelling drama, as well as a little comedy and even a surprising amount of likability. Based on the real life Lee Israel's autobiography of the same name, the film is insanely clever, intelligent, and witty as Hell. The script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, finds a way to make our main characters charming despite their occasional nastiness and obvious criminal activities. The back and forth dialogue is funny and thoroughly engaging, with the direction balancing some humor, with some drama that veers into almost thrilling territory, due to how invested you eventually become in the story. The 90s New York setting is perfectly shown in a somewhat dreary light, along with a excellent cast of characters, that bring out the movie's appealing nature.
Image: The "Licorice Dance?"
This is not usually movie I take a little extra time to write up a full review for. I see a lot of movies every year (I'm over one hundred and fifty already. No social life here.), and I have a tendency to leave a few things out, like I mentioned in my "Hunter Killer"/"Johnny English Strikes Again" Double Feature Review, due to the constant stress on my fingers and mind. I can only come up with so many adjectives to describe a large variety of films. I only do it if I have a special reason to do so. This future hipster favorite right here is one of those special reasons.
"Suspiria" takes place in 1977, during the German Autumm, following American, "Susie Bannion" (Dakota Johnson), who heads to West Berlin in hopes of being admitted into the "Markos Dance Academy", run by the elusive, unseen "Mother Markos" (Tilda Swinton). Susie is immediately allowed in, showing loads of potential, and catching the interest of the lead choreographer, "Madame Blanc" (Tilda Swinton, Again). The academy seems perfect, providing a place to live, and with Susie being allowed to stay without paying, but little does anyone know, something nefarious is lurking within the walls of the building. While Susie further impresses Blanc, on her way to becoming the lead in the academy's upcoming show, a fellow student, "Sara" (Mia Goth) looks into the mysterious disappearance of another student, "Patricia" (Chloë Grace Moretz). Patricia's vanishing has also been noticed by her aged psychotherapist, "Dr. Josef Klemperer" (Played by "Lutz Ebersdorf", who is just another Tilda Swinton in old man make-up), after telling him that the academy instructors are witches. Klemperer, still grieving the loss of his wife, "Anke" (Jessica Harper, who was the star of the original "Suspiria"), sets out to find out what's going on within the academy, as the women prepare for their show, as well as a twisted reveal.
A remake of a 1977 Dario Argento film of the same name, "Suspiria" is the kind of movie that was basically made to cause divisive critical reception. Since the movie is directed by Luca Guadagino (Who gave us last year's acclaimed "Call Me by Your Name"), you can tell it's going to be nothing short of stunning in terms of it's look. It's almost like a macabre painting come to life, with this constant eerie feeling in the background. The dancing scenes are suitably weird, but also beautifully choreographed. There is an ominous musical score provided by Thom Yorke (from Radiohead), and some truly unsettling imagery. It has the makings of a chilling, indie horror. However, the bad news is that it's also a bit of a disaster when it comes to character, story, and coherent intelligence. There are are unnecessary subplots and distractions, where the film focuses on characters who don't end up providing much importance. It would work if they had actual personalities, rather than types, or were at least interesting. Much of the historical politics don't really have the deep meaning the film seems to think they do, especially once the truth behind the mystery is revealed. By the end, while it's lovely to look at, everything goes exactly how you would imagine any generic, bloody horror movie would go.
Dakota Johnson continues to distance herself from the "Fifty Shades" series, showing she has much more depth to her than those films allow her to show. It's also cool to see an almost all female cast, consisting of the great Tilda Swinton (Although more on her in a bit), Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz in a small part, Elena Fokina (as "Olga", a student who attempts to bail, leading to memorably gruesome results), and others, who may not get much for character, yet still give solid performances. Tilda Swinton's three roles are interesting ones. Her Madame Blanc role is great (Especially in her scenes with Dakota Johnson), while her role as Klemperer is completely distracting. The make up is amazing, maybe even award worthy. But she is reduced to doing a generic old man's voice, that sounds more like the one you do when mocking a caricature of a senile old person, rather than an actual one. Her other role, which doesn't come into the film till the last act is visibly disturbing, though really silly when you realize that all that buildup and intrigue leads up to something so goofy.
It's odd for me to admit that "Suspiria" is one of those movies that the more I thought about it, the less I enjoy it. I'm usually down for these kinds of artistically and intentionally divisive films. (Like last year's "Mother!" for example.) There is brilliance in the film, from it's direction, cinematography, and stylistic homages to classic horror. On the downside, it's all over the place in it's storytelling, with plotlines that lead nowhere, and with a two and a half hour runtime that feels even more noticeable with it's six act structure. (Not to mention an epilogue!) Whether you compare it to better horror movies to come out this year (Like "Hereditary") or simply better indie gorefests (Like "Mandy"), it feels like that student with potential that you know can make something great, but just ends up becoming a pretentious dick. It's fascinating, yet frustrating, and really leaves you questioning how worth it the whole ordeal was. It's still memorable to say the least. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gross Out Gore And Extreme, Bone-Crunching Ballet.
Image: "How about we drive to a theater with no Tyler Perry movies?"
Alright. We're back in the Tyler Perry-verse. An amazing world of constant suffering, tonal inconsistencies, and a lack of coherent filmmaking that you would never expect to come from someone who has been making movies for over a decade. You really can't prepare yourself once you enter, and you can't wait to escape back into what you know as reality. Lets do this!!!
"Nobody's Fool" follows successful, mentally unstable advertising representative, "Danica" (Tika Sumpter), who is dating a guy named "Charlie" (Voiced by Mehcad Brooks), who she met on the internet and has never seen in person, only talking to him on the phone. Danica gets a call from her weed loving mother, "Lola" (Whoopi Goldberg), who tells Danica that her sister, "Tanya" (Tiffany Haddish) is getting out of prison, and wants Danica to let her stay over. (Mostly because Lola doesn't want her craziness in her house.) Danica and her friend, "Kalli" (Amber Riley) go to pick up Tanya, bringing her over to Danica's place, where they both realize how much of a raving lunatic she is. After getting Tanya a job over at a coffee shop, owned by "Frank" (Omari Hardwick), who has a crush on Danica, Tanya starts snooping into Danica's relationship with Charlie, learning that the guy is likely not real, and that her sister is being "Catfished". So they hire the guys from the show "Catfish", "Nev Schulman" and "Max Joseph" (Both playing themselves), to look into Charlie. After finding out who he really is, Danica, Tanya, and Kalli go out to find him and confront him. That's about the first forty to fifty minutes I think. Then it just exists for a bit, becoming a romantic comedy/drama involving Danica and Frank. Sort of. Then something else happens in the last act to force some conflict, while this poor, suffering film critic continues to wonder why this movie is still going, and why I'm still sitting there watching it, despite the advertised plot being resolved an hour before the movie actually ends.
I'll give this to Director/Writer/Executive Producer/Guy I Know Can Do Better, Tyler Perry (All the "Madea" films, and most of my one to zero star reviews), it's almost inventive how ends up making bad films worse. It doesn't necessarily start off particularly good. It's much broader, raunchier than your average Tyler Perry flick (Complete with F-Bombs, even more swears, and adult content), and it's a little awkward at lead in the beginning. It's a silly plot, and rarely funny, but that simply makes for a bad comedy. That isn't anything shocking. What is shocking, is where the film goes from there. The main plot is wrapped up early in the movie, and dropped from the movie, before meandering around till something actually happens. It's such an amateurish filmmaking flaw that you would never expect to come out of an experienced filmmaker, who apparently hasn't actually improved at all over the years. The film is an hour and fifty minutes, and unnecessarily so.
Tiffany Haddish does what she does best, and as usual, does it well. (Whether her style of comedy is your thing or not, but you can't deny she gives it everything no matter the material.) However, despite getting top billing, she is actually a supporting character, who at some point almost completely vanishes during the second and third act. The real main character is Tika Sumpter, who I'm not sure is actually a very good actress. She doesn't have much dramatic range, no comedic chops, and in terms of onscreen presence and likability, Tiffany Haddish overwhelms her constantly. (Granted, it's a terribly written, thoroughly detestable character. So there isn't much you can do.) Omar Hardwick and Amber Riley are trying their best, while easily the funniest part of the movie comes from Whoopi Goldberg, who isn't in the movie near enough. The less I say about an awkward, somewhat uncomfortable Missi Pyle (as "Lauren", Danica's insane boss), the better. There is also a Chris Rock cameo that's so bizarre, it's almost funny at first, until you realize that he can do so much better.
The fact that a Tyler Perry movie is bad is never shocking. It's just that they're rarely all bad for the same reasons. "Nobody's Fool" suffers from a plot, genre, and tonal form of Attention Deficit Disorder. It's in a constant battle to figure out what it wants to be about, with what it eventually becoming feeling just plain unlikable and most importantly, unfunny. The R rated humor doesn't mesh well with Tyler Perry's lazy sitcom style of direction, which takes far too long to end. I have other things to do, and other movies to see. I can't spend my limited time on explaining why a Tyler Perry movie sucks. 1 star. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And A Rather In Detail Sex Scene. (Uhhhhh, What Happened To All The Jesus Talk?)
Image: I see a little silhouetto of a man.
With biographical movies about iconic figures, especially ones of those still fresh in people's minds, we should probably be used to Hollywood fudging. It doesn't help when the people involved were the ones producing the film, which means that things will likely be a little on the biased side, resulting in even more arranging of things that didn't happen (Or at least in the way presented). By this point, unless they do something downright offensive, you kind of just need to go with it. Even the best ones do it. Creative licence, or something.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" follows the life story of "Farrokh Bulsara".....Who then changes his name to "Freddie Mercury" (Rami Malek). Freddie meets drummer, "Roger Taylor" (Ben Hardy), guitarist, "Brian Mary" (Gwilym Lee), and bassist, "John Deacon" (Joseph Mazzello), forming the band that would eventually become "Queen". The film shows the band's high points and low points, showing what led to the creation to some of their beloved songs such as "We Will Rock You", "Another One Bites the Dust", and of course, "Bohemian Rhapsody". The movie also details Freddie's relationship with close friend/temporary wife, "Mary Austin" (Lucy Boynton), while he struggles to understand his own sexuality, as well as showing the Freddie's personal problems, mostly involving Freddie's eventual lover/personal manager, "Paul Prenter" (Allen Leech). This leads to an eventual break up of the band, and when Freddie learns that he has contracted AIDS, he hopes to mend back his old relationships, resulting in a epic performance during the "Live Aid" benefit concert in Wembley Stadium.
A long awaited biopic, that has suffered countless production problems, "Bohemian Rhapsody" went through a couple different actors, one of which being Sacha Baron Cohen (Who left when he read the original script, where Freddie Mercury died half way into the movie) Then, the film eventually settled on Director/possible child sexual assaulter, Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects", and a few of the "X-Men" movies), who was removed part way through the film for being a dick on set with the cast and crew. This resulted in Dexter Fletcher ("Eddie the Eagle", and the director of the upcoming Elton John biopic, "Rocketman") being called in to finish the movie, while only getting an Executive Producer credit. With all these issues, it's hard for the movie's flaws to not be noticeable, especially early on. With an acceptable and effective, but simplistic and even a little cheesy screenplay by Anthony McCarten ("The Theory of Everything", "Darkest Hour"), that goes down a very predictable, more crowdpleasing storyline. Now you're still going to get some heartfelt, even wonderfully done moments, while getting through a fairly toned down, bullet points of a true story. It starts off unevenly paced, not wasting any time in getting the band together, but once the film settles down, and lets it's story simple breathe, there is some true greatness that finds it's way out.
Rami Malek (From "Mr. Robot") has been getting almost unanimous praise for not just his performance, but also how much the film gets him to look of Freddie Mercury. It's quite remarkable, and it bumps the movie up, even through it's more mediocre moments. He is terrific, on stage during the performances and even off the stage, where even if he doesn't quite capture what you would picture Freddie Mercury in your head to be, you're automatically drawn to him. He is perfect star making material, with a tremendous amount of onscreen presence, (Which if you think of Freddie Mercury, it's a fitting tribute). Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello are all good, even though their roles kind of mesh into each other. Lucy Boynton is excellent, having some great chemistry with Rami Malek (Granted, they are dating in real life), in a subplot that could of gone wrong so easily, but feels naturally sweet and heartwarming. Aidan Gillen (as "John Reid", Queen's first manager) and Tom Hollander (as "Jim Beach", Queen's lawyer, turned later manager) are good actors, who still do solid jobs in underwritten roles. Allen Leech is suitably scummy as our sort of villain (Not sure how I feel about biopics having actual villains, but again. Comes with the territory.), while Mike Myers (as "Ray Foster", a record producer) pops up in a couple weird scenes.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" may not be the exact in depth depiction of a true life story that some would hope for, and perhaps from a critical perspective, despite it's compelling central performance might be deserving of a lower rating. However, it;s the final twenty to twenty-five minutes, when the movie's final showstopping scene, with Queen performing during Live Aid, that ends up bumping the film up a little higher. It's a mesmerizing, breathtaking final scene, that is absolutely astonishing to see on an IMAX screen. The film is a little jumbled due to it's troubled production and it does feel as if the filmmakers just wanted to make a by the numbers crowd-pleaser that still does it's job well. Even if it is a little more disposable because of it. It still finds a way to rock you. I will spare you further Queen song puns out of respect. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Amazing Mustaches.
Image: "Who is the pinkest of them all?"
Halloween literally just ended! You know what that means, right? We just skip Thanksgiving and move right into Christmas. They don't even waste any time anymore do they?
"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" follows young "Clara" (Mackenzie Foy), who is still mourning the loss of her beloved mother. On Christmas Eve, Clara's grieving father (Matthew Macfayden), gives Clara a final gift from her mother, which is an egg, with a lock on it. While at a Christmas party hosted by her godfather, "Drosselmeyer" (Morgan Freeman), Clara, determined to find the missing key to the egg, wanders through Drosselmeyer's house and end upin a strange, fantastical world. Clara learns from one of the world's rulers, the sugary sweet "Sugar Plum Fairy" (Keira Knightley), that Clara's mother was the creator of their world, which is called the "Four Realms". The Realms, consisting of the realms of "Sweets", "Flowers", and "Snowflakes", are at war due with the closed off, dark "Fourth Realm", which is ruled by the feared "Mother Ginger" (Helen Mirren). With Clara's missing key being the possible uh, pardon the pun, "Key" to saving the kingdom, she sets out with the titular Nutcracker, "Philip" (Jayden Fowora-Knight), to head into the fourth Realm and put a stop to Mother Ginger's evil schemes. As Clara leads the Realms into battle, she starts to discover the world's hidden secrets and learning that things are not as they first appear.
Based on a mix of both the original story as well as the classic ballet, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" really has everything going for it. I mean, come on. It's Disney. It's also based on beloved, source material that should simple enough to adapt since it's been done many times before. Not to mention the large enough budget to make for excellent costume designs, as well as good visual and practical effects to go with a solid cast. It's bizarre how exactly this movie ends up being a complete misfire, that appears to have the makings for a good family adventure, that only gets more convoluted and silly the longer it goes on. The film starts off promising enough, pacing itself slowly, showing off the impressive sets, before easing into the adventurous and visually stunning world. There are also a few solid sequences of terror, such as a trio of demonic looking clown babies, dead eyed toy soldiers, and "The Mouse King", which is represented by an army of mice, gathering together to form one giant mouse. However, it's all fairly generic and results in a story you've seen before, not just in previous adaptations of "The Nutcracker", but more along the lines of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (It's basically the same exact premise). At some point, you start to notice that most of the characters are just simple tropes, without much of their own identities which is thanks to a lackluster screenplay and an incoherent plotline. Directed by both Lasse Hallström ("A Dog's Purpose", "Safe Haven") and Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer", "Captain America: The First Avenger"), who mostly got credit due to reshoots, the movie ends up feeling really shoddy and empty, with the pretty imagery trying to mask the fact that there isn't too much to the movie other than that.
Mackenzie Foy is a solid, charismatic young actress, and she shows plenty of promise. Kiera Knightley is well cast, and while her character only gets more over the top and cartoonish, she still looks like she's having a good time. Jayden Fowora-Knight is as bland and boring as his character, who despite having his damn name in the title, serves little purpose. The film doesn't end up doing much with actors such as Richard E. Grant (as "Shiver", the ruler of the Realm of Snowflakes), Eugenio Derbez (as "Hawthorne", the flamboyant ruler of the Realm of Flowers), and Morgan Freeman, who is basically a glorified cameo. And Helen Mirren is insultingly given nothing to do and ends up with little screentime, but she still adds some much needed class and does what she can with what little is provided. Matthew Macfayden doesn't end up doing much, but at least serves as probably the most sympathetic character. (He does a solid job showing grief) Easily, one of the more memorable sequences ends up involving a ballerina (Played by real life ballet dancer, Misty Copeland), in ballet performance part way through the film that shows that there were still hints of something unique in the film despite what it eventually settles on being. (It's an odd mix of trying to include classic musical theater elements and Narnia-esque fantasy.)
"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is a mess of an already clichéd story, with too many holes in the plot (Or at least things that don't quite make much sense), and shockingly for Disney, is almost completely charm free. It looks beautiful, with some clear effort put into the art design and a few somewhat inspired uses of nightmare fuel. It still just doesn't seem like the filmmakers has their hearts in it, and it feels like a Disney throwaway that just so happens to have a larger than necessary budget. The film sets out for terms like "Whimsy" and "Epic", but instead settles on "Lifeless" and "Forgettable". To say that, especially about a Disney movie no less, is just plain depressing. In fact, it's a real nutcracker. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Scary Images And Sexy Kiera Knightley Baby Talk. (You Know You Like It.)
Time for something a little different. I've been doing this for eight long, wonderful, still completely unpaid years. During this time, the amount of movies I see a year just continues to grow and grow. I don't write full reviews of everything (That's why you gotta follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd), but I try my best to say what I need to say about almost everything. Sadly this week's new releases are kind of....well....There just isn't all that much to talk about when it comes to either of them. So, I thought it time to improvise a little.
Image: "Man, the Red Sox are running away with this."
"Hunter Killer" follows a rather convoluted plotline, with an American submarine getting destroyed while tracking a Russian sub deep in the Arctic. Fearing this could lead to something worse, "Admiral Charles Donnegan" (Gary Oldman) has "Admiral John Fisk" (Common) send in another American sub, commanded by "Commander Joe Glass" (Gerard Butler) to go in and find out what happened, while another team of soldiers, led by "Lieutenant Bill Beaman" (Toby Stephens), head into Russia to spy on a Russian marine base. Turns out the evil Russian Minister of Defense, "Dmitri Durov" (Michael Gor) is staging a coup against the Russian President, "Zakarin" (Alexander Diachenko), taking him hostage, and plotting to start a war with America. While Beaman and his men are tasked to rescue Zakarin, Glass' team discovered a sabotaged sub, bringing the captain, "Sergei Andropov" (The late, great Michael Nyqvist) aboard, despite the protests of some of the crew. Glass is forced to form an uneasy alliance with Sergei, working together to get to Beaman's team and Zakarin, and get them to safety before Durov starts World War III.
Image: The fate of the world rests in.....
"Johnny English Strikes Again" is the apparent third installment in the "Johnny English" trilogy. (There was a second one?) This time, all of MI7's secret agents have found their identities exposed by a cyber attack. With little else to turn to, the unnamed "British Prime Minister" (Emma Thompson) is forced to bring in older, inactive agents to find the culprit. However, after accidentally knocking out all of the others through bumbling comedy, all the remains is the obviously idiotic, buffoon himself, "Johnny English" (Rowan Atkinson). Reuniting with his old partner, "Bough" (Ben Miller), English sets out to find the bad guy, coming across lovely Russian spy, "Ophelia" (Olga Kurylenko), which complicates an already complicated mission, due to English's own incompetence in the new digital age.
To write full reviews for both "Hunter Killer" and "Johnny English Strikes Again" would just end up wasting both my time and yours. It may not seem like it, but both films are in a way somewhat similar. In terms of quality mostly. "Hunter Killer" is every single submarine based action thriller you've seen before, complete with cheesy dialogue and this constant sense of cheapness. It's not without some solid suspense and thrills (Such as an excellent sequence where the submarine has to avoid an underwater mine field, as well as a small cavern), and even with the questionable CGI (And even more questionable green screen), the action is well done and solidly directed. (It was directed by someone named Donovan Marsh. No clue who that is.) Gerard Butler and his hard to classify accent still has a strong screen presence. Gary Oldman is just here because they wanted someone with Gary Oldman gravitas, and Linda Cardellini (as "Jayne Norquist", an NSA analyst) doesn't really do much. However, the late Michael Nyqvist (In one of his last roles) once again shows he was one of those actors who never truly got the appreciation he deserved, still managing to give a compelling performance.
"Johnny English Strikes Again" on the other hand is the definition of getting exactly what you pay for. It's a predictable, almost plot free film whose story is simply there to have excuses to use goofy slapstick. It's a parody we've seen way too many times, and when the movie's jokes fall flat, they fall pretty hard. With that said, it's not without it's moments of inspired stupidity. Rowan Atkinson's style of humor isn't for everyone, but you can never say he isn't giving it his all. His ability to remain completely straight faced no matter he situation can still get a few laughs. (The funniest being a scene involving virtual reality, which turns hilariously violent) Olga Kurylenko is as pretty as ever, and it's nice to see her in something more comedic for once. Emma Thompson is a treasure and can do no wrong, while Jake Lacy (as "Jason Volta", a tech based billionaire who makes for our obvious baddie) is as lame a villain as you can possibly get. The film does at times make a point of the old school spy genre vs. the more modern, tech based one, but the satire isn't focused on near enough.
Both "Hunter Killer' and "Johnny English Strikes Again" are essentially filler movies to buy some time till the bigger releases. They're B-Movies, that don't aspire to much. They're not so much bad, with both movies having their moments of enjoyment. It all ends up being so inconsequential. if you're someone who really wants to see them, they're both solid enough to rent, though not something you need to see in theaters in the slightest (Maybe make it a double feature like I did). Both movies have absurd action, preposterous plotting, Russians doing Russian things, and a general lack of knowledge when it comes to global politics. There! The experiment is over! 2 stars all around! "Hunter Killer" is Rated R For Language And Violence, But Just Barely Enough To Qualify. "Johnny English Strikes Again" is Rated PG For Shenanigans And Mugging.
Image: The Oscars better show some love.
It's 2018, over a century after this country was founded, and yet, there is still some things that need to be worked on. One of which being a big one, the discrepancy between the African American community and our police force. Now you can take the easy, overly sensitive white way out and leave it at the standard "Oh you just hate cops" mentality. (Because history hasn't shown us any reason why they would even have an issue in the first place.) People aren't making this sh*t up. There is an issue, that needs acknowledgement first before anything can even be done about it. Granted, I guess it's just easier for some people to just deny it. You can be grateful to law enforcement and still believe it's fallible.
Based on the acclaimed 2017 novel of the same name by Angie Thomas, "The Hate U Give" follows young high school student, "Starr Carter" (Amandla Stenberg). Starr lives in an all black community, "Garden Heights" with her parents, "Marverick" (Russel Hornsby) and "Lisa" (Regina Hall), along with her half brother, "Seven" (Lamar Johnson) and younger brother, "Sekani" (TJ Wright). Due to the high crime rate, thanks to feared drug dealer, "King" (Anthony Mackie), who essentially runs everything, Starr doesn't go to the local high school. She instead goes to the mostly white school on the richer side of town. Here, Starr acts slightly different around these kids, such as with her white boyfriend, "Chris" (KJ Apa) and her friends, including "Hailey" (Sabrina Carpenter).
While at a party, Starr comes across an old childhood friend/former romantic interest, "Khalil" (Algee Smith). The two reconnect while Khalil drives her home, getting pulled over by a white cop, who ends up shooting Khalil dead, mistaking a hairbrush for a gun. Khalil's murder sparks citizens all over the city to seek justice, with Starr being the only witness, who can possibly cause some sort of change. Starr is forced to find the courage to overcome her own fears, how her friends will see her, and King's own personal involvement in the community, to stand up to an unjust system.
Directed by George Tillman Jr. ("Barbershop"), "The Hate U Give" (The title, which comes from a Tupac Shakur song, with important significance to the story) is one of those small movies that could so easily slip under the radar. While it doesn't appear large in scale, it's nonetheless important and in a certain way, should be a bit of a game changer. The film is unapologetic with it's themes, such as discussions of police racism (Or the assumption that someone of color is up to no good compared to a white person), class inequality, perceptions of poorer communities and the lack of opportunity in those areas, and how some in the African American community would feel the need to act different around white people than how they would act around their own race. (It's almost as if some, even those who may or may not be full on racist, don't feel like they're safe despite claims of acceptance.) The film is well written, with natural feeling dialogue that's profound and moving, never simplifying things too much, but saying everything in a way that logically everyone should be able to understand.
Amandla Stenberg ("Everything, Everything", "The Hunger Games") is one of those young actresses who, no matter the actual quality of what she's in, just continues to prove she is one of the best and most captivating young actresses out there. She gives a powerhouse performance, which shows through subtle moments throughout the film, leading up to a spectacular sequence towards the end during a protest that I could see possibly being played during one of those clips they show when presenting the Oscar nominees for Best Actress. (You know. Maybe. To put it lightly.) Russel Hornsby is terrific, along with some great supporting work from Regina Hall, Issa Rae (as "April Ofrah", an activist who helps Starr), and Common (as "Carlos", Starr's cop uncle), who gets an excellent scene to tell his side of the debate. (Which is given just as much depth and understanding.) KJ Apa (From"Riverdale", as my sister has pointed out to me) is a likable character, who doesn't end up as a stereotype, and Sabrina Carpenter gets a chance to be rather vile in a realistic way. Anthony Mackie, who is a menacing presence throughout the film, at first seems like an unnecessary subplot to include a villain, but by the end, you see what the point the film is getting across with him. While Algee Smith only appears briefly, for one long, extended cameo, he is full of charisma, making for a memorable character. (And his fate feels even more tragic the more you learn about him.)
Aimed at younger audiences, but with messages that not even many adults seem to be able to comprehend, "The Hate U Give" is mature, relevant, and most importantly, bold. Even though it's not exactly one of those grand, big screen releases we're used to, it's just as powerful, if not more so. It's a movie I advise giving a chance, because, who knows, you might actually learn something about an important subject that you didn't quite grasp before. (Or you can keep denying there is a problem. I've heard that's much easier.) 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language And Heavy Material, Though Still Perfectly Suitable For Families.
Image: Man, The Joker sure is going for the brooding look.
To me, slasher films have always been the least frightening portion of the horror genre. Which is weird, because it logically should be the scariest. A maniac with the knife is most likely to go after you before some demon or ghost. It's just that I've never really been into it, mostly because of an overuse of jump scares and gore to compensate for a lack of actual scares. The original 1978 "Halloween" in a way served as a reminder of what it could be. After a string of horrible sequels that got wrong what that movie got right, this new sequel takes what worked and may of made something even a little better.
Taking place forty years after the original directed by renowned horror icon, John Carpenter, 2018's "Halloween" opens with British true-crime podcasters, "Aaron Korey" (Jefferson Hall) and "Dana Haines" (Rhian Rees), doing a section on the so called Bogeyman himself, "Michael Myers/The Shape" (Played in his unmasked form by the original actor, Nick Castle, then by James Jude Courtney when masked). The cold, murderous psycho is currently in a Sanitarium, where he is in the psychiatric care of "Dr. Ranbir Sartain" (Haluk Bilginer), who took over after the death of "Samuel Loomis" (Previously played in the original by Donald Pleasence). Aaron and Dana are allowed to visit Michael before he's scheduled to be transferred to a maximum security prison, presenting him with the original mask he wore on that fateful night. (You know, the ghoulish William Shatner one?) The two are also able to speak with "Laurie Strode" (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor from Michael's murder spree, who is suffering PTSD from what she went through.
Over the four decades, Laurie has spent her days living in a heavily fortified, sealed off house in the woods, preparing for the day Michael ever escaped so she could kill him herself. This has led to an estranged relationship with her daughter, "Karen" (Judy Greer), while also having some effect on Karen's daughter, "Allyson" (Andi Matichak), who really just wants to see her family put this whole thing behind them. However, as Halloween night approaches, the bus carrying Michael, along with a few other inmates, crashes. This leads to Michael escaping, getting his old mask back, and returning to his old hometown in Haddonfield to start a whole new night of terror. With her family in danger and with some help from an old officer friend, "Frank Hawkins" (Will Patton), Laurie is set to finally have her reunion with Michael, leading to an epic confrontation forty years in the masking.
Retconning into oblivion the many sequels, couple reboots, and remakes, "Halloween" has a clean slate to do something a little different while employing what we've seen before, but effectively. Directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express", "Our Brand Is Crisis"), with a script co-written by Green and Danny McBride, the movie doesn't do too much to change up the genre. It follows the basic outline, with killer breaking free, offing a few side characters, before going on his killing spree, leading to a final battle with the final girl. At least, for the most part, that's what the film does. Relying on slow building tension, with time taken for the characters, and like the original, using unique camera angles and really clever cinematography to give the most terrifying feeling a horror movie can possibly give you. The feeling that someone, somewhere, is watching you. Yet you can't see him, but instead can hear the breathing.
Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic, giving a heartfelt, compelling performance, filled with flaws, moments of weakness, but still proving to be a strong female character. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are also excellent, with their shared scenes with Curtis being some of the strongest moments of character work. The three of them make for great horror movie heroines (The Scream Queens Trio?) We get some good supporting parts from Will Pattion (One of the smarter horror movie characters), Toby Huss (as "Ray", Karen's husband/One of the dumber characters), along with a few bit parts that come from the victims of the slaughter, which vary from the obvious douchebags who have it coming, to a few people who you kind of hope didn't die so horribly. The subplot with Haluk Bilginer's character doesn't quite mesh well into the overall story, but it's a fascinating concept, which plays into why Michael Myers originally became such a horror icon in the first place. The film, much like the original, leaves things ambiguous, not giving us too many details behind Myers' actions and motivations, along with the nature of his evil. He's a frightening force of pure brutality, who kills like a shark without a purpose, while those desperately trying to get into his mind end up causing more harm than good. (You can't reason with pure evil.)
"Halloween" can't help itself with a few moments of predictability and of course, people acting and doing stupid stuff. (Hell, the way the whole situation ends up coming together in the first place was because some idiot showed a murderous lunatic his old mask.) Even with those annoying tropes, the movie isn't trying to change up the genre so much, but rather show that some old fashioned scare tactics still can work. The film is still suspenseful, filled with nightmarish images, and even with the violence, the movie leaves enough to your imagination, which is truly something terrifying. (Most of the kills we only end up seeing the gruesome aftermath of.) With characters that you care about, a little humor every now and then, and all leading up to a finale that's nothing short of awesome, this new "Halloween" makes for a sequel that feels like a natural continuation to the original. (And a slightly better one at that.) Once that classic score kicks in, you realize you're in for a good scary story. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Blood, And Nondiscriminatory Murder. (Myers Goes For Anyone, Any Age.)
Image: The actor in the middle is bit wooden.
Sorry I'm getting this review out so late. I have a life outside of this you know. I mean, by life, I refer to my job at a movie theater, the fact I had to see "A Star is Born" again (Go see it! Now!), and writing takes a lot of time out of the day. I have to sit down, keep focused and type till my fingers get tired. Besides, if you were going to see "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween", you've likely already seen it. (Not just saying that because it's the same movie as the first one....Though it is.)
A sequel to the hit 2015 family film (And based on the successful books and television series), "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" follows a new group of kids, "Sonny" (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend, "Sam" (Caleel Harris), who has come to stay over with Sonny, his older, college ready sister, "Sarah" (Madison Iseman), and their mother, "Kathy" (Wendi McLendon-Covey) for a couple weeks, during Halloween. Sonny and Sam have a job where they clear out junk, going to a house previously owned by "Goosebumps" author, "R. L. Stine" (Jack Black). While cleaning the house, the two boys come across an old book, which turns out is actually the original first manuscript for one of Stine's Goosebumps books that was never completed. They open the book, which if you've seen the first one, is not a good thing.
The book released the evil ventriloquist dummy, "Slappy" (Previously voiced by Jack Black, though this time it's by his sound alike, Mick Wingert), who wants to make Sam and Sonny his family. However, Slappy is still a sadistic, homicidal psycho, with evil intentions. After Sarah's cheating boyfriend, "Tyler" (Bryce Cass) gets axed by Slappy (Okay, he just gets horribly injured. But still. He could have killed him), Sarah teams up with Sonny and Sam to attempt to get rid of Slappy. Sadly, Slappy has no intention of going anywhere, unleashing an army of monsters on Halloween night to attack the town and create the ultimate Halloween based nightmare, just like in the unfinished book. It's up to the kids, armed only with the book to contain the monsters, to save the day. Basically, it's the first movie again.
Okay, so it's not exactly the same, but by the end, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" really is just what was done before, except with less of a budget this time around. The movie doesn't seem to have the aspirations that the first one did, which had a larger scope and more character despite it's already small by comparison budget. The movie has more of a singular story, somewhat TV special feel (Especially in the special effects department), which could of been intentional, considering the original TV series thrived on that kind of old fashioned cheese. Because of this, there are times where the film can be fun. There are a couple spooky thrills, silly comedy, and a certain likability to the cheapness. A there are a couple delightful sequences, such as the gummy bear attack (Which is quite funny, and kind of horrifying in a way) and Slappy's cartoonish, but still somewhat frightening antics. There just isn't enough of it, and because of that, it just feels unnecessary and not exactly something you need to see in theaters.
Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Caleel Harris are all decent enough young actors, who are just stuck with character types rather than actual characters. Granted, it's that kind of movie, so you can only do so much. Actors like Wendi McLendon-Covey (Who I still find very much on the attractive side), Chris Parnell (as "Walter", a pharmacy manager, who ends up becoming Slappy's hunchback minion), and Ken Jeong (as "Mr. Chu", the next door neighbor, who gets waaaay too into Halloween), aren't given much to do, outside of play the typical dumb adults. When Jack Black (Who I guess went uncredited in the cast) finally shows up towards the last act in his prolonged, glorified cameo, gets easily the funniest lines and certainly livens things up. In terms of our villain, Slappy, he's still a pretty menacing and darkly humorous villain, who gets a scary moment once in a while, reminding everyone why he's the most popular villain from both the original books and show.
Not without it's moments, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" doesn't have enough of the charm that the original movie had, and will likely only entertain the kids. While that's fine I guess, but as I've said before about other similar movies, they too expect a little more. Nothing bad, but not anything special, with little originality or reason to be on the big screen. And now I feel like a dummy. 2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, Puppet Jump Scares, And Attempted Puppet Murder.
Image: A Priest, a Businessman and a Bear go into a bar...."
It's a classic story. A bunch of strangers, who may or may not be hiding secrets from each other, gathering in the middle of nowhere in a secluded location. Of course, there's a bigger mystery at hand, which will result in all kinds of death. Regardless of originality, so long as you got some well written characters, you can have something really different there, especially since we really don't get too many movies quite like this anymore.
"Bad Times at the El Royale" takes place in 1969, in a novelty hotel called the "El Royale", which is located right at the border between Nevada and California. There is something clearly up about the hotel, with the only employee seemingly working at the hotel being the young, awkward concierge, "Miles Miller" (Lewis Pullman). Four strangers arrive to stay the night, including a priest, "Father Daniel Flynn" (Jeff Bridges), a singer going through hard times, "Darlene Sweet" (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum cleaner salesman who won't shut up, "Seymour Sullivan" (John Hamm), and a mysterious woman with a bad attitude, "Emily Summerspring" (Dakota Johnson). It soon becomes apparent that there is something off about this hotel, with dark secrets being revealed, one way mirrors, and a suitcase full of money hidden under the hotel floor. This results in people getting killed, and the involvement of Emily's tied up sister, "Rose" (Cailee Spaeny) and a psychotic, hunky madman, "Billy Lee" (Chris Hemsworth).
Both directed and written by Drew Goddard, who previously directed the genre bending "The Cabin in the Woods" and wrote the critically acclaimed "The Martian", "Bad Times at the El Royale" is unoriginal in premise, but unique in it's execution. It's smart in it's dialogue and characterization, with all of them getting enough development in simple monologues or conversations among each other. Though the film is told out of order, the film for the most part finds a way to make a lot of it come together, especially when we finally get in on what's actually going on. It's not a predictable movie to say the least, with there being absolutely no way anyone in the audience had a single clue as to where it's all going. With that said, it's a bit on the clunky side, with the two hour and twenty minute runtime not meshing well in certain parts with the intentionally disjointed story filled with flashbacks and cut backs to other perspectives of scenes we previously saw.
The ensemble cast is definitely top notch, with everyone making their characters their own. Jeff Bridges and the terrific Cynthia Erivo have great chemistry together, with their scenes being the most memorable ones. Dakota Johnson is lovely, getting to show off a bit more of her badass side, while we also get great work from John Hamm, Cailee Spaeny (Previously seen in "Pacific Rim: Uprising"), and especially a crazed Chris Hemsworth. The real scene stealer ends up being Lewis Pullman, whose character goes places you would never expect, giving an instant breakout performance. The characters are fascinating, with you becoming engaged in their storylines, even if they all don't quite come together in a truly cohesive manner.
"Bad Times at the El Royale" mixes style, humor, and suspense in ways that are at times fairly brilliant, with Goddard's direction and eye for visual flair making for a captivating character driven thriller with hints at connections to real life social issues of the time. It's a bit jumbled in it's execution and needlessly dragged out longer than it likely should of been. However, it's hard to deny the effectiveness behind it's mysteries, and how invested you will end up being by the end. It's a good time, despite what the title implies. 3 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And A Fixation On Thor's Gyration.
Image: A Few Great Men.
Time for a little controversy, and I do mean it when I say "Little". Some people, who are either stupid or are simply pretending to be stupid to get others more riled up, have taken offense to the fact that for everything that this new film, "First Man" shows, it doesn't portray Neil Armstrong psychically planting the American Flag on the surface of the moon, which has led to the film being dubbed by said idiots (Who by the way, haven't even seen the movie) as "Unpatriotic".. Now we still see the flag there, with the camera lingering on that shot, as well as the effect this mission had on the country and the rest of the world. If you as me, it all seemed pretty patriotic. Then again, I actually saw the movie, so what do I know?
Based on the true story, "First Man" focusing on astronaut/first man to walk on the moon, "Neil Armstrong" (Ryan Gosling) from 1961-1969. The film details his personal family life with his wife, "Janet" (Claire Foy), being forced to deal with the death of their young daughter "Karen", and Neil's involvement in the space race against Russia. The film also shows us the costs of what this mission to get a man on the moon requires (Many of them tragic), as well as the effect it has on both Neil and his family. This all leads NASA's eventual launch of the "Apollo 11", involving Neil and "Buzz Aldrin" (Corey Stoll), ending with Neil becoming the first man to walk on the moon, saying that famous, goosebumps inducing quote, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".
Directed by critically acclaimed Director/Oscar winner, Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash", "La La Land"), "First Man" is a more personal story, with a larger scope and word changing side effects. The film, which beautifully utilizes the grainy, gritty stylized form of direction that best symbolizes the time period. The cinematography in the movie takes full advantage of the scope of an IMAX screen (Especially towards the end), with the use of shaky cam to better enhance the terror, suspense, and the unforgiving nausea that a rocket can provide. But it's not just about the mission itself, though the film takes time to focus on the specifics, details, and the failed attempts (That sometimes resulted in death), which led some in the country to question how worth it this whole escapade actually is. The film follows the human aspect of our real life characters, wonderfully capturing the sadness behind them that they try to keep hidden. With a script by Josh Singer ("Spotlight, "The Post"), the dialogue is quiet and simple, with a few moments of humor to form a better emotional connection to the movie.
Ryan Gosling's performance is probably destined to be a subject of debate. Some will see his stoic performance as possibly wooden and lacking in much emotion. I saw that as intentional. There are rare moments where he shows his emotions, whether they be happy or sad, but it's clear that while he's appearing emotionless, you can see in his eyes so much inner turmoil that he is desperately trying to keep from getting out. I found it to be a wonderful performance, that shows the character's flawed humanity more than any other previous telling of this story. Claire Foy is awesome here, with her role being the one that other movies would either overlook or not give anywhere near enough focus. Her story is shown to be just as important, showing how the families of those who could possibly die are forced to deal with, and regardless of the tragedies, are pretty much expected to remain helpless and happy in the eyes of those watching from the outside. Others are mostly secondary, but the excellent ensemble still does great work, which includes Jason Clarke (as "Ed White", the first man to walk in space), Kyle Chandler (as "Deke Slayton", NASA's Chief of the Astronaut Office), Ciarán Hinds (as "Robert R. Gilruth", NASA's Director), Shea Wigham (as "Gus Grissom", one of the Mercury Seven astronauts), and a surprisingly, slightly dick-ish Corey Stoll (I guess Buzz just had no filter at all.)
"First Man" is a terrific, compelling drama that conveys the positives and negative outlooks of people during the time, while also showing why in the end, this was such an important deal. In the film's last twenty to thirty minutes, we get an example of what I would consider to be perfect cinema. The actual launch and moon landing has probably some of the best uses of sound and visual camerawork of any modern movie, resulting in a jaw dropping sequence so strong, you'll feel your ears pop the second our heroes step on the moon's surface. It's unreal how it looks, and I couldn't tell if it was CGI, practical, or an incredible mix of both. It's nothing short of an achievement, and ends on a perfect, somber note that sticks with you once the credits roll. That seems like powerful, patriotic stuff to me right there. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Terrifying Anxiety, Vomit Inducing Shaking, And Reality At It's Harshest.
Image: Sing "Poker Face"!
Allow me to paraphrase if necessary. "Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave. 12 notes in the octave repeats. It's the same story, told over and over. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes." Probably not the first critic (or the last) to quote this line, but it's too perfect to ignore, and pretty much explains how and why this film works so beautifully. Wise words from Sam Elliot right there. Top that, "Life Itself".
"A Star Is Born" opens with famous singer/songwriter, "Jackson Maine" (Bradley Cooper), who suffers from a noise-induced hearing loss and a serious alcohol problem. Jackson wanders into a bar, where he comes across a waitress, "Ally" (Lady Gaga), who just so happens to be singing. Jackson immediately falls in love with Ally, hearing her own songs and knowing she has true talent in her. However, Ally doesn't quite have the confidence in herself. Jackson invites Ally to one of his concerts, convincing her to come on stage, while performing one of her songs, which results in her becoming an instant success. Now a couple, Jackson becomes a mentor of sorts to Ally, introducing her further into this world, resulting in her becoming a rising star, while Jackson's own personal demons continue to slowly destroy him.
Directed, Co-Produced, and Co-Written by Bradley Cooper, "A Star is Born" is a story that has been told many, many times before. Originally a 1937 film (Then a 1954 one, followed by another remake in 1976), it's not just something we've seen been remade, but also told through various media and stories. It's a classic tale really of one star discovering another, possibly falling in love with the up-and-comer, and one of them has a downward spiral due to an abuse of some kind. We've seen this before, and will continue to see it in the future. Yet, like the previously mentioned quote said, it's all about how it's told, and Bradley Cooper, who clearly saw that it's a story that can be just as relevant now than ever, crafted it into a masterwork, and one of the best films to come out of 2018.
Lady Gaga, whose singing voice I've always been absolutely in love with, gets top billing here, and for good reason. She gives an amazing, thoroughly appealing, strong, but simple performance, that's much like her character in which it shows nothing but true star power. Her chemistry with Bradley Cooper is almost unreal, with these two characters feeling naturally connected, whether it be from simple glances or from the very human dialogue. The previously mentioned Sam Elliot (as "Bobby", Jackson's older brother/manager) gets some brilliant scenes throughout while Andrew Dice Clay (as "Lorenzo", Ally's caring father) gets some comical, warm hearted scenes that never feel cloying. There are some great secondary roles from Anthony Ramos (as "Ramon", Ally's friend), Rafi Gavron (as "Rez", Ally's manager), and a memorable Dave Chappelle (as "Noodles, Jackson's old friend/retired musician), but the film's focus is on Gaga and Cooper, with the audience getting an instant attachment and investment in both of these characters and their relationship.
With music being such an important theme in "A Star Is Born", you have to expect the actual music in the movie to be good. It's a fantastic soundtrack, with a few songs (Particularly the main one, "Shallow") I see becoming instant favorites, with the film clearing out awards season in that category. The cinematography is stunning, making for a gorgeous looking movie, and the writing is perfect, with moments of humor, which goes well with the occasional profound and insightful, yet very natural dialogue between characters. Even when you get the idea of where this story is going, you still feel the emotional journey, having fallen in love with these characters, begging for nothing less than absolute happiness for them. What makes the film and it's story so relevant, aside from the changing music industry, is how the film shows the pros and cons of someone rising within this industry. It can be dark, lonely, and even a little dangerous with what types of substances will be available, while also showing the importance of embracing your natural talent, allowing your true voice to be heard, and not letting fame change you for the worse. It's a heartbreaking tale of love that's sure to be an instant classic, and it gives me an urge to just call off the search for "2018's Best Movie" a little early. 4 stars. Rated R For Drug Use, Sexuality, And Realistic Tragedy.
Image: The second best onscreen romance of the week.
I think I understand it now. I understand the now infamous "Turd in the Wind" line. You see, when speaking to the doomed convenience store robber, Venom remarks that he will eat his arms, legs, and face, leaving him as a limbless thing rolling down the street, like the previously mentioned "Turd in the Wind". What he is saying is that he will be some bizarre mess, that will be stupid to look at, difficult to describe, and so out of the blue surreal that whoever sees it will be repulsed, yet intrigued by it. What I'm trying to say is that it's a metaphor for this movie as a whole.
"Venom" follows reckless reporter, "Eddie Brock" (Tom Hardy), living with his pretty lawyer girlfriend, "Anne Weying" (Michelle Williams). Eddie learns that Anne's firm is working for the "Life Foundation", an organization that specializes in the future, which is run by the obviously shady, "Carlton Drake" (Riz Ahmed). When Eddie learns, after eyeing some confidential material that's been sent to Anne, that the experiments that Drake has been performing on poor homeless, sick human subjects have a weird tendency of killing the subject. Eddie confronts Drake during an interview, despite being specifically told not to, which results in him getting fired, along with Anne, who breaks up with Eddie. Cut to several months later, Eddie is a complete loser, living in a crappy apartment, and still struggling to control his accent while Anne has already moved on. Eddie ends up meeting "Dora Skirth" (Jenny Slate), a scientist working for Drake, who only just now has realized how crazy he is. Dora explains that the Life Foundation has discovered alien life, with Drake seeing humanity on the verge of collapse and in need of replacing, in the form of strange, gooey creatures dubbed "Symbiotes".
With help from Dora, Eddie sneaks into the Life Foundation, getting attacked by one of the human test subjects, whose Symbiote ends up bonding with Eddie. After narrowly escaping, Eddie begins to feel more off than usual, feeling hungry constantly, and hearing a demonic voice in his head. The voice is revealed to be the Symbiote itself, named "Venom" (Also voiced by Tom Hardy), who really likes being a part of Eddie, and has plans of his own. Meanwhile, Drake learns that Eddie has bonded with Venom, and sends his henchmen to go after him and bring back Venom to perfect his experiments. Eddie and Venom are forced to become one, taking on all the villains, chomping heads, and smashing bodies, while a separate Symbiote, with evil intentions, makes it's way to set up the climax.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, "Venom" is not the first time we've seen the beloved Marvel Comics/Spider-Man villain turned anti-hero in action on the big screen. He, sort of, appeared as the main villain (Played by Topher Grace) in the last act of 2007's "Spider-Man 3". I say sort of because the movie did nothing with him and really just had him there just to have him. The movie has been bashed by fans long before it came out, mostly due to people having a hard time comprehending how a Venom movie works without Spider-Man, who was integral to his origin in the comics. The good news for the fans is that even without the famous web-slinger, this movie gets the character right. Sometimes. (As a movie, "Spider-Man 3" is still better.) "Venom" is a movie that's not all there in the sense that, I think, it's criminally insane. The film's tone is more comedic than expected, though some of the laughs come from the shear absurdity of what you see. It's odd how the film follows a generic superhero plotline, yet the film is anything but predictable. The steps the film takes to get from point A to point B are so completely off the wall bonkers that it makes for a beautiful disaster of epic proportions.
Tom Hardy, even with his occasionally all over the place accent, is actually quite amazing in this movie. I might even say he's brilliant. He commits to the craziness, embracing every nonsensical second. His relationship with Venom is oddly endearing, with Venom's obsession with violence and occasional vulgarity, mixing with Eddie's stammering. These two characters have more chemistry than the actual romantic subplot, with the film never making Hardy's relationship with Michelle Williams in any way believable. While she does get a little more to do than most love interests, the whole time you're questioning what she sees in him. Riz Ahmed is a great actor and he's creepy, but his character's motivation is too far fetched to get into, with his eventual transformation into the villainous "Riot" (Who is essentially just "Gray Venom") doesn't make a lick of sense. Jenny Slate, looking cute with the glasses, is underutilized in the worst way possible. In terms of visuals, it doesn't look real, but it looks cool. Venom is a pretty badass looking creature, even when we do get to the big, CGI heavy climax, which is nothing but blobs slapping the crap out of each other.
The film is full of stupid, to the point you wonder if the filmmakers even realized it. "Venom" is a lot like it's main character. It's an unhinged piece of work that verges on "So Bad It's Good", but you have to admit there are some legitimately good aspects to the movie (I mean, movies like "Green Lantern", "Catwoman", and all of the "Fantastic Four" movies are much, much worse than this.) A better description is that it's more "So, What The F*ck, It's Fascinating". The story makes absolutely no sense, with character development just happening without explanation, humor coming from either actually funny lines or ones that are so out there confusing, and it leaves you with a feeling that you're no longer in the real world. The movie feels like something that's come out of a Pre-MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) timeline.Not so much in quality, but more along the lines that the movie looks like a time capsule of the early 2000s (Whether it be the story, characterizations, the Eminem theme song, or just the head scratching images this movie allowed to exist). Somehow, I kind of loved it. I had a great time analyzing this trainwreck of awesome stupidity and I advise everyone that they need this movie in their lives to make them feel better than we won't be seeing this beloved character in a proper film anytime soon. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Head Biting Violence, Sexy Venom (Yeah I know What It Means. Just Making A Joke Here), And The Constant Feeling Of Insanity.
Image: "Shhhh....I'm hunting Wabbit....Heh, heh, heh, heh!"
Guess it's that time of year again to pretend it's Halloween, despite having almost a month before the day actually arrives. Once we reach November, we'll start pretending it's Christmas.
"Hell Fest" starts with two best friends, "Natalie" (Amy Forsyth) and "Brooke" (Reign Edwards), reuniting after some time apart. Brooke suggests that Natalie go with Brooke's new annoying roommate, "Taylor" (Bex Taylor-Klaus), their boyfriends, "Quinn" (Christian James) and "Asher" (Matt Mercurio), along with "Gavin" (Roby Attal), who has a crush on Natalie, to go to a traveling, horror based theme park, called "Hell Fest". Natalie is at first uneasy about going, mostly due to feeling out of touch with Brooke and the rumors of a girl getting both gutted to death, and her corpse being mistaken for one of the park decorations. While at the park, Natalie notices some creepy guy in a zombie mask seemingly following the group around, with everyone else mistaking him for one of the park employees. But as soon as the bodies start to pile up and the blood starts to spill, Natalie and her friends must escape the park to survive.
"Hell Fest" isn't without an interesting idea, with the premise of getting stalked through a horror theme park by someone who may or may not be part of the attractions, making for something that could of been fun time. There are creepy looking costumes and clever set designs, along with the film's explanation for how the park works, which are fairly cool. Really the problems is that it's just kind of generic, especially with how many genre thrills and how much the film shows off it's setting, you can't help but think to yourself, that they could of done a lot more with this than they actually did. (There's a scene with a guillotine, and yet, it doesn't actually result in a decapitation in favor of another simple stabbing.) The kills are gorey, but mostly by the book, with the most elaborate one involving a strongman mallet. The film doesn't utilize what it has, and how crazy it could of been.
The characters aren't exactly meant to be anything other than their character tropes (Such as nice girl, nice guy, comic relief, etc.), but they are here to do them as well as you really can. Amy Forsyth is a plenty likable lead, who even gets a few badass moments later on, making for a solid horror heroine. The others are fine, though the quick, but delightfully quirky cameo from Tony Todd (as a performer in one of the "Hell Fest" shows), made me kind of wish he was the killer instead. (It would of been hammier, but it certainly would of been more memorable) As for the killer himself, there are moments where he's fairly creepy, though the mask given is easily one of the blander ones they could of got. In fact, with all the killer clowns, and bag masked zombies, (Along with what I can only assume is a Skeksis from "The Dark Crystal"), there were much creepier ones they could of gone with.
There are some good moments of dark comedy and the look of the film is pretty awesome (Kind of makes you wish it was an actual place that existed), "Hell Fest" is your standard slasher flick, with little surprises and little memorability. It's audience will likely have a good time, though these days I feel like there are still better choices out there to choose from. I'd say it's not for me, but I was honestly just hoping for something even more over the top. Guess I might be a sicker person than I realized. 2 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Jumpy Scares, And The Fact That I Would Still Get Less Sick Here Then I Did At Six Flags.
Image: I'm waiting for "Little Men", starring Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Hart, Peter Dinklage, and Danny Devito.
Knowing what I know now, that there is going to be yet another "Little Women" adaptation coming out next year, with Greta Gerwig (Who previously gave us one of 2017's masterpieces, "Lady Bird") as the Director, it all makes this one feel just kind of pointless.
"Little Women" is a modern re-imaging of the old story by Louisa May Alcott, following the March sisters, "Jo" (Srah Davenport), "Beth" (Allie Jennings), "Meg" (Melanie Stone), and "Amy" (Elise Jones). While Jo is living in New York, trying desperately to become a writer and get her novel published, the story is told through flashbacks about the maturing lives of herself and her sisters. We see them living with their mother, "Marmee" (Lea Thompson), while their "Papa" (Bart Johnson) is enlisted in the army. The film also shows the sisters' relationships with each other and those around them, such as Jo's close friend, "Laurie" (Lucas Grabeel), who obviously has a romantic interest in her. With Jo being told by her professor, "Freddy Bhaer" (Ian Bohen) to challenge herself and further her own writing, Jo is called back home due to tragic circumstances, which forces her to confront some of the issues that occurred when she and her sisters were growing up. Really, most people should already know what the plot for this is, even for those who have never read "Little Women." Just imagine it being he same, except in 2018.
Mostly only distributed by the current box office punching bag, "Pure Flix Entertainement" (So there is a bit more quality in filmmaking this time around), "Little Women" really doesn't do all that much to solidify it's existence, even with it's more modern setting. The film's story is still plenty relevant, and there moments where the themes can still resonate with some audiences. However, the setting just makes things a little awkward, with the fact that the movie's timeline spans almost two decades, yet every scene still feels like it's set in 2018. It's choppily put together, with first time Director/Co-Writer Clare Niederpruem keeping things pretty safe, not really doing anything with it's new premise and going for pure cheese when it comes to the script. With that said, the film isn't without it's charm, such as the overall pleasantness of the movie, and the fact that much of the acting is surprisingly excellent, with our main, and for the most part, unknown cast giving it their all.
Sarah Davenport, who is in the forefront through most of the movie, is quite terrific. While most of her character's dialogue is definitely on the mediocre side, she delivers them with so much conviction, personality, and enough likability to get through her character's immature flaws. The performances from Allie Jennings (Who gets the most emotional scenes later in the film), Melanie Stone, and Elise Jones all show lots of talent and onscreen charisma to carry the film. Lucas Grabeel is funny and lovable, and Lea Thompson, whose role could almost be considered thankless due to how little focus it gets, still gives it her absolute best, generating a genuine motherly warmth and love. All of these actors and actresses are really good, elevating "So-so" material, helping the film's inner good heart shines through, which should definitely make it very effective for the audience it's trying to attract.
"Little Women" is hammy in writing, sloppy in editing, and a little on the cheap side, feeling more like something you'd see on the Hallmark channel, rather than in theaters. Where the movie falters, it makes up for in how strong it's performances are (Which is very important for a character driven movie like this) and a good heart. And while the film's modernization doesn't add much, it's themes of female empowerment are still sure to connect with young girls. It's hard to truly dislike anything with that kind of intention. And to be honest, "Little Men" is starting to sound terrible. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Adult Content And Slight Drinking (Actual Beer This Time Too).
Image: "Get this man a high chair!"
Another day, another mostly "Meh" comedy, making for a pretty quick review. Hey, unlike this movie, I don't want to drag things out needlessly more than I need to. An hour and fifty minutes is a bit much for even a good comedy.
"Night School" follows "Teddy Walker" (Kevin Hart), a big mouthed troublemaker who dropped out of school, claiming it was because it was beneath him. (The real reason being that he just isn't all that smart.) Years later, he's dating (And planning to marry) his girlfriend, "Lisa" (Megalyn Echikunwoke). However, when his current place of work explodes (Long, contrived story, not worth getting into), Teddy is forced to look for a new job. Teddy's friend, "Marvin" (Ben Schwartz) says he can get him an investment job, which will require Teddy to go back to school to get his GED. Teddy is horrified to discover that his high school nemesis, "Stewart" (Taran Killam), who has become principal and basically rules his school like a tyrant. Teddy enrolls in the night school class, run by "Carrie" (Tiffany Haddish), who doesn't mess around and is well, very Tiffany Haddish about the way she runs her class. Teddy, along with his fellow classmates, including the idiotic, "Mackenzie" (Rob Riggle), the crazy "Jaylen" (Romany Malco), stressed out mother, "Theresa" (Mary Lynn Rajskub), pretty young hipster, "Mila" (Anne Winters), the Mexican one, "Luis" (Al Madrigal), and"Bobby" (Fat Joe), who Skypes into class from prison, now struggle to get through the class, planning to steal the GED answers in typical, goofily comedic fashion.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee ("Barbershop: The Next Cut" and "Girls Trip") and written by six different people (Including Kevin Hart), "Night School" is another one of those live action cartoons that runs like a series of skits, in which the film stops dead to give those skits extra time, while the plot is really, kind of just there. You really just have to hope it's funny enough to make it worth it. Weirdly on occasion, it can be fairly funny. The film's padding is actually where the funniest stuff happens, where the film just proceeds to stop moving and let funny people ramble and quip. It's padding, but it's the best part of the movie. I actually kind of understand why, because everything with it's plot feels made up as it goes along, progressively getting more and more dragged out as it goes along. When you finally realize what's actually going on and how the filmmakers are finding ways around how little they have, it makes you kind of disappointed in yourself for laughing.
Kevin Hart is his typically sporadic self, jumping all over the place, and being the adult equivalent of a hyperactive kid on a sugar high (He's still undeniably funny at times). Tiffany Haddish (Who is strangely out of the movie for a decent portion), can get plenty of laughs regardless of how mediocre a script is. Really, the rest of the cast, with Romany Malco, Rob Riggle, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and especially Taran Killam, get funny parts every now and then. The whole relationship with Megalyn Echikunwoke is silly, with little purpose to the conflict, and a lack of chemistry between her and Kevin Hart. (He has much more chemistry with Tiffany Haddish actually.) This movie needed more Keith David (as "Gerald", Teddy's disapproving father), since he only appears two or three times, but gets easily the funniest lines. (I mean, the world needs more Keith David.)
"Night School" is predictable beat by beat, with so little story that the movie takes time out of it's day to focus on drawn out ad-libbing. While those make for the funniest moments, you eventually realize you don't need to need to pay to see something like this, especially when it all ends up being longer than it needs to be. It's not the worst, mostly because it's just forgettable by comparison. I'll just forget about it by the end of the week, much like I did with most of what I learned in high school. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Wacky Shenanigans And Pointless Padding.
Image: "And he referred to my hands if they're small, then something else must be small....I guarantee there's no problem."
Just because you're aimed at kids, and mostly little kids at that, you mostly assume you won't really get much more than that. Which is a fine mentality, especially when you do a good job with it. Then before you realize it, you're cute little kids movie about talking Yetis gets a little deep.....Then it gets really deep. Would you be surprised for me to tell you that it's all an allegory for religion? Heavy.
"Smallfoot" follows "Migo" (Channing Tatum), who lives in a secluded, ignorant Yeti society on a mountain in the clouds, where everyone follows what is written on small stones (Where if it isn't in the stones, it isn't true), carried by their leader, "Stonekeeper" (Common). Migo loves being a part of their world, hoping to become a gong ringer (To bring about the giant snail in the sky, aka the sun) like his father, "Dorgle" (Danny DeVito). Migo's worldview comes crashing down (Literally), when he spots a plane crash, catching a glimpse of the ejected human pilot (Or a "Smallfoot" as they're called) before he floats back beneath the clouds out of sight. Migo returns to the village to tell the others, but Stonekeeper claims that a smallfoot can't possibly exist because the stones say so. Migo is banished, where he bumps into a group of young Yetis, who believe that smallfoots are real, which include Stonekeeper's curious daughter, "Meechee" (Zendaya), "Kolka" (Gina Rodriguez), "Gwangi" (LeBron James), and "Flem" (Ely Henry).
They arrange for Migo to travel down the mountains, which results in him falling the whole way, where he comes across the human town. Meanwhile, a washed up TV personality, "Percy Patterson" (James Corden), is very much in need of ratings, using the rumors of the Yeti sighting to stage a fake one, which results in his assistant, "Brenda" (Yara Shahidi) abandoning him. Migo comes across Percy, and decides to um, technically kidnap him, and take him back up to the Yeti village. Migo presents Percy to the others, proving that not only do smallfoots exist, but that one of the all important stones was wrong. However, Migo soon learns of the consequences of tearing down one's worldview, as well as the other hidden lies that their society was built on.
From Warner Bros.' animation production company, "Warner Animation Group" (Or WAG), who previously gave us the "Lego Movie" franchise and the much underappreciated "Storks", "Smallfoot" has a little more to say than just having a Yeti dance on screen for an hour and a half. (Although it's actually a musical, kind of.) Visually, the film is stunningly animated, with each character's stretchy, lively nature, providing some good old fashioned slapstick comedy. (Very Looney Tunes-eque.) The musical score itself is great, with the musical numbers, while nothing special and certainly not on par with anything from Disney, serving a purpose, and utilizing their colorful animation well. The story mostly falls a generic, but always welcome route, with the typical hero's journey of discovery offering few surprises at first. However, a little more than halfway through, the film's messages and themes get much more complicated. At first, it does all seem to be a simple religious metaphor, but the film later show it can be a little more complex than the simple good guy being right and the bad guy being wrong.
The film also provides an excellent cast to voice it's delightful characters, with Channing Tatum, showing off more of his comedic chops, some actually solid singing talent, and his general likability. Zendaya once again shows how much star potential she haas, with the funnier moments coming from a hilarious James Corden, LeBron James, and Ely Henry. Some actors, such as Danny DeVito and Gina Rodriguez, do solid jobs, despite not having quite as big roles as everyone else, with Common getting the most memorable musical number. It's also the one that results in a big twist, that's rather shocking for a fairly predictable kids flick, and adds a few extra layers to what the film is trying to say. No real villains here, just antagonists of sorts, who simply have a different way of thinking, and even if they're wrong, do make a few solid points. (Sometimes it is easier to believe something untrue, and it is going to take a lot of work to help those, who have lived their whole lives believing in something, coping with that truth.)
"Smallfoot" is something that could of so easily gone the lazy route. With a more kiddy sense of humor, a standard climax, and by comparison to other family fare this year, it still feels lesser. With that said, credit to the filmmakers for making a movie, gearing it to little kids, but never talking down to them, handling it's intent with maturity, which is something most movies aimed at adults struggle to do. If it takes a bunch of dancing Yetis can get kids to question things and think for themselves, I'm all for it. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some Crude Humor, And Non-Conformist Beliefs.
Image: Your child deserves better than this movie.
Allow me to give you a quick rundown of how this movie starts. Sort of an introduction into complete and utter insanity. We open with narration from Samuel L. Jackson, talking about...things and stuff. Then Annette Bening, after saying hello to Oscar Isaac, gets hit by a bus and dies gruesomely, leading to Samuel L. Jackson to declare "F*ck it" before leaving, never to be seen or heard from again. What does it mean? What does it have to do with anything? Not sure, but looking back, I should of taken Samuel L. Jackson's lead, and jumped ship too.
After that bizarre opening, "Life Itself" is actually an anthology of sorts, following specific characters whose lives intertwine (Somewhat). First, we are introduced to "Will" (Oscar Isaac) explaining to his therapist, "Dr. Cait Morris" (Annette Bening) about what led to the collapse of his marriage to the love of his life, "Abby" (Olivia Wilde). (Sort of. It's all leading to a big-ish twist.) Then we cut ahead to Will and Abby's young angsty adult daughter, "Dylan" (Olivia Cooke), living with her grandfather, "Irwin" (Mandy Patinkin). We take time away to move over to....um....Spain for some reason, where we follow the relationship between "Javier" (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and his wife, "Isabel" (Laia Costa), along with the interference from Javier's rich, but well intentioned boss, "Saccione" (Antonio Banderas). Our last segment (Sort of. Can't spoil, but it's complicated to put it bluntly.), the story follows the full grown son of Javier and Isabel, "Rodrigo" (Alex Monner), leaving home to go off to college, bringing all the stories together full circle. Well, not really. Yeah the movie says that it does, but it really doesn't. Nothing comes together. Everything falls apart. Everyone loses.
Directed (And Written) by "This Is Us" creator, Dan Fogelman, "Life Itself" is a sick, twisted, Frankenstein-esque disaster of a film that does at least prove that people are the ones who are in fact cruel and sadistic, rather than life itself as a whole. Basically because the filmmakers decide to go for fake, forced melodrama, poorly injecting it with awkward and unpleasant humor, along with needlessly sappy, horrific drama that leaves you sad for the wrong reasons. The film's script is full of the most basic of attempted inspirational dialogue clichés, that are more painful to listen to than you would think. Most of it just not meaning as much as the film's seems to think it does. Due to this, the film constantly shoves it in your face in an attempt to look insightful, when in reality it's all mumbo jumbo. (The film's obsession with the idea of the unreliable narrator makes for one of this year's weirdest arguments) The film's segments are all cobbled together poorly, barely having a real connection to each other (And certainly not having any connection at all to reality), with none of it coming together till late in the film. However, when it all does seemingly come together, it mostly happens off screen. (I guess it was all a build up to a relationship? But we don't really see that relationship, but instead get told about it through narration.)
We have a large ensemble cast that appears to be held hostage by the film's pretentiousness, with a couple of them only giving moments of a good performance. Oscar Isaac , Olivia Cooke (Who gets the least interesting of the stories), and Annette Bening are trying their damnedest with what they have to work with, looking as professional as they possibly can. Others like Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, and Antonio Banderas aren't given much to really do, with the exception of the occasional, poorly written monologue that goes on for much longer than it should. Sergio Peris-Mencheta has no real reason to be here, and doesn't need the focus the film places on his character, especially when it all goes nowhere. There's a weird and uncomfortable scene with Jean Smart (as "Linda", Will's mother who is a little over excitable about Abby's parents being dead due to her selfish need to be an only grandparent.), while Alex Monner is a completely blank slate of blandness. Probably the best performance comes from Laia Costa towards the end of the film, with her character's story, while still forced, feeling more genuine than anything else in the movie, and that's mostly by default. None of these character act or react like real people, so it's left up to the actors to try to make something out of it, but sadly they can only do so much.
With a horribly constructed narrative and humor that falls flat with an Earth shattering thud, "Life Itself" is kind of a vile, shockingly mean spirited movie that claims to be optimistic and inspirational, despite wallowing in pain, misery, and death. It's a baffling experience that could almost be considered torture porn if it were any gorier. (How was it that the Eli Roth movie I saw this weekend was more pleasant than this?) You're basically watching a depressed, drunk person spout out nonsense for almost two hours, while constantly getting distracted by outside forces that have nothing to do with what's being said. All it does is take time out of your own life, which is probably the biggest crime a movie like this can possibly make. You'll get way more enjoyment out of reading the hilariously dumbfounded critical reaction to this movie online, which is all this movie is eventually be known for. That is a suitable fate. 1/2 star. Rated R For Strong Language, Nonsensical Rambling About Life, And Bus/Car Crashes That Perfectly Symbolize This Movie As A Whole.