In Theaters: Glass, Reign of the Supermen, A Dog's Way Home, Replicas, The Upside, On the Basis of Sex, Escape Room, Vice, Holmes and Watson, Second Act, Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee, The Mule, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Coming Soon: The Kid Who Would Be King, Serenity, Miss Bala, The LEGO Movie 2, Cold Pursuit, What Men Want, The Prodigy, Isn't It Romantic, Alita: Battle Angel, Happy Death Day 2U, How to Train Your Dragon 3
★★★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: Heart of Glass.
This has easily got to be one of the most unique, and truly fascinating franchises that has ever been put to film. Especially since we had no idea it even existed at first. Starting back in 2000, when Director M. Night Shyamalan (Known for the acclaimed "The Sixth Sense", and the panned, "After Earth", "The Last Airbender", "The Happening", etc.) was still considered the next big thing, there was "Unbreakable". A stealth superhero movie, portrayed as a thriller that was actually a bit ahead of it's time, pointing out certain tropes that would later become the norm, as well as serving as a commentary on superheroes (And villains) in general. Sixteen years later, we had "Split", which was a psychological, hostage horror film that only in the final moments revealed it's big twist, being that it was in reality a sequel to "Unbreakable". Regardless of what you may think the final payoff ends up becoming, it's hard not to acknowledge that there is some genuine genius behind it all. But remember, geniuses are always a little weird.
Concluding what's become known to some as the "Eastrail 177 Trilogy" (It's got a nice ring to it.), "Glass" follows three individuals who all have a certain connection to each other. In a world where it appears that super powered heroes and villains exist among us, we follow superhuman security guard, "David Dunn" (Bruce Willis), who has become a cloaked vigilante, known as "The Overseer". Working with his son, "Joseph" (Spencer Treat-Clark), David uses his ability to see the crimes of people by touching them to track down an elusive super criminal publicly known as "The Horde". The Horde is actually the alias given to "Kevin Wendell Crumb" (James McAvoy), a man with twenty four different identities inhabiting his body, consisting of "Patricia", a sophisticated woman in charge, "Dennis", a man with OCD, "Hedwig", a bizarre nine year old, and a terrifying monster called "The Beast". David tracks down Kevin and a battle ensues, resulting in the both of them being arrested, and committed to a mental hospital.
This also happens to be where the madman who orchestrated David's origin, "Elijah Price/Mr. Glass" (Samuel L. Jackson) is currently being held. A psychiatrist, "Dr. Ellie Staple" (Sarah Paulson), believes that all of these abilities and comparisons to characters from comic books are nothing more than ideas that the three have planted inside their own heads, and have tricked themselves into believing. Dr. Staple intends to convince the three of this, keeping them all under lockdown. However, little does anyone know, Elijah's meticulous mind is already at worked. Elijah, a devout, obsessive believer in comics, plans to unleash the Beast and reveal what they are to the world, hoping that David will rise to the occasion to try to stop them, resulting in the superhero, comic book-esque story Elijah has been planning for years.
"Glass" is the culmination in almost twenty years of planning, and you can only expect something thrilling, suspenseful, and dramatically satisfying. For the first two acts, that's exactly what we get. The way the film establishes where these characters are since the last time we saw them, and how comic book elements can be grounded in the real world. Say what you will about where M. Night Shyamalan has gone in recent years, but one of his best talents is how low key he can make his characters, which makes them more relatable. They're all just regular people, who all just happen to inhabit extraordinary abilities. There are also some great moments of dialogue between characters, some solid action, and some captivating ideas of how people perceive and interpret comic book characters and superheroes. It's all building up to a big climax, which is exactly what everyone has been paying to see, and....well....This is where people are going to be pardon the pun, split right down the middle. Where it all ends up is not exactly where you would expect it to go, and there's something just off about it.
Despite this, it's great to see the returns of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, and to see what's become of their characters during the time gap. It's nice to see Bruce Willis in a role that he actually cares about, and while he gets the least amount of screentime out of all the characters, there's something about his expressions (Much like in "Unbreakable") that make you feel for him, showing how much of a regular guy he is. Samuel L. Jackson is amazing once again, as a complicated, devious, and pretty charming villain with a goal that you can never quite figure out until he reveals it in a grand fashion. James McAvoy is brilliant, showing off just how terrific an actor he can be, portraying several different characters through their personalities, sometimes in the same scene. His characters are all unique with their own motives and wants (From Patricia, who is questioning her beliefs in the Beast. Dennis, who is tired of all the killing. And Wedwig, proving a weird sense of humor to the film.), and the way he allows them to inhabit his body (Both within the film, and within his actual performance.), bringing them all to life. It's not an easy role to play and one to make the audience take seriously, but he instantly entraps you, keeping you invested. Our supporting actors are all very good as well, such as Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark (Who gets a couple strong emotional scenes), the always mesmerizing Anya Taylor-Joy (as "Casey", the one survivor from the Beast's murder spree), and Charlayne Woodard (as "Mrs. Price", Elijah's mother, who still loves her son, despite the horrible things he's done.)
Frustrating, but intentionally so, "Glass" gets a little to Shyamalany, piling on not one, not two, but three last second twists in the last twenty minutes. It doesn't destroy the film completely, especially since there were a few hints dropped at certain points, but from a storytelling point of view, it's all just too much to drop on you only moments before the credits roll. It also doesn't distract from the strong start, and true greatness sprinkled throughout, though the finished product isn't probably what you expected. For better or for worse. However, up until that point, I was compelled to where it was all going, and while I personally don't know how to feel about the big (Or not so big) payoff, it's clearly the story M. Night Shyamalan wanted to tell. I'm not sure I want to get inside his head. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Strong Violence, Disturbing Images, And The Obligatory M. Night Syamalan Cameo.
I saw this as part of the theatrically released "The Death of Superman"/"Reign of the Supermen" Double Feature, but considering the first part was released last year, I'm just going to give a quick recap of my thoughts before moving on to the main event. (It would be weird to write a full review on something that came out a year ago.) So "The Death of Superman" is an adaptation of the classic 1992-1993 storyline of the same name (And the second adaptation if you could "Superman: Doomsday", which really condensed it all down). It's a strong addition to DC Animated Movie Universe, focusing on it's lead characters, providing some nice animation, and stunning action, with the final battle with Doomsday being a highlight. It all results in an ending that's dramatically effective, and accomplishes what it set out to do in less than an hour and a half, compared to what "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" failed to do in over two and a half hours with a much bigger budget. That's it in a nutshell, so now on to part two.
Set six months after "The Death of Superman", "Reign of the Supermen" opens with the world still reeling from the battle between the Man of Steel, "Clark Kent/Superman" (Jerry O'Connell) and the monstrous killing machine, "Doomsday", which resulted in the deaths of both. The death of the hero has also left many unanswered questions, not just including the fact that Superman's body has disappeared. Now there are new so called Supermen, claiming to take the place of the original, and nobody is sure how to react and who to trust. There is the cocky, teenage clone, "Superboy" (Cameron Monaghan), who was created by power hungry businessman/Superman's archenemy, "Lex Luthor" (Rainn Wilson), along with "John Henry Irons/Steel" (Cress Williams), who has created a mechanical suit of armor to honor the deceased superhero, and the more vicious, deadly "Eradicator" (Charles Halford). Then there is the most mysterious of all, "Cyborg Superman" (Patrick Fabian), a half man, half machine doppelganger, who has the most resemblance to the original Superman.
Things can only get worse when the rest of the "Justice League" is seemingly taken out of the picture, including "Diana Prince/Wonder Woman" (Rosario Dawson), "Hal Jordan/Green Lantern" (Nathan Fillion), "Victor Stone/Cyborg" (Shemar Moore), "Martian Manhunter" (Nyambi Nyambi), "Barry Allen/The Flash" (Christopher Gorham), and "Bruce Wayne/Batman" (Jason O'Mara). Superman's love, "Lois Lane" (Rebecca Romijn) is left questioning how trusting these new Supermen are, especially Cyborg Superman, who appears to becoming the most popular replacement, offering to better enhance the people of the world to protect themselves. Evil schemes are uncovered and origins are revealed, along with a connection to the villainous conqueror, "Darkseid" (Tony Todd), which threatens to end the world, and without Superman, or the rest of the Justice League for that matter, someone is going to have to save the day.
The newest entry in both the "DC Animated Movie Universe" (It's like the live action DCEU, except it's actually fairly consistent.) and the long line of straight to DVD DC animated films, "Reign of the Supermen" is yet another example of how you do these much loved comic characters justice, and why the live action films should really start taking some notes by now. For some flaws, you kind of have to be a bit more forgiving, considering the fact that it's just a straight to DVD movie released in theaters for two showings, simply to promote itself more. But even knowing that, it's still an entertaining, action packed, well made superhero movie. The animation looks great, which comic accurate designs, and makes for some spectacular action. That wouldn't be enough if not for the solid character work that's provided, which is the film's highlights and why this series has lasted so long and worked so well. The defined characterizations make up for the film's juggling storyline, which is as well done as you could possibly do with an in depth adaptation of a major, defining comic book event (Not to mention the fact that it's a story that's over twenty five years old.)
With Jerry O'Connell (Who has a certain boy scout-ish charm to his voice that fits Superman perfectly) out of most of the film, due to his character being, uh, dead, the movie's true main protagonist technically ends up being Lois Lane, and Rebecca Romijn's embodies the right amount of attitude and endearment. Rainn Wilson is essentially everything Jesse Eisenberg's version of Lex Luthor isn't, which is humorously petty, yet almost casually menacing. There is some good voice work to come out of the supporting roles, such as the still well cast Nathan Fillion and Jason O'Mara, who have been voicing these characters in these films for a while now. Due to so many arcs going on at once, some characters feel a little shortchanged, leaving some of the cast such as Cress Williams, Charles Halford, and Tony Todd (The whole Darkseid aspect is mostly just there to set up a future movie) with not too much to work with, despite all of them doing solid jobs. The most memorable new additions end up being Patrick Fabian, who is a threatening, compelling antagonist, and Cameron Monaghan (You know, the guy who plays the possible Joker in "Gotham"), is the most memorable and gets the best lines.
"Reign of the Superman" packs a lot into a brisk hour and a half, and while it's not perfect, it's still a damn good superhero movie on it's own. There are good characters, the story is dramatic, but the script is filled with enough humor to balance it out, and the themes of courage, heroism, and the simple act of wanting to do good, which is what we associate with Superman, are as wonderful as ever. (Though it's also nice that the movie also shows the dangers that likely will come from wanting to become like a figure so powerful and godlike) I can't say you should rush to the theater to see it since it was only a two night showing, but the second the DVD gets released next week, it's something any DC Comics fan definitely should want, and considering the current track record for theatrically released films based on these characters, it's something we kind of need. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence And Comic Book Physiques.
Image: "I'm not gonna' cry...Sniff....I'm not gonna' cry!"
You know what, I can admit I'm being a little lenient on this movie. From the trailer, which spoils much of the plot, and almost even straight up shows the resolution of the entire movie, it's easy to mock and throw away as just some manipulative, sappy, cheesefest, meant to force tears from your eyes. Maybe it is a little bit.......Doesn't mean it's impossible to do that right. If you don't want to be moved, well then you're a cold hearted bastard.
"A Dog's Way Home" follows the story of a half pitbull, "Bella" (Whose voiced thoughts are provided by Bryce Dallas Howard). After losing her family to Animal Control, Bella was raised by cats, living in an abandoned, collapses house until she is rescued by a young man, "Lucas" (Jonah Hauer-King) and his love interest, "Olivia" (Alexandra Shipp).Lucas and his veteran mother, "Terri" (Ashley Judd) decide to adopt Bella, who immediately becomes a beloved member of the family, and a best friend to Lucas. However, the local Animal Control officer (John Cassini) straight up has it out for the family for even having Bella, and is determined to impound her. Turns out in Denver (Where the film takes place), Pitbulls are essentially a banned breed of dog, something that Olivia refers to as "Racism for dogs". (Is this true by the way? If so, how? That's all kinds of messed up.) So the family decides to move, letting Bella stay with Olivia's family until they're ready. But Bella, not fully understanding what's going on, decides she has to return home to Lucas and leaves on her own. So begins a long journey back to her home, not knowing that her family is likely not going to be there by the time she arrives. On her quest, Bella encounters her own obstacles, as well as becoming a mother of sorts to an orphaned cougar, whom she nicknamed "Little Kitten", while showing just how loyal man's best friend can truly be.
Directed by Charles Martin Smith (Both "Dolphin Tale" movies), "A Dog's Way Home" is another dog-centric, adventure movie, which are really starting to blend together these days. At first I thought this was a sequel to the mostly meh 2017 film, "A Dog's Purpose". Mostly because, much like that movie, this one is based on a dog book of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron (Who also served as a screenwriter for this movie), but then I learned a direct sequel would be coming out later this year. It's still a very similar film to "A Dog's Purpose", with the way it's directed, written, and right down to the thoughts of our canine heroine being shown through voice over narration. The biggest difference really ends up being that, unlike that other movie, something feels a bit more authentic. Because of that, you do overlook the film's shortcomings, and focus on what it does right, which is provide a heartwarming tale of loyalty.
The focus of the film is on Bella, who is as adorable a dog as you could possibly find anywhere to the point you swear the filmmakers cooked her up in a lab somewhere in an attempt to achieve maximum cuteness. It also helps that Bryce Dallas Howard is an inspired choice to voice her inner thoughts, which only adds an extra layer of adorable to the character. You could make the argument that the narration isn't particularly necessary, but considering the alternative (Like using horrifying effects to make the mouths movie), I'll take it. Her relationship with Little Kitten (Brought to life through questionable CGI), looks unconvincing thanks to the poor effects, but is one of the strongest, sweetest storylines in the movie. Our human cast only makes brief appearances, but all do good work. Jonah Hauer-King and Alexandra Shipp are likable, Ashley Judd is endearing as usual, and Edward James Olmos (as "Axel", a homeless man, who becomes a temporary owner to Bella) shows up to be a part of the most shockingly dark and heartbreaking moment of the film, that's unsettling for sure, yet I've got to commend the filmmakers for not sugarcoating something so heavy. The whole thing with John Cassini doesn't really need to be there, other than for the story to have a villain.
Predictable and even a little cheap looking, "A Dog's Way Home" is strongest in it's emotions, and I can't deny I was still moved by the film's honest heart. The movie has some moments where it stops to bring up some darker themes, such as how a dog will remain loving no matter how poorly an owner treats it, or how society unfairly views pitbulls, which are all handled maturely for what I thought would just be a silly, simple kids movie. In a way, it still kind of is one. It's just one that knows what it is, but doesn't have any intention of half-assing it. It's sure to warm the heart of any animal lover willing to forgive a little cheese thrown in there. I'm hugging my slobbering, drooling pups as we speak. 3 stars. Rated PG For Dark Situations And Tearjerky Elements.
You see, this right here is more of what I'm used to. Not simple mediocrity, genuine surprises, or you know, anything trying to have some kind of depth. What I expect in January is incomprehensible and perplexing filmmaking, which is destined to not only make Worst Lists for for that year just when you finished the list from the previous one, but will also serve as an experience that you'll be asking yourself in a few years "Was that real?" Sadly it was.
"Replicas" follows neuroscientist, "William Foster" (Keanu Reeves), who works for a biomedical company, "Biodyne" in Puerto Rico, run by the obviously sinister, "Jones" (John Ortiz). Will is working on transferring a still functional brain from a recently deceased human body into a new, robotic body, though not of the tests seem to work out, usually resulting the brain rejecting the new body and destroying itself. Despite work trouble, Will decides to take his lovely wife, "Mona" (Alice Eve), and their three kids, "Matt" (Emjay Anthony), "Sophie" (Emily Alyn Lind), and "Zoe" (Aria Leabu) on a vacation. Will decides its a good idea to travel during a powerful storm, which ends in tragedy, with the car crashing, and Will being the only survivor. Distraught over losing his family, Will calls in a family friend/co-worker, "Ed" (Thomas Middleditch) to help transfer his deceased family's brains into robotic bodies.....oh wait. No he doesn't. Actually, since Bionyne also dabbles in cloning I guess (I'm not sure actually. The movie never makes it clear.), Will has Ed arrange for his family to be resurrected into clone bodies in his basement.
Things get even worse for Will, when it's revealed that Ed can only provide three capsules of clone goo, leaving Will with no choice but to sacrifice one of his loved ones. (Bye Zoe! You didn't make the cut!) Will works tirelessly, trying to avoid suspicion from Jones and others, while trying to get the robotics tests back on track before the company goes under, which would also in turn shut his own experiments to bring back his family. Turns out cloning causes a lot of trouble, while bringing back Mona and his kids, who seemingly appear unchanged, Will's decisions will have lasting consequences, as well as eventually attract the attention of Jones and his superiors, who if you already haven't figured it out, have nefarious purposes.
Look, I failed Science, but even I know all of this is likely a load of crap. "Replicas" is curious film, with a weird premise and moral questions that are never answered. In fact, it's really hard not only to tell what this movie is trying to say, but also, what it's actual reason for existing is. The film claims to be directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Who wrote "The Day After Tomorrow") and written by Chad St. John ("Peppermint"), but it's hard to tell the movie was made by anyone with any credentials or experience whatsoever. How is it 2019 (or even 2016 when this movie was shot), and the filmmakers actually thought they could get away with a scene involving two cops standing outside in the pouring rain, yet they remain completely dry? The premise and story is so forced and needlessly convoluted.(Why clones? Why not just go for the robot angle? Why is that even there?) The tone is almost unsettlingly uneven, with odd dialogue that's over the top dramatic, but also tries to toss in a little silly humor (Such as Keanu Reeves wondering what a "Bae" is when posing as his dead daughter to her online friends), which does not belong here, and once we reach the silly, actionized climax, it almost feels like it;s been made by a completely different director. That's how a lot of the film comes across, with the movie changing ideas of what it wants to be throughout it's hundred minute runtime, which drags on forever because you can never tell when something is either going to become important or in some cases, get dropped from the film altogether. I'd say it's unpredictable, but that's just because it seemed like they were making it all up as they went along.
The poor script and unfocused direction only translates to the actors, who are certainly capable and we've seen in good things. It goes to show how bad filmmaking can essentially drain all life from actors, no matter how hard they try. It most shows with Keanu Reeves, who is painfully miscast, coming across as dull and lifeless, seemingly treating the deaths of all of his loved ones more as a minor inconvenience than anything. It's upsetting to watch, and not for reasons it's meant to be. (Also, as I'm typing this, I just read that Keanu Reeves also produced this....Why? How? Two questions that will likely never be answered.) Alice Eve is mostly given nothing more to do than to look pretty and stare blankly, which don't get me wrong, she has a great stare, but I'm having trouble telling if she was directed that way or if she just didn't want to be here. Their relationship is hard to buy, considering she remains flawless during all scenes, no matter how dirty you're supposed to get, while Keanu Reeves looks disheveled and depressed even before his family dies. Thomas Middleditch is awkwardly misplaced, and only destroys the already messy tone further. The best performance comes from John Ortiz, who doesn't so much chew the scenery, he more devours it and comes back for seconds, sliming it up like the cartoon villain he is.
I haven't even gotten to the Keanu Reeves robot, which looks like CGI you would of seen in the 90s, and has the hilarious honor of having the voice of Keanu Reeves.....This movie is a disaster, and the definition of what a January release is expected to be. "Replicas" tries to be stylish, such as slanting the camera sideways for no reason. It tries to answer philosophical, Science Fiction-eque questions, but not really. It tries to have a coherent narrative, at least until it gives up on that entirely and goes for the most bonkers of climaxes (Right down to the final shot, which I don't even know what that was trying to get across). I could really go on forever on how it gets so much wrong in terms of filmmaking, acting, writing, direction, all those things that make a movie good. It really is fascinating how some films come into existence and fade away from memory before you know it. That's the true power of a throwaway January release. 1/2 star. Rated PG-13 For Violence Towards People And Machines, Slight Alice Eve Nudity, And The Carelessly Murdering Of Both God And Mother Nature At The Same Time. Good Job.
Image: The Odd-Ish Couple.
There is one particular joke in this movie that should perfectly describe what kind of movie this is. We have a scene where our more sophisticated character takes his, um, let's just say less sophisticated friend to the opera. Of course, the less sophisticated character cracks jokes about the show at first. Jump cut to the end of it, and that same character is enthralled by it, and is the first to applaud. It's not an original jokes, nor is it inspired or even all that funny. However, it's fairly amusing, sweet, and mostly makes you smile enough to where you can't hate it. That's this movie. Uninspired, but somewhat endearing.
A remake of the 2011 film, "The Intouchables", and loosely (Very, very loosely) inspired by the true story of French rich guy, Phillipe Pozzo di Borgo, which it was based on, "The Upside" starts with the down on his luck, unemployed, "Dell Scott" (Kevin Hart). Dell has been having trouble finding work due to his criminal record and is unable to provide child support to his estranged ex, "Latrice" (Aja Naomi King). Though he's not really trying too hard to find a job, Dell ends up accidentally applying for a job as a caretaker to quadriplegic billionaire, "Phillip Lacasse" (Bryan Cranston), who instantly takes a liking to Dell's unfiltered attitude. Against the wishes of his very close assistant, "Yvonne" (Nicole Kidman), Phillip hires Dell, providing a place to live for him in his penthouse. As time goes on, both Dell and Phillip start to develop a friendship, with Dell learning how to become more responsible and to take charge of his life, while Phillip learning how to have a little more fun and to basically simply enjoy living once again.
"The Upside" is a movie that doesn't have too much to it, and sets out to accomplish one simple, but admirable goal. To warm the hearts of it's intended, undemanding audience. Granted, we did just got better versions of this kind of film recently, such as "On the Basis of Sex" and "Green Book", so this feels lesser and more disposable for a few different reasons. Directed by Neil Burger ("Limitless" and the first/not terrible "Divergent" movie), the movie looks good, though has a bit of a TV movie-ish feel. It also struggles slightly with it's tone, trying to mesh broad comedy and realistic drama. It doesn't always work, though the comedy does feel more brought down, and gets a few genuine chuckles to go with the film's heart, which truly is in the right place.
Where the film shines is with the likability and chemistry between the two lead actors, who seem at first like an unlikely pair, much like in the actual film itself. That oddly makes it work a bit better, because it feels more authentic because of it. Kevin Hart shows a bit more range than what I'm used to from him, and it's a very welcome change of pace. The movie shows he does have some dramatic chops, as well as comedic, while thankfully calming down a bit to let it all sink in. Bryan Cranston is someone that we already know can pull off both drama and comedy, and is well cast. His back and forth with Kevin Hart works because both actors are very good together, and work well off of each other. Even when some of the more humorous aspects don't quite the desired laugh, you find yourself endeared to these characters. Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman brings more to what was probably meant to be a simplified role, having fun, adding some much needed class, and remaining as charming (And as lovely) as ever.
"The Upside" drags in the middle and suffers from a few odd editing choices (Such as awkward fade outs), but when the film focuses on the interactions between Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, which is where it should be focused on. Even when the film can't seem to avoid certain frustrating clichés, such as some forced conflicts that could be resolved with a simple conversation (Though I give credit to the movie seemingly trying to at least mix it up a little), there are nothing but positive messages and a certain charm to the movie. It's clear who it's meant for, and thankfully, it's inoffensive and likable enough that I can't help but recommend it to them. At least as something to rent and watch at home. No Oscar buzz (or Oscar hosting for Kevin Hart), but you can't hate on something for being what it is, and at least trying to be a little more while doing it. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor And Improper Catheter Use.
Image: The notoriously cute RBG.
This is likely the last movie to review from 2018, though the Academy is yet to release their nominations for upcoming Oscars next month. So for all I know, there could be something I missed that I need to seek out. I didn't see absolutely everything this last year, and you can never tell what the Academy will do. Maybe that John Travolta movie, "Gotti" will find itself swimming in some Oscar gold......Heh.
"On the Basis of Sex" follows the true story of future Supreme Court Justice/young progressive idol, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg" (Felicity Jones). We see her life with her supportive husband, "Martin" (Armie Hammer), who's struggle with cancer forces her to work extra hard in her law studies at Harvard, where she is one of the very few women there. Ruth faces more opposition from the men in charge, such as "Dean Erwin Griswold" (Sam Waterston) and "Professor Brown" (Stephen Root), and despite eventually graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, she is unable find anyone willing to hire her simply because she is a woman. Cut to 1970, Ruth's hopes to combat gender inequality doesn't seem to be going anywhere, despite protests from her outspoken, activist daughter, "Jane" (Cailee Spaeny), who doesn't think her mother's methods of using the law will ever change anything. This is where Ruth takes interest in the case of "Charles Moritz" (Chris Mulkey), an unmarried man who was denied tax deductions for him to provide a caregiver for his sick mother. Seeing this as a form of gender discrimination, this time against a man, Ruth plans to use this as a way of pointing out the flaw in the system, and that if a man can be discriminated against simply because of his gender, then that means a woman can be too.
Directed by Mimi Leder, and written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's real life nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, "On the Basis of Sex" isn't a game changer in the crowdpleasing biopic genre, but with a story like this, it's understandable to see why. While not probably at detailed as some might want, and likely not following as closely to the true story as it should (Granted, once again, we really should just be used to that by now), the movie's inspiring focus and themes are still (And always will be) relevant and important. For the kind of movie the flmmakers set out to make, what we get is still very strong and very empowering. With a sense of humor and an onslaught of charismatic charm, the movie tells it's story at a solid, capable pace, covering a lot of details in a relatively short amount of time (The movie is barely two hours), while establishing compelling characters and making sure it's political facts are easy to follow, without talking down to it's audience.
In some inerrant casting, Felicity Jones wonderfully encompasses her role. Full of personality, smarts, and strength (Not to mention, being as adorable as anyone can possibly be. Just had to throw that out there.), she is flawless, and it's a shame she's been overlooked so much this awards season. Armie Hammer also deserves some kind of recognition, having excellent chemistry with Jones, which is something very much needed for what has been called a truly loving and committed relationship in real life. Justin Theroux (as "Mel Wulf", the pessimistic director of the American Civil Liberties Union) is a good representation that even people on the right side can be obstacles, while Cailee Spaeny (Having appeared in "Pacific Rim: Uprising" and "Bad Times at the El Royale") has shown once again to be a breakout star this year. Kathy Bates (as "Dorothy Kenyon", a former feminist lawyer, who's work Ruth references to) appears briefly, but is her usual Kathy Bates-eque self and is always a pleasing presence. While our main antagonists, such as Sam Waterston, Stephen Root, and Jack Reynor (as "James Bozarth", Ruth's opposing lawyer) are good in their roles, it's hard not to see them as slight caricatures. (Granted, people with their kind of sexist, old fashioned belief systems kind of already are like caricatures, so maybe it's intentional.)
"On the Basis of Sex" maybe could of benefited from more time on the facts, but the movie sets out to give it's audience something to cheer about, and it succeeds. Well directed and written, with some compelling drama and good actors to go with a story that will continue to inspire future generations. Much like the real life Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Who makes a quick cameo in the film), the movie is still a powerhouse and you find yourself unable to not be uplifted. Hopefully I'll feel the same about the Anton Scalia story. You know who he was....Never mind. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And Good Old Fashioned Male Sexism.
Image: "These are January movies....NOOOO!"
Time to say goodbye to 2018. Sure, there are a couple Oscar hopefuls that I still haven't gotten around to and hope to make the time for, but I also need to move on to the new year and whatever Hollywood decides to dump on us during the month of January. Granted, we shouldn't assume it will all be crap this month, just like how we shouldn't assume all the great movies will come out in November/December every year. Looks can be deceiving and never assume. Kind of ties into this movie a little bit. Just a little bit.
"Escape Room" follows a group of six strangers, all given a puzzle box that once opened, invites them to test their skills in an immersive, seemingly impossible escape room. The group includes, smart girl "Zoey" (Taylor Russell), who never takes risks, snarky loner, "Ben" (Logan Miller), scarred former soldier, "Amanda" (Deborah Ann Woll), goofy dad, "Mike" (Tyler Labine), cocky corporate businessman, "Jason" (Jay Ellis), and the nerdy guy, "Danny" (Nik Dodani), who won't shut up about how much he knows about escape rooms. The game at first seems simple enough, with the group being locked inside a seemingly normal room, but things take a terrifying turn when the room suddenly turns into a giant oven and tries to burn them alive. After escaping the first room, the group finds themselves in another one, this time apparently transporting them to log cabin near a frozen lake. The group also starts to discover hints and clues that have connections to their own personal lives and certain tragedies that befell them. It becomes clear that something nefarious is going on and the group is going to need to put their heads together if they are going to survive the many deadly traps set up in each room, while coming to terms with their pasts.
When I think of the typical January release, what usually comes to mind is cheap, lazy, and horror. They are the kind of film that gets popped out the minute the year starts, mostly because it seems like a guaranteed minor success. "Escape Room" has pretty much all of those tropes and trappings written all over it, though to give credit to the filmmakers and Director Adam Robitel ("Insidious: The Last Key", which was also a January release), a lot of creativity and twisted imagination went into this. It's a cool premise, and the movie has a pretty strong start, setting up the characters we need to know quickly, and leading them into the actual escape room at a fast pace. The escape rooms and traps they have to overcome are pretty cool, if not illogical. The film never explains how exactly the unseen villains are capable of something like this, and the movie itself suffers from unrealistic looking effects, which consists of a lot of green screen and bad CGI. It still makes for a few fun setpieces, such as an upside room where the floor keeps falling every few minutes, or a topsy turny room of black and white, which is meant to make the characters delirious.
The characters themselves are interesting enough, and while it's fairly obvious which are the ones who are going to live the longest (The ones who get the most screentime clearly), you find yourself invested thanks to a sense of humor and some mystery to keep you guessing. Taylor Russell is a sweet, likable lead, who gets a few strong moments of emotion. Logan Miller provides some snarky humor, along with an intentionally annoying Nik Dodani and an endearing Tyler Labine. Deborah Ann Woll is excellent, getting the sturdiest story arc. Jay Ellis gets the most predictable arc out of all of the characters, he does a good job playing up the uncaring, unlikable jackass of the group. The deaths are tame, because of the PG-13 rating, but unique in their own way and can come out of nowhere, which is fitting for a movie where survival through puzzles is the hook. One false move leading to instant death.
"Escape Room" offers pretty cheap, cheesy thrills, which is something that isn't unwelcome. There's some genuine competence behind the camera, good actors in front of it, and enough originality to make for a nice suspenseful thriller. Then the film kind of throws a lot of that out the window in the last five minutes. It's not so much a bad ending, as it is a really confusing one. It seemingly ends, then continues with a scene that was clearly added through reshoots, and then just keeps going with a strange little stinger that I guess was meant to set up for a sequel of sorts. It feels like something out of a spy movie, rather than a psychological thriller, and it's awkwardly stuffed in there at the last second. It doesn't completely destroy the movie and it's understandable that it can be a little difficult to properly end a movie like this in a way where everyone will feel satisfied, but it's just a bit too silly for something that has some actual sharpness to it. It's an enjoyable diversion regardless, even if the movie falls apart in the final moments. Honestly, considering the films I'm used to seeing around this time of year ("Mortdecai", "Norm of the North", and most of the lousy, hastily thrown out horror movies hoping to draw in some stupid teenagers), I welcome something, while flawed, just going for fun and at least trying to give it a little extra something. An escape, if you will....No, no. That's stupid. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Puzzling Peril And Illogical, Impossible Illusions.
Image: Wait....What have you done with Christian Bale?
The filmmakers have taken up a very risky, difficult task. Portraying Dick Cheney. Lets be honest, regardless of what they did, someone would still be pissed off, especially in today's divisive political climate, which also something that like him or not, Cheney may of had a role in creating. You can't make him some kind of monster, because he's not. He's human being, who people may not agree with politically or even morally. You also can't quite make him likable because....well, even people who "Like" Dick Cheney don't necessarily...um, "Like" him. Then again, it's not like he's going to care what you think of him. I'm guessing that must be very liberating.
Narrated by a mysterious Jesse Plemons (Who doesn't reveal his connection to the story till the end), "Vice" follows the life of former Vice President, "Dick Cheney" (Christian Bale). We are shown his relationship with his family, along with his wife, "Lynne" (Amy Adams), as well as his political rise, starting off as a protégé under President Nixon's Chief of Staff, "Donald Rumsfeld" (Steve Carell). Cheney is shown to be quite the politician, acting quick on his feet, savvy, and even a little ruthless in how he plays the game of politics. Eventually, we get to Cheney accepting the role as Vice President, under "George W. Bush" (Sam Rockwell), who Cheney doesn't see as the most promising of Presidents. However, working with his own team under Bush, which also includes Rumsfeld, Cheney sets out to make a legacy of his own. With the September 11th terrorist attacks, sparking so called "War on Terror", Cheney would become one of the most powerful (If not most powerful) Vice Presidents in American history. Controversy ensues.
Directed and written by Adam McKay, known for "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy", and the critically acclaimed/Oscar nominated "The Big Short", "Vice" is more political satire, than biography. So at times the film can veer into comedic farce, perhaps a bit more than a lot of people would like. For what we do get, while some important, interesting aspects of Dick Cheney's political career that seem lacking, the film's strongest parts carry it through. I do think taking a more darkly humorous approach to the true story does work in the film's favor, portraying fairly recent events in a suitably uncomfortable, but easily digestible way, and the same goes for the politics itself. Much like "The Big Short", it's smart enough to know how to explain it all. It's very funny, most of which comes from the film itself mocking some of the most baffling parts of this administration. There are times though where McKay's style, which very original and clever, gets in the way somewhat, hitting some things a little too on the head, while not focusing enough on what could of been necessary to the story. The fact that it seems that Cheney and Bush hate each other's guts right now, I feel as it that should of been mentioned a little more than Cheney simply looking at him as an idiot to manipulate.
In terms of make-up, it's all amazing and deserving of recognition. Everyone looks flawless, and the actors really do make it feel as real as possible. Christian Bale, who I swear is willing to chop off a limp or two for a role, is truly brilliant. Cheney isn't a monster. He's human, and his motivations are realistic and even relatable. Bale's performance, which matches his mannerisms perfectly, shows what kind of person he is, and why he did the things the way he did. You may not like it, but you get it. Amy Adams, whose character is sort of Lady Macbeth-eque, is also phenomenal, and even she has human scenes, despite the filmmakers clearly not being fans. Steve Carell, while still good, probably plays his part a little too much like a caricature than he probably should, Tyler Perry (as "Colin Powell", the Secretary of State, who questions many of the political decisions made) is excellent in his small role, and Jesse Plemons is a ton of fun, though really odd, especially when we learn what is role actually is. He's a scene-stealer, who doesn't get near enough screentime, Sam Rockwell is awesome, getting down a lot of Bush's expressions, gestures, and voice. You end up wishing he was in the film much more than he actually is. There are also a slew of cameos and recognizable actors who appear throughout.
At times the editing choices can a bit much and the film's wrap up comes too quick, "Vice" is a fascinating watch, and worth it alone for Christian Bale's stunning transformation into Dick Cheney, who's final scene is surely the reason why he's garnered so many award nominations. It's also just an interesting, if not surreal look into politics and how one person can have so much involvement in so many life affecting choices. And despite how frightening that sounds, many of us have just accepted that (Or even wanted it.). People want easy when it comes to politics. 3 stars. Rated R For Strong Language.
Christmas is over, and the year itself is nearing it's end. Time to start seeing what I can cram into my "Best" list, and as everyone knows, you're always having trouble getting everything you want on there. Sadly, you still don't have enough room and something great has to get left out. On the other side of the spectrum, making a "Worst" list? Easiest list ever.
A parody of the adventures of the admired fictional detective, "Holmes and Watson" follows "Sherlock Holmes" (Will Ferrell) and "Dr. John Watson" (John C. Reilly). Holmes is a smart, but egotistical detective, who has closed off all of his emotions at a young age due to excessive bullying. His only friend is Watson, who is a ridiculously loyal companion. Holmes is scheduled to testify against his arch nemesis, "Professor Moriarty" (Ralph Fiennes), arriving only to reveal that the Moriarty custody must be a fraud, since it's unlikely to Sherlock that his rival, "Inspector Lestrade" (Rob Brydon), would ever have any role in catching him. Believing the real Moriarty has left the country, Holmes and Watson are invited to the palace by the Queen (Pam Ferris) herself, where they discover a corpse and a clue left by Moriarty, which also reveals that he plans to assassinate the Queen.. In a rather convoluted and forced series of events, Holmes convinces himself that this is in fact not Moriarty's doing, but someone pretending to be him, because....I really don't know actually. Holmes and Watson are given a couple days to solve the case, finding distractions with their respective love interests, a weird girl with a cat-like mentality, "Millie" (Lauren Lapkus), and a fellow doctor, "Grace" (Rebecca Hall), as well as learning the importance of their own friendship. ,
Another collaboration between Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly ("Step Brothers" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"), "Holmes and Watson" sounds like a funny idea and when the film starts, with a carttoonish, dirtier sense of humor to contradict the proper, elegant accents, it does get a few laughs. For about five minutes. Then it gets old very, very fast. You realize early on that there was more put into the premise, rather than the script and direction, both done by Etan Cohen ("Get Hard"). I know it's all just a complete farce, so that means plotting is secondary. But it's hard to ignore how stupid and predictable it all is because it's not very funny, meaning you have no choice but to focus on how lazy it is. It's a bad sign when you can tell word for word what the jokes are going to be. (When the "Titanic" becomes a plot point, how would anyone be surprised what jokes are going to be made?) The film just stops dead simply to do a couple skits that don't move the film forward, and feel like padding for the relatively short runtime.
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are great comedic actors, and even here, they still work well off each other. It's just when the jokes are tired and shockingly dated (Why are there "Trump" jokes in this? How are there "Trump" jokes in this?), you're more annoyed that they're not in something better. Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus actually do get a couple funny moments, along with a quick cameo from Hugh Laurie (as "Mycroft", Holmes' equally smart brother). I can never be mad at the absolute cuteness of Kelly Macdonald (as "Rose Hudson", the horny housekeeper of Holmes and Watson), even if her role is just absurd. Then we get to Ralph Fiennes, whose perfect casting is deserving of praise alone. However, it's followed by removing that praise and replacing it with harsh, brutal criticism and detest for the fact the film does nothing with him, only appearing for a total of five minutes. How the Hell could you do that? Why would you do that? You had all the pieces in place and you willingly crapped all over it!
A fun concept, completely butchered by a lack of inspiration and a sense of cheapness, "Holmes and Watson" is dumb, but not the right kind. The jokes are obvious (Such as poking fun at the slo-mo sequences from the Guy Ritchie films) and the film's few laughs can cover how poorly conceived and executed the film's all over the place, made up on the fly plot truly is. It's odd that in the year with two Sherlock Holmes parodies, the one called "Sherlock Gnomes" might be slightly superior. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Lactating John C. Reilly And The Obligatory Will Ferrell Shirtless Scene. (Can He Not Get Naked In One Movie?)
Image: "I'm sorry that Barbie dumped you."
So this had all the makings of what you would expect of a last second, late December, Oscar hopeful. A great cast, an acclaimed director, an inspiring true story, high production values, and of course, a truckload of sentimentality, that usually still gets it some Oscar buzz, regardless of how good it actually is. Welcome to Marwen
Inspired by a true story, "Welcome to Marwen" follows aspiring artist, "Mark Hogancamp" (Steve Carell), who was violently beaten within an inch of his life by a group of white supremacists, because he liked to wear women's shoes. Mark was beaten so badly that the brain damage he suffered has completely erased most of his memories. To cope with this, Mark has made a miniature World War II-era Belgian town, called "Marwen", which he photographs and has created a whole world and story within it using dolls. The characters within the town consist of people he has met or used to know, such as a coworker, "Caralala" (Eiza González), a friend who provides Mark with the miniatures and dolls, "Roberta" (Merritt Wever), his caretaker, "Anna" (Gwendoline Christie), a woman he met in rehab, "Julie" (Janelle Monáe), and "Nicol" (Leslie Mann), his new neighbor that he has a crush on. He also has a doll modeled after himself, a tough soldier named "Hoagie" (Also Steve Carell), who works with the other women to protect the town from evil witch "Deja Thoris" (Diane Kruger). The photos Mark takes are to be featured in an art show, though Mark doesn't have any intention of going. And with the trial for the attackers about to go underway, Mark is pressured to testify against them, but he feels unable to do so, still feeling haunted by what happened to him. Mark must cope with PTSD, his trouble getting back into the real world, and separating it from the fantasy one he's set up for himself.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future", "Forrest Gump", "Cast Away", "The Polar Express", and many more), "Welcome to Marwen" has the makings of something that could of been a wonderful, instant feel good favorite. You can still see the hints of potential still there, even by the end. However, it feels like someone completely missed the actual point they were trying to make. The screenplay by Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson (who I noticed has done some amazing work, like "Corpse Bride" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas") is shoddy, relying on cloying melodrama and misguided allegories. The movie seems more interested in it's grand special effects, which utilize motion capture for the actors, are meant to represent certain issues and conflicts our main character goes through. They're visually aesthetic, and blend seamlessly back and forth between the animated and live action. They're also entirely pointless, weird, and don't do any justice to the heavy story that's supposed to be at the center of the film. It's a strange blend of cartoonish violence, satirical war drama, and "Toy Story".
It should be noted that despite the bad script, Steve Carrell is still able to give a thoughtful, sincere performance. It's a hard role to play and while the dialogue fails him, Carrell is still a strong presence. Leslie Mann is just naturally adorable and always lovable, though some of her character's reactions don't feel at at realistic. The film doesn't spend anywhere near enough time with some of the supporting actresses, wasting Eiza González, Janelle Monáe, and Gwendoline Christie, who barely appear in the film in live action form, leaving their importance mostly left offscreen. Diane Kruger is, well, an odd aspect of the film, with her character's fantastical villainy (If you would call it that, considering it's all part of the fantasy sequences) serving as an obvious metaphor and just further derails the film's intended message with needless distractions. There's also Neil Jackson (as "Kurt", Nicol's dick-ish boyfriend), popping up as a stereotypical bad guy until he stops existing in the film entirely.
While unintentionally so, "Welcome to Marwen" kind of borders on offensive. Something is just missing from what should be an in depth character study of a man, who essentially had his life taken away from him. While I can see possible hints of a good, still very inspiring story within the film, Zemeckis' creative choices treat mental disability and internal suffering like a whimsical fairy tale. All that does is make things laughable when it shouldn't be, and somewhat creepy. It's an awkward film, that's made awkward for the wrong reasons. I would recommend looking into the actual true story itself, which is already interesting and captivating enough on it's own, without all the jumpy dolls popping up to serve as an aimless detour. The Jennifer Lopez comedy is more grounded. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, Adult Content, And A Surprising Amount Of Nightmare Fuel. (There Are A Couple Jump Scares In This Movie....Not Kidding.)
Image: "Don't do whatever it is all the characters do in these kind of movies."
Lets get this one out of the way, short and sweet. It's Christmas, I'm with family, and quite frankly, some movies just aren't good enough or bad enough to take up so much time and precious typing space. Plus, i'm still digesting Christmas dinner.
"Second Act" follows "Maya Vargas" (Jennifer Lopez), who wishes for a chance to pursue an actual career, rather than remain stuck in dead end jobs. Due to a misunderstanding with the techy son of her best friend, "Joan" (Leah Remini), Maya is called in for a job interview for a cosmetics firm, run by "Anderson Clarke" (Treat Williams) and his adopted daughter, "Zoe" (Vanessa Hudgens), under a false identity that portrays her as a college degree, successful consultant. Maya decides to play the part, landing the job. Now Maya has to deal with the problems that come as a result of her lie, such as her longtime boyfriend, "Trey" (Milo Ventimiglia) breaking up with her due to her refusal to commit to a family, competing to complete a special project before the scummy antagonist, "Ron" (Freddie Stroma) does, and befriending Zoe, who Maya learns has a closer connection to her than she first realized.
"Second Act" is about as contrived and predictable as it sounds. Then again, that's not exactly anything the film cares about in the slightest. It's all about giving the probably wine favoring mothers what they paid for. It's goofy and illogical, having a shortage of focus in terms of it's plotting, which takes detours rather than subplots. There is a twist (That you likely deduced from my synopsis of the plot) relatively early on in the film, that preposterous in how coincidental it is. However, it also adds a little extra (And much needed) depth to the movie that to give a little credit, is rarely ever brought into films such as this. It's sloppy and silly, but does elevate weak material. The same goes for a lot of the cast. Jennifer Lopez can carry a movie such as this without even really trying, but she still gives it her full attention, remaining professional and charming. Vanessa Hudgens is as cute as ever, and has some great onscreen chemistry with Lopez, selling some of the dopey plotting. Leah Remini gets quite a few more laughs than expected, along with a solid group of supporting characters, such as Treat Williams getting to have a little fun, along with Alan Aisenberg and Charlyne Yi (as "Chase" and "Ariana", who partner up with Maya on her project). Freddie Stroma just shows up to be snotty, while the subplot with Milo Ventimiglia, (Though he and Lopez work well off each other), feels tacked on to add a romance.
"Second Act" benefits from solid performances and some moments of heart, showing that the filmmakers put a bit more effort than maybe even they should of into something so bland and forgettable. It's still welcome to say the least, even if I still have no business being the only guy going to see a movie like this by myself. Quick, easy, and of little consequence. Just like this review. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Inevitable Outcomes.
Image: The Little Merman
I think we can finally stop with all the "Aquaman Sucks" jokes by this point. He's not just the guy who talks to fish! I mean, he kind of does that....But he can command a shark or a giant squid to eat someone, or use the sea to destroy whatever evil is in his path. Come on! That's awesome. To be honest, besides still being relatively new to reading some "Aquaman" comics (It's only been about a year, and mostly consisting of the current run), I never found him to be lame, just not particularly interesting. But he's grown on me, and a solid entry into the mixed bag of films, known as the DC Extended Universe (If they're still calling it that. It's all over the place lately) should help at long last put all those jokes to rest.
Taking place after last year's "Justice League", "Aquaman" tells the origin of half-human/half-Atlantean, ocean based superhero, "Arthur Curry/Aquaman" (Jason Momoa). The son of a lighthouse keeper, "Tom" (Temuera Morrison) and the former/deceased queen of Atlantis, "Atlanna" (Nicole Kidman), who was executed by the people of Atlantis once they learned that she had a half-breed child. Now Arthur serves as a protector of the seas against any threats, though he wants nothing to do with Atlantis. After defeating a group of pirates, led by "Jesse Kane" (Michael Beach), who winds up dead in the conflict, Arthur is met by the lovely and very powerful Atlantean, "Mera" (Amber Heard). Mera tells Arthur that is half brother, "Orm/Ocean Master" (Patrick Wilson), the current ruler of Atlantis, is planning to invade the surface world, having already swayed her father, "Nereus" (Dolph Lundgren) to his cause.
Mera sees Arthur as the true heir to the throne and the only person who could unite both the underwater and surface worlds. Arthur is at first reluctant, but does quickly realize the real threat that Orm poses, agreeing to help Mera and his old mentor, "Nuidis Vulko" (Willem Dafoe) in finding a long lost trident of unimaginable power, which should be able to put a stop to Orm's plans. Of course Orm isn't just going to let the good guys get in the way, so he allies himself with the vengeful son of the deceased Jesse Kane, "David" (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). With Orm providing David with the means of killing Arthur, dubbing himself "Black Manta", Arthur and Mera must travel across the world to find the trident before the villains catch them first. With the fate of two worlds in the balance, Arthur must find his true worth, and take his rightful place as the king of Atlantis.
Directed by James Wan ("Saw", "Furious 7", and both "The Conjuring" films), "Aquaman" is DC taking a much lighter approach (Literally), going for a fun, adventurous tone rather than the dark and brooding some of the other films have given us. The film embraces it's rather ludicrous comic roots, complete with imagery that's so downright crazy, it's awesome. (Our final battle consists of battle sharks, crab people, and sea horses the size of actual horses.) The screenplay is almost tongue in cheek in goofiness, and the story, which actual "Aquaman" writer, Geoff Johns, worked on, is probably a bit incoherent to some. (Even someone who's read the comics might be a bit perplexed by the complicated lore and many plot points.) Luckily, the film indulges the right amount of cheese, and is clearly not taking itself too overly seriously, thanks to a much needed sense of humor and some heart, which is something this film universe has been missing. In terms of the special effects, it's all very CGI heavy, as it should be. However, it's nonetheless ambitious and beautiful, with an epic scope resembling classic 80s/90s era adventure flicks and a tremendous amount of attention to details. The world created feels like it's own, showing that DC is trying to deviate itself from other superhero franchises like it. There are several brilliantly done sequences, one being an underwater chase by the scary, sharp toothed "Trench", during a thunder storm, which probably looks incredible in IMAX.
Jason Momoa (Who was a favorite in "Justice League") shows off a little more range as an actor, being likable, funny, and a total badass, while even allowing for a few dramatic human moments to sink in. Amber Heard, aside from looking very pretty, is perfectly cast as the tough, intelligent heroine, who could be enough to deserve her own movie. Not sure how much you buy the romantic relationship, mostly because it feels like an obligation, but they're good characters and you feel invested in them enough to go with it. Willem Dafoe is excellent as always, while Nicole Kidman isn't in the film much, but she leaves an important impact. Dolph Lundgren (Who is having a pretty solid year) is where he was always meant to be, riding a giant seahorse. Patrick Wilson's villain is given more depth and character than what we've seen with other DC villains, being menacing, but with hints of humanity (Well, he's not human. But you know what I mean.) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is mostly just set up for a sequel, but does the fan favorite villain justice, with an emotional backstory and an awesome costume design that looks like the comic character just came to life on screen (I should also take time to mention Julie Andrews voicing a giant, tentacle monster for no other reason than to mention Julie Andrews voicing a giant, tentacle monster.)
The plot is all over the place and the flashbacks serve little purpose except to overly explain the obvious (Not to mention just pad out a nearly two and a half hour runtime), "Aquaman" makes up for it's flaws with wide-eyed spectacle, originality, and a commitment to pure insanity. The film's beautiful visuals culminate in a jaw dropping climax, with some help from the terrific score, that surprisingly doesn't go where you would expect. The film has an epic feel, but takes some chances that while the stakes feel lower, it feels refreshing and necessary with all the countless dread and death that have plagued this film universe from the start. It's not close to perfect, and still can't quite reach Marvel heights. (They perfected this art a long time ago.) However, it's clearly a step in the right direction, and should serve as a course correction for future films. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Undersea Violence, Pitbull Playing Out Of Nowhere, And The Shere Amount Of Creatures Your Imagination Can Fit On Screen.
Image: "Yeah, I can pass for Julie Andrews."
A little Disney formula can go a long way, and no matter how many times we see it, there is just something so delicious about it. Instead of going the full remake route (Mostly because they're releasing three of them next year), we get a direct sequel to the beloved classic, "Mary Poppins", that sets out to do what was done before. If it worked once, surely it can work again, mostly if you get talented people who know what they're doing. And in 50 years or so, Disney will do it again.
Taking place twenty five years after the original in a Depression-era London, "Mary Poppins Returns" follows the now grown up, "Michael Banks" (Ben Whishaw), who has recently lost his wife, being left to take care of his smart, very mature for their age children, "John" (Nathanael Saleh), "Annabel" (Pixie Davies), and "Georgie" (Joel Dawson). Michael is in danger of losing his home due to failed loan payments to the bank, run by the greedy "William "Weatherall" Wilkins Jr." (Colin Firth). The only hope of possibly preventing this from happening, is the shares at the bank being left to him and his sister, "Jane" (Emily Mortimer) by their late father. While the two search for a certificate that proves it, the children wander out during a windy day, with Georgie flying his dad's old kite, and with help from cheerful lamplighter, "Jack" (Lin-Manuel Miranda), try to prevent the kite from flying away. At that moment, they are greeted by the reappearance of magical, proper nanny, "Mary Poppins" (Emily Blunt), who helped the Banks family years prior. Michael ends up allowing Mary to stay at his home to look after his kids, while he and Jane continue to look for the missing certificate. The kids quickly realize that Mary Poppins is every bit as whimsical as she appears, and then some, as she proceeds to teach them lessons via musical numbers, mini-adventures, and all kinds of quirky shenanigans, proceeding to save the rest of the family in the process.
Released over fifty years after the original, "Mary Poppins Returns" decides to play things safe, which makes for a predictable adventure that could almost pass off as more of a remake than a sequel. However, Director Rob Marshall ("Chicago", "Into the Woods") makes use of of the solid enough script by David Magee ("Life of Pi") to deliver on beautiful visuals, childlike wonder and spectacle, and pure, lovable charm that makes the film very difficult to dislike. The visuals are absolutely stunning and eye poppingly colorful. It's like watching something in 3D, without the glasses, as everything just jumps off the screen. The songs and dance numbers might not quite reach the heights of the original (Granted, even people who have never seen the movie already know them.), but they're still well choreographed and presented, ranging from sincere and sweet to delightful showstoppers. The most memorable ones being "A Cover is Not the Book", which takes placing during a sequence involving hand drawn animation and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic", which allows Lin-Manuel Miranda to get a little of the spotlight. But there's also "A Place Where Lost Things Go", which is very soft and serves as a showcase of how perfect Emily Blunt's casting truly is.
Speaking of which, while it is hard to replace Julie Andrews (A role she won an Oscar for), Emily Blunt is still a flawless substitute. Funny, adorable, and thoroughly enchanting, she is immediately inviting and has a smile that just embodies the joy of pure imagination. Lin-Manuel Miranda is immensely talented, and shows off a lot of that here, as well as a look of wonder that's just fitting. You can tell that Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson aren't quite there as actors yet, but all have their own personalities and handle themselves well with the adults. The always likable Ben Whishaw and the always adorable Emily Mortimer both get their share of heartfelt moments. The humor comes from Julie Walters (as "Ellen", the Banks' housekeeper, who is a bit of a variation of her character from the "Paddington" movies"), a bizarre Meryl Streep (as "Topsy", Mary's kooky cousin), and David Warner (as "Admiral Boom", the retired naval officer, who thinks the bell in Big Ben never actually goes off on time).Colin Firth is a cheesy, cartoonish villain, though looks like he's enjoying the chance just to mug and chew some scenery. Then there's a brief cameo from Dick Van Dyke, who is in his early 90s, but certainly doesn't look like it, especially during the quick dance number he's given. (It honestly just brings a big smile to your face and is worth the price of a ticket alone.)
"Mary Poppins Returns" is more of a series of set pieces and musical numbers, culminating in a simple, if not unsurprising conclusion. (But if you really think about it, so was the original.) The messages are strong enough for kids and their parents, and characters a very endearing, making up for some messy plotting. It shows the importance of childlike innocence as well as the difference between maturing into an adult and simply forgetting what it was like to be a child. It's a road we've been down before, but regardless, feels necessary, making for a solid family movie night. I wish everyone's nanny was like Mary Poppins....Wait, some kids don't have nannies? Huh. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For.....I'm Not Particularly Sure Actually. It's Perfectly Safe For Your Kids. No Matter The Age.
Image: "Can we Netflix and chill?"
They did it? They really, truly did it? After five Michael Bay directed attempts to assassinate cinema and give a bad name to all mainstream forms of filmmaking, they made it work? Guys! We have a good "Transformers" movie. A legitimately, no joking around, really good "Transformers" movie! It's also just a really good movie too! Being a massive fan of the toys, cartoons, games, and comics, this just made me very, very happy.
Taking place in 1987, "Bumblebee" opens on the planet Cybertron, which is populating warring transforming robotic beings, who turn from robot to vehicle and back again. The battle rages on between the heroic "Autobots", led by the brave "Optimus Prime" (Voiced by Peter Cullen), vs. the evil "Decepticons". A young scout, "B-127" (Voiced briefly by Dylan O'Brien) is sent by Optimus to leave their dying planet for Earth, in hopes of rendezvousing with the rest of the Autobot resistance. B-127 lands on Earth, only to be greeted by a military force, led by "Jack Burns" (John Cena), who has his men shoot first and ask questions later. But it turns out B-127 was followed by a Decepticon, "Blitzwing" (Voiced by David Soblov), setting off a battle that results with B-127 taking heavy damage, losing his voicebox and his memory, scanning a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle before shutting down. We cut to teenage girl, "Charlie Watson" (Hailee Steinfeld), who is acting out a bit against her mother, "Sally" (Pamela Adlon) and stepfather, "Ron" (Stephen Schneider), mostly because she is still coping with the death of her father. Charlie, wanting a new car more than anything, stumbles upon the Beetle, taking it home only to see it transform back into B-127.
Due to only being able to make buzzing sounds, Charlie nicknames B-127 "Bumblebee", with the two eventually becoming the best of friends. Meanwhile, sadistic Decepticon duo, "Shatter" (Voiced by Angela Bassett) and "Dropkick" (Voiced by Justin Theroux), have been tracking Bumblebee, arrive on Earth, pretending to come in peace to earn the trust of the military and alien obsessed scientist, "Dr. Powell" (John Ortiz), against Burns' wishes, who sees all the robotic aliens as threats. Convincing the humans that Bumblebee is a dangerous fugitive, Shatter and Dropkick team up with the military to track Bumblebee down. Charlie, along with her neighbor, "Memo" (Jorge Leneborg Jr.), who has a crush on her, start to learn more about Bumblebee and where he comes from, vowing to protect him from the Decepticons that have come to hunt him.
With Michael Bay mostly serving as a producer, "Bumblebee" serves as a prequel to the live action franchise, based on the Hasbro toyline and cartoon series that began in the mid-80s (This time, focusing on one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise). Directed by Travis Knight ("Kubo and the Two Strings"), the film sets it's scale smaller, and aims for a younger audience, and all of it is for the better. Gone are the jumpy edits, the overpopulation of underdeveloped characters, ass shots of our female leads, and unfunny jock humor. It's all been replaced by attention to developed characters, a balanced tone of good humor and human drama, a lot of heart, and well, some focus on the actual "Transformers". (Amazing, six movies in, and they finally decide to give the "Transformers" the spotlight.) In the first few minutes, you can tell something is different, opening with a spectacular action scene on Cybertron (Complete with cameos from several beloved characters from the original series), and the "Transformers" themselves, even ones that appear momentarily, have their own movements and mannerisms, so you can get an idea for their characters. You can tell the budget is much smaller this time around, but even that works to this film's advantage, with the CGI characters still looking realistic and full of personality. Written by Christina Hodson (Who will be writing the upcoming "Birds of Prey" movie), the film has a more family friendly tone, which can be a little goofy at times, yet it's only where it needs to be. When the film focuses on it's heartwarming story, and the endearing main characters within it, that's where the film truly shines and sets up what a "Transformers" movie should be.
Hailee Steinfeld, is another one of those young actresses that always gives it 110% regardless of what she's in, and is as cute and lovable as ever. John Cena has turned into a pretty solid actor, getting to play a character who could of easily been a stereotype, but instead, could be seen as one of the smarter ones, who has visible humanity under his rough exterior. We get some welcome (And not annoying) humor from Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, and a suitably weird John Ortiz. Even our villains feel more fleshed out, both being frightening and capable, with Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux piling on the slime and menace. Peter Cullen's epic voice as Optimus Prime (Which is a role he's been playing for over thirty years) always makes me smile. However, Bumblebee remains the star. He's a likable character, that's both funny and capable. The relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie is strong and touching, with the both of them being somewhat broken characters (Emotionally in the case of Charlie, and physically in the case of Bumblebee). Their connection develops them as the film progresses (Something this franchise never did with any of it's characters.), and you become emotionally connected to them because of it.
"Bumblebee" is something that the previous live action "Transformers" films never were. Charming and wonderful. Aside from having a cohesive narrative, fluid action sequences, and having none of the typically offensive (And racially insensitive) moments of attempted humor, the film pays homage to films like "The Iron Giant" and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial". While following some predictable beats, the movie just does a great, even more competent job than the filmmakers probably needed to. It's clear there is actual care this time around, and they go out of their way to make something pretty special. The film even shows that you can still be clever with an 80s era soundtrack, without being too kitchy. What brings it all together is our main characters and how much you end up loving them, to the point it just makes you further realize just how bad the previous five films actually are. Just reboot it from here (It's not like you guys ever cared about continuity in the first place), and give me more of the transforming, fighting robots that I know and love.This is the first "Transformers" movie where I can safely say to bring the whole family to. No robot genitals this time! It wasn't too much to ask. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little Language And Sci-Fi Violence, But Is Very Tame By Comparison.
Image: "Yep...Pure Mexican cocaine....You got a problem with that, punk?"
Clint Eastwood is 88! He's been working for as long as I can possibly remember, from acting, writing, and directing, and still going strong. Ok, "The 15:17 to Paris" sucked...like a lot. But still, imagine someone being in a coma for thirty years, waking up to hear that there's a new Clint Eastwood movie (That he;s directing, producing, and staring in) in theaters, and that it grossed $17 million this weekend. That's pretty cool. Then tell the coma patient that Donald Trump is President. Then watch the patient slip back into a coma.
Inspired by a true story of a World War II veteran, who found himself running drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel (Seriously!), "The Mule" follows ninety year old veteran, "Earl Stone" (Clint Eastwood). Earl is charming enough, but isn't a particularly good family man, having always find ways to put his work as a horticulturist (Plant and science stuff) first. Having constantly let down his ex wife, "Mary" (Dianne Wiest), his daughter, "Iris" (Alison Eastwood, Clint's real life daughter), and granddaughter, "Ginny" (Taissa Farmiga), who idolizes him, Earl has also run into some financial trouble. Desperate for money, Earl takes the first job offered to him, which requires him to deliver some mysterious cargo for a shady group of....um....well....how do I say this.....Mexican guys with guns.....Ahem. So anyways, Earl does the job required, asking zero questions, and gets paid a lot of money for it. Seeing that this is a way to make money that's too easy to pass up, Earl takes a few more jobs, eventually discovering the cargo he's transporting is drugs for a Mexican Cartel. Still Early continues to deliver the drugs, giving away some money to his community and for his family. Meanwhile, a pair of DEA agents, "Colin Bates" (Bradley Cooper) and his partner, "Trevino" (Michael Peña), who are looking into a way to bust the cartel, eventually start to close in on Earl. Things get even more complicated as tensions rise within the cartel, with Earl caught in the middle of it all.
"The Mule" is a bit of an off film, that's oddly hard to describe. It's big or heavy in it's dramatic aspirations, but tells a fairly simple, still emotional tale, despite a lack of focus in certain parts and some occasional kookiness. Written by Nick Schenk ("Gran Torino", "The Judge"), the film is kind of messy when it comes to story, yet strangely charming when it comes to character. It's a little hard to predict where exactly the film is going due to how some plotlines are either dropped or end up being resolved quickly and unexpectedly. I get the idea a lot of that was probably meant to be intentional, due to the film's interest in it's main character, who the more time you spend with him, start to realize how personal a story for Director/Producer, Clint Eastwood this probably all is. (Not sure he ran drugs for anyone, but you can see some allegories to his personal life here and there.)
Clint Eastwood has become known as the growly, grouchy type, who's most memorable lines of dialogue are usually just variations on him going "Grrrrrrr!". But in this movie, he plays things a little quirkier and happier, with the clear sadness hidden under a happy, go lucky attitude. He's a fascinating, complicated, yet charming character. He's clearly aged and maybe a bit out of touch with the current cultural climate (Such as saying an occasionally racially insensitive comment or his inability to understand technology), though still pretty spry and quick thinking when it becomes really necessary to do so. It's his movie, though other actors still have their moments, such as Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne (as Bates' superior in the DEA), Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Ignacio Serricchio (as "Julio", Earl's handler), and a really wonderful Dianne Wiest. Though some like Andy Garcia (as "Laton", the Cartel boss) and Clifton Collins Jr. (as Laton's creepy henchmen) don't really have much to do, and their subplot doesn't get resolved. (Granted, I'm pretty sure it was meant to be that way.)
"The Mule" is a little messy, and despite some great, deep moments of poignancy, the film just feels off in some way. Maybe it's the film's reliance on humor, which is needed and balances out the dark material with a charm that feels natural. However, it also makes the movie feel simplified. Regardless, there is such a likability to it, and you do find some investment, especially since you have trouble knowing how its all going to end. Perhaps the film is using it's choppy narrative to it's advantage in that case. The film shows that this Hollywood legend is still plenty capable, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. "The 15:17 to Paris" was just a little bump in the road. I'll bet even odds I'll be reviewing a Clint Eastwood film in, oh, 10, maybe 20 years from now. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Drugs, And Clint Eastwood's Veins, Which Seemingly Have Minds Of Their Own.
Image: "I can see a better movie from here."
So this movie is expected to only make $10 million on it's opening weekend against it's $100 million budget, not counting the countless TV spots and advertisements for it. The thing is, no matter how bad or good this was, it was pretty much destined to flop. You really can't market fantasy epic/YA dystopian book to screen adaptations anymore, even with Peter Jackson's name being attached to it. It needed WAY more hobbits.
Based on the first book in a series of books called the "Mortal Engines Quartet", "Mortal Engines" is set in a post apocalyptic world, where the remnants of humanity have formed massive, mobile cities, that can be used as weapons. War has broken out, because some use these "Predator" cities to hunt down and consume other smaller ones, taking their resources and people and forcing them to become part of the larger one. A young, scarred woman, "Hester Shaw" (Hera Hilmar) is aboard a mobile mining town, that finds itself captured by the towering monstrosity, "London"., which is run by the arrogant mayor, "Magnus Crome" (Patrick Malahide). Turns out Hester wanted this to happen, simply so she could sneak onto London to track down the man who murdered her mother, "Thaddeus Valentine" (Hugo Weaving), who is seen as a beloved, kind man by the cities people, and is Crome's second in command. Before she can kill Valentine, Hester is stopped by a young historian, "Tom Natsworthy" (Robert Sheehan). This results in a chase, with Hester escaping the city, and Valentine, knowing Tom was told by Hester of his secret, attempting to kill Tom by pushing him into a waste chute.
Tom survives, and discovers a new worldview as he teams up with Hester to get to safety. The duo find themselves in the middle of the war, becoming parts of a resistance force, known as the "Anti-Traction League", lead by the rogue pilot, "Anna Fang" (Jihae). Valentine knows Hester won't be stopped so easily, and is determined to kill him no matter what gets in her way, so he unleashes an undead, cybernetic assassin, named "Shrike" (Stephen Lang), who has only one goal, to kill Hester due to a supposed "Promise" she broke. Meanwhile, Valentine's pretty daughter, "Katherine" (Leila George), knowing her respected daddy is hiding something, decides to dig a little deeper, discovering Valentine's intention to resurrect the very superweapon that caused the cataclysmic event that made the world what it is, called "MEDUSA". So Luke and the Rebels.....I mean, Hester and Tom, along with the Anti-Traction league have to stop Valentine's plans, while Hester remembers more about her past, realizing how she might be the one person capable of destroying MEDUSA.
Produced by Peter Jackson (Who also co-wrote the screenplay), "Mortal Engines" has a lot going for it when it starts. It sets up it's world quickly, without lingering too long on it, but just enough to leave an impact. The world that's set up, how it works, and how people live, all of it is fascinating, and visually beautiful. The scale and scope of the mobile cities, while maybe illogical (Who cares? It's fantasy.), are sights to behold, and unlike anything I've ever seen before. This idea is so original and clever, with a stunning art design that I would almost consider Oscar worthy. It's too bad the originality doesn't go into story, characters, writing, and well, basic filmmaking quality. Director Christian Rivers (A protégé of Peter Jackson's), has an eye for visuals and sweeping shots, but can't give the film an identity of it's own and really isn't well versed enough in directing his actors, who are stuck trying to make the most of bland characters.
Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan, who you can see have potential as actors, are the most generic of lead characters, that go down the route you expect, without much of an emotional connection between the two. Jihae is meant to be the badass, who doesn't necessarily do much deserving of recognition, and while Leila George is very (Very!) on the attractive side, her subplot is Ronan Raftery (as "Bevis Pod", a friend of Katherine's, who simply vanishes in the last act), just tells you what you already figured out on your own the second the plotline began. Hugo Weaving, who is a reliably good actor, brings much more to his villainous character than was probably written. You just feel as if he is provided more depth to what feels like it was meant to be nothing more than a generic baddie. Hands down, the best and more memorable characters ends up being Stephen Lang's. The creature's design is frightening and unique, while still being able to display some hint of humanity and tragedy, which makes some effective emotional moments actually feel earned. He's easily the only character I ended actually caring about, but sadly isn't in the film near enough.
"Mortal Engines" is brilliant in how it looks and the ambitions behind it, but falls flat when it comes to leaving an actual impact. (Say what you will about the last "Fantastic Beasts" or even the "Hobbit" trilogy, but they at least had an identity and characters of their own.) The story is predictable, ripping off "Star Wars" during the climax in a way that's almost commendable in it's laziness, and without much of a sense of humor (Aside from an amusing reference to the Minions from "Despicable Me"), the movie doesn't fill it's lively looking world with much life of it's own. Movies like this can be even more disappointing because you admire what it got right and can see where it could of all worked, but instead can't help but focus on where it goes wrong. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Scary Cyborg Zombie People, And Slight Facial Scarring.
Image: When Comic-Con gets dangerous.
The 50+ year old Marvel based superhero has had himself quite a year. He was in "Avengers: Infinity War", which was an instant superhero classic (And after his fate in that movie, an incredibly heartbreaking and depressing one). He had a brilliant PS4 video game which was fun, exciting, and more cinematic than most movies. Not to mention the villain/anti-hero spin-off, "Venom", which may of not been a critical darling (Still kind of recommended it in a fascinatingly unstable sort of way), but made a ton of money. It's a bit odd to have a new "Spider-Man" movie, that's animated and has been distributed by "Sony Pictures Animation" (You know....the people who allowed "The Emoji Movie" to come into existence.), just released in the middle of all this. You want to know something even weirder? It may be the most amazing movie based on the heroic web crawler yet. Not joking.
"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" follows a different hero from who we've become accustomed to. In a new universe, while there is still a "Peter Parker/Spider-Man" (Chris Pine, in an extended cameo), we instead focus on young half-Puerto-Rican/half-African-American teen, "Miles Morales" (Shameik Moore), living in Brooklyn with his mother, "Rio" (Luna Lauren Velez).and police officer father, "Jefferson" (Brian Tyree Henry), who isn't a fan of the web-slinger. Miles has a bit of a rocky relationship with Jefferson, being forced to attend to attend an elite boarding school and prefers to hang out with his estranged from the family uncle, "Aaron" (Mahershala Ali), despite being told specifically not to. While doing some graffiti with Aaron in an abandoned New York subway, Miles is bitten by a strange looking spider, causing him to experience new changes in his body (Which he confuses for puberty), such as higher senses and the ability to stick to walls. Miles decides to go back into the subway to find the spider, stumbling upon a battle between Spider-Man and the monstrous "Green Goblin" (Jorma Taccone). Turns out Green Goblin has been recruited by the hulking crime lord, "Wilson Fisk/Kingpin" (Liev Schreiber), who has also enlisted more villains, including the mysterious "Prowler" to work for him.
Kingpin is using a machine called a "Super Collider", which can open up portals to other universes, for his own personal reasons, and is willing to do anything to make it work. Spider-Man notices Miles, realizing that the spider that bit Miles, is just like the one that gave him his own powers, entrusting a thumb drive to him that will shut down the Collider. Kingpin ends up getting the upper hand and murders Spider-Man, which Miles witnesses. News of Spider-Man's death spreads throughout the city, and Miles, wearing a cheap Spider-Man costume decides to honor Spider-Man's legacy to stop Kingpin's plan. He comes across a more cynical, chubbier and washed up version of the deceased hero, "Peter B. Parker/Spider-Man" (Jake Johnson), who was transported from his universe into Miles' universe due to Kingpin's Collider. Becoming an awkward mentor of sorts to Miles, this new Spider-Man team up with a group of other universe hopping Spider-Men/Women, such as the tough "Spider-Gwen" (Hailee Steinfeld), the anime-esque "Peni Parker" (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot buddy, "SP//dr", the hard boiled 30's era "Spider-Man Noir" (Nicolas Cage), and the puntastic talking pig, "Peter Porker/Spider-Ham" (John Mulaney) to stop Kingpin from using the Collider any further, which threatens to completely destroy Miles' universe, as well as cause the deaths of the other heroes.
The fact that "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is great isn't necessarily completely impossible to expect. But it's how all of this came together to make for a wonderful representation of a beloved hero, while focusing on an already established and popular (Yet still unknown just enough) character who is still somewhat recent, and even get a little deeper than you would even guess the filmmakers would think of going. Directed by a trio consisting of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey ("Rise of the Guardians"), and Rodney Rothman (One of the writers of "22 Jump Street"), as well as being produced and developed by the duo responsible for the already classic "Lego Movies", Phil Lord (Also credited as a writer) and Christopher Miller, the film benefits from an onslaught of talent, coming together to make sure everything fits in perfectly. From a screenplay with plenty of laugh out loud humor (A lot of it, very Meta) and a lot of emotional heart, mixed with spectacular, almost mind blowing animation (Which required up to 140 animators), to bring out a blend of unique styles and truly breathtaking action.
None of this would really work if the characters were fleshed out and memorable, and despite the many, many characters who appear, the film finds room to give everyone their time, while not forgetting it's main character and his story. Shameik Moore (Who gave a wonderful breakout performance in 2015's "Dope") is an excellent hero, who encompasses everything we love about Spider-Man, being relatable, funny, and endearing. His chemistry with a perfectly cast Jake Johnson, working well off each other with their banter, along with a heartfelt relationship coming out of it. Hailee Steinfeld is another great casting choice, showing pretty quickly why Sony is already planning a spin-off for her. Our other Spider-Men (Spider-People?Spider-Beings?) steal their scenes, with an adorable Kimiko Glenn, a hilarious John Mulaney, and Nicolas Cage continuing to remind us how brilliant an actor he can actually be. Brian Tyree Henry (Who appears to be in a movie every few weeks, and always hits it out of the park) gives off this very sincere, warm performance. Liev Schreiber is a menacing presence, who even gives his villain a little more extra depth than expected. The supporting roles are also memorable, from Lily Tomlin (as "Aunt May", a more badass version than we're used to), the always great Mahershala Ali, Zoë Kravitz (as "Mary Jane", the deceased Spider-Man's love interest, mourning his death), and Kathryn Hahn (As a character that I dare not spoil. It's actually a bit of a jaw dropping reveal.) The animation on the characters, which are all unique in style and movement to match their personalities, flawlessly go with the terrific voice work provided. (Once again, the Oscars really need to start acknowledging voice performances. It's real acting, and it shows here.)
Packed with all kinds of references for us geeks, loads of colorful action and lovable characters for the kids, and messages that even the adults will find inspiring. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" best shows how anyone, of any race, background, or even if you're a talking pig, can be Spider-Man. Anyone can be heroic, which has always been the appeal of the character, and why we've had so many versions of him. The animation is game changing (Setting an unexpected new standard that even Disney will have to compete with), the film is tightly packed and terrifically paced, and should find a way to resonate with the entire family. It's a movie that you just want to watch again whether it's to catch an Easter egg you missed, to experience the psychedelic and incredible animation, or simply to see these characters again. It's seems Marvel might not be the only one capable of making culturally relevant superhero films, and this isn't just the best one of the year, nor is it simply the best animated movie or best Spider-Man movie, it's just one of the best movies of the year. 4 stars. Stick around after the credits for a great post-credits scene, as well as a touching tribute to both Spider-Man creators Stan Lee (Who has a quick cameo) and Steve Ditko, both having passed away this year. Rated PG For Action, A Little Language, A Reference To The Street Dancing Scene From "Spider-Man 3", And Some Dark Moments That Might Even Make The Parents' Eyes Water.
Image: "Ill grin and Bear it....But it gives me great paws."
Reviewing movies from Netflix are weird enough as it is. (Typing a review on a computer that I just moments prior finished watching a movie on? That's surreal as Hell!) But I decided to mix it up further by watching this movie on my phone! I saw "Show Dogs" and "The Hurricane Heist" in theaters on a massive silver screen, while I watched this on my phone in the break room at work. Something is thoroughly wrong there.
"Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" opens in the jungle, which is kept in order by the so called "Jungle Law", which is meant to represent a balance between the many different animal life. It is also meant to keep anyone from instigating something with the constantly growing man village. The violent, man hating tiger, "Shere Khan" (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn't give a crap about any of this, slaughtering a family of humans, leaving the child alone and orphaned. The kind panther, "Bagheera" (Christian Bale) stumbles upon the boy, taking him to the wolves to protect him from Shere Khan's clutches. The wolf pack leader, "Akela" (Peter Mullan) sees this as a possible chance of bringing the jungle together, allowing wolf parents, "Nisha" (Naomie Harris) and "Vihaan" (Eddie Marsan) to raise the boy as one of the pack, preventing Shere Khan from also killing him.
later, the man cub, now called "Mowgli" (Rohand Chand) has become one of the wolves, being trained to survive and hunt by both Bagheera and gruff, but lovable bear, "Baloo" (Andy Serkis) into become a full fledged member of the pack. Of course, Mowgli doesn't fit in, with the other wolves treating him differently. Unable to find Mowgli's place in the jungle, Bagheera begins to think that maybe it would be better if Mowgli returned to the man village, while the wolves themselves are at odds with each other. Eventually, Mowgli finds himself in the man village, where wicked hunter, "John Lockwood" (Matthew Rhys), has been brought in by the villagers to hunt down Shere Khan. It becomes apparent that Shere Khan is trying to completely destroy the law of the jungle, by massacring the cattle belonging to the humans, as well as further escalate political tension among the wolves. Mowgli is seen as the only one who could possible put a stop to the evil tiger's plans, save the jungle, and find his own place within it.
A passion project of Director Andy Serkis, who previously directed the 2017 film "Breathe, and his mostly known for being snubbed for his terrific motion capture based performances (Such as Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" and Caesar from the "Planet of the Apes" movies), "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" has been in production for years. Its being pushed around due to the shear ambitiousness of the project and because of the critically praised 2016 Disney remake of "The Jungle Book", resulting in Warner Brothers removing it's theatrical release in favor of a Netflix one. Based more in line with the original book, complete with the darker imagery and brutality (No singing or dancing in this one.), it's hard to separate what we've seen before from this one. The fact that we already have two wonderful Disney films to watch at any point, this movie feels weaker by comparison. However, despite some iffy moments of storytelling, the movie isn't without it's visible potential. Our characters are a bit rougher than what we're used to, setting up the idea of how harsh and dirty the jungle can be. which plays into how the characters interact with each other. Visually, the film doesn't quite match the realism of the 2016 film, but it's still lovely to look at, and Serkis' eye for scope and cinematography is very much impressive.
The darker tone set up for the characters, while it at times can be a bit jarring when it shifts around, still portrays them in a compelling light. Rohan Chand (Who you might remember stealing the show in 2013's "Bad Words") has to give a very movement based performance, that's innocent and childlike, but also brutal and at times, a bit animalistic. The animal characters are all played through motion capture, with the actors' expressions and movements, as well as their voices bringing their characters to life on screen, even when they don't look particularly real. Christian Bale is absolutely wonderful (I had no idea it was him the entire time), getting a handful of heartfelt scenes with Chand. Benedict Cumberbatch is a frightening villain, sneering and growling in the scariest way possible. Cate Blanchett (as "Kaa" the giant python, who is less of a villain in this film) is perfectly cast, with her voice sending chills down your spine. (It's also kind of sexy. Just saying. Sexy snake right there.) The supporting work is also excellent, from the always great Andy Serkis, the sweetly voiced Naomie Harris, and a delightfully scummy Tom Hollander (as "Tabaqui", Shere Khan's flea ridden hyena henchman). Some of the weaker aspects come in later with our human actors, Matthew Rhys (Who still has a few interesting moments) and an underused Frieda Pinto (as "Messua", Mowgli's adoptive mother), which comes in a bit late and feels skimmed over due to cramming a lot into an hour and forty minutes.
Building up to a suspenseful, albeit disjointed climax, and boasting lively effects, "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" doesn't have the charm or heart that we've seen in the still much better Disney adaptations (Hell, the remake alone was enough to make me questioning if they could ever do "The Jungle Book" ever again). However, it makes up for it with a more grounded, grungier setting, some truly spectacular imagery, and the clear amount of passion and hard work that was put into the film. It's got it's narrative and tonal flaws, and it's a bit difficult to find a specific audience to recommend it for. But with that said, there is a sense of accomplishment to the film, as well as the commitment to heavier drama, that doesn't feel as if it's trying to hard to be darker. It feels natural, and for something like Netflix (Whose movies usually range from okay to whatever "Bright" was) to show this much ambition on something, I kind of want to see more like it. And then I can keep it on Netflix and binge some more of " The Office". 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Bloody Violence, And Hunter Trophies That Will Scar Your Children.
Image: "I can see my Charizard from here!"
Let's talk about the upcoming Pokémon live action movie, "Pokémon: Detective Pikachu", which involves a kid teaming up with a talking hard boiled Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. It's one of the strangest trailers for an already bizarre concept I've ever seen. Of course I want to see it, if not just to see how insane it all ends up being. But if this ends up being the first truly great video game movie, I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about that. I guess it might take us completely losing our minds to finally make a good one..
A direct sequel to last year's "Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!", "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" once again takes place where instead of animals, we have Pokémon, who fight each other for the sick amusement of humanity. (Be honest with yourselves. That's basically what it is.) We once again follow good natured Pokémon trainer, "Ash Ketchum" (Sarah Natochenny) and his beloved/overpowered, electrical mouse Pokémon "Pikachu" on their many adventures, while avoiding the pathetically villainous, "Team Rocket", consisting of "Jessie" (Michele Knotz), "James" (James Carter Cathcart), their English speaking "Meowth" (also James Carter Cathcart), and the simple minded "Wobbuffet". Ash and Pikachu make their way to "Fula City", where the townspeople are hosting a festival to save the city's rescue long ago, thanks to the legendary "Lugia". Our heroes become involved with a variety of colorful characters, each with their own issues.
There's "Risa" (Haven Paschall), who is in search of an "Eevee" for her hospitalized brother, along with a shy, but sweet, scientist, "Toren" (Eddy Lee), a bitter, but lonely old woman, "Harriet" (Who's voice actress I can't find the name of), and con man, "Callahan" (Billy Bob Thompson), who is simply trying to impress his niece, eventually befriending a tree-like Pokémon "Sudowudo". Not to mention the daughter of the Mayor, "Margo" (Erica Schroeder), who is keeping a secret from her father. Problems arise when strange things start to happen in the city, along with a mystical undying flame being stone, which could cause the city to lose all power, and a so called curse that resides in the nearby woods, provided by human hating Pokémon "Zeraora". Then Team Rocket steals a bottle of "Effect Spore" (A Poisonous Pokémon ability in bottle form) from Toren, and due to their ineptitude, end up dropping the bottle, causing the spore to be released. The spore, along with the lack of power and assumed curse could cause the city's destruction, as well as the deaths of the citizens and their Pokémon. It's up to Ash and Pikachu to rally everyone to band together to save the city from destruction.
The 21st Pokémon film (And the second in this rebooted continuity), "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" is once again, simply for the fans, and will mostly confuse anyone else who stumbles upon it. (Granted, why would you watch it in the first place unless you are a fan?) Much like everything related to the franchise that's spanned over twenty years (With video games, toys, an anime, movies based on the anime, and the already mentioned upcoming live action film), it's fully of cheesiness to an almost hilarious degree. Oddly, it's always been part of the charm to Pokémon, and especially for the little ones, you can see why it's lasted so long. (I was actually a major fan, who followed the show for the first couple generations, who still has fond memories of all the silliness.) While the last film, while enjoyable, was mostly just a recap of what we'd seen before, except in a cinematic format, this new one is a completely original story. It seems more focused this time around, even with the many subplots, which all mostly come together by the climax.
The voice work is as fittingly corny as the dialogue, but it matches the film's innocent tone, with Billy Bob Thompson doing the best work, mostly due to getting the most effective character arc. Ash is still an easy to root for hero, while Pikachu remains one of the cutest creations ever put in any form of media. The new characters all have a role to play, though a mini plot involving some Pokémon hunters doesn't amount to much, and thankfully gets dropped quickly. Then there's the hilariously pathetic Team Rocket, making for delightfully incompetent antagonists, that come across just as lovable as our heroes. The animation is beautiful and lively, and the film's overall look is inviting enough even for the parents mostly only watching because their kids are.
Endearingly narmy as ever, "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" offers sweet messages of friendship, working together, and the importance of coexisting with nature. It's aimed at the youngest of the young (And the fans who remained young), but doesn't exactly talk down to them. It's not afraid to get a little dark where necessary, and I have to give credit that a little movie like this is showing more maturity than a lot of films aimed at so-called adults. It's a nice kids movie, with a lot of heart and an overabundance of cuteness, to go with a good helping of honest, childlike goofiness. Maybe that Detective Pikachu movie might actually work. 3 stars. (For the right audience anyways) Not Rated, But It's Safe For All Ages. (Well, Except For That Bit With The Smeargle Ink.....Why Was It That Color?)
Image: Doesn't look very hood to me.
Allow me to ask the questions that are on everyone's mind. Who in their right mind asked for yet another "Robin Hood" adaptation? How in the Hell did this get greenlit by a major studio with over a $100 Million budget? Why is anyone surprised that this bombed so hard? What the Hell were they thinking? And (If you saw it) when will it finally be over so I can move on with my life?
Based on that story you've likely heard of (How have you not?), "Robin Hood" is a Batman-eque origin story, following "Robin of Loxley" (Taron Egerton), a rich young lord, who falls in love with the beautiful "Marion" (Eve Hewson), living a simple, carefree life. That is until the tyrannical "Sherrif of Nottingham" (Ben Mendelsohn), who ruthlessly taxes the people for the Church, drafts Robin into the Crusades. Four years later, Robin witnesses horrific persecution against Muslims, intervening in an execution, resulting in him getting shot with an arrow by his superior, "Sir Grisborne" (Paul Anderson). Robin is sent back home, being followed by the man who would become "Little John" (Jamie Foxx), who witnessed Robin's selfless act. When Robin gets home, he discovers how much has changed while he's been away.
Due to being declared dead, his house in ruins, Marion now poor (But still very beautiful, because Hollywood!) and in a relationship with whiny political leader, "Will Tillman" (Jamie Dornan), and the rest of the people now more oppressed than ever. Robin runs into John, who also wants vengeance on the Sherrif, devising a plan to steal from the rich and give back to the poor. John trains Robin to hone his archery skills, giving him a new hood to use as a disguise. Now Robin, using his lordship persona by day and his new superhero alter ego, known as "The Hood" by night, he begins to launch assaults on the Sherrif's forces, stealing their gold and returning it to the people in need. This attracts the attention of the higher ups and demand that the Sherrif handle this situation as quickly as possible. Eventually, Robin rallies the people together to stand up to the Sherrif, and take back their kingdom.
Directed by Otto Bathurst (Known mostly for TV related material) and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (Wait. What? There is a story behind that isn't there?), "Robin Hood" is as unnecessary as it sounds. It's all been somewhat modernized in the sense that despite taking place in medieval times, there are enough out of place outfits, weaponry, and whatever else that would cause any historian to rip it to absolute shreds like a vulture on roadkill. The movie also seemingly tries to include allegories to the Iraq war and Donald Trump, but it's all incredibly silly and out of place. Maybe it all would of worked with a better screenplay, but the one we get lacks it's own identity, little character, and a violent onslaught of stupidity (Like, how does nobody realize that Robin is the Hood? That mask barely covers anything. Also, how does nobody recognize Jamie Foxx everywhere he goes? He's one of three black guys in the entire kingdom! I'm sure you guys could figure out he's involved too!)
Taron Egerton really isn't a bad choice to portray the beloved hero. The fault lies more in the writing, which keeps things as bland as possible. Jamie Foxx is a little over the top, but he at least livens things up and his character can be fun. (In fact, he's probably more interesting that the titular hero.) Eve Hewson is left with little to do except provide fanservice, even when it's not necessary. (Granted, she's very, very pretty. But is it that hard to give her something to do?) Jamie Dornan's story only gets sillier and sillier as it progresses, Tim Minchin (as "Friar Tuck", a comical ally to Robin) is mostly here for goofy humor, and F. Murray Abraham (as the evil "Cardinal", who is the Sherrif's superior) is always welcome. (Though I'm confused as to what the studio had on him that led to his casting.) Then there's Ben Mendelsohn, who once again plays a sneering villain, but really has perfected that role. He's still menacing, oddly compelling, and just adds a little extra something to a movie without a personality of it's own.
Relying too much on that speedy/slo-mo style of action, "Robin Hood" is a bore, with characters that don't leave impressions, and predictable dialogue. The most interesting aspect ends up being the mind boggling questions that led to this film's existence. It really doesn't make any sense how anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place, and it didn't help that the filmmakers to justify it all. You got plenty of other adaptations already to choose from. Like the Disney one, with the talking animals, that oddly feels more realistic. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence Heavy Handed Allegories, And Machine Gun Arrows.