Archive for the ‘movie reviews’ Category

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Movie Reviews: Hustlers, The Addams Family, Aladdin, and more

October 22, 2019

Hustlers (2019) – I don’t get it. This movie is at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 79 score on MetaCritic, with one critic even calling it “era-defining”, but I could barely stomach the whole film. It’s not an atrocious movie, but the characters are so hollow and the story so boring, I thought about leaving at multiple points to do something else with my day. Yes… a movie starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper is somehow nearly unwatchable.
4/10 (Forgettable)

The Addams Family (2019) – Sometimes I go to the movies just to go and this would be one of those times. I’m not necessarily a fan of the old show or the movies from the ’90s, but I appreciate the dark humor and horror themes of the franchise. This movie was mostly forgettable, with Wednesday played by Chloe Grace Moretz providing almost all the highlights. It’s a decent first installment, but I can see eventual sequels being a lot better.
5/10 (Decent)

Aladdin (2019) – I suppose it works. The 1992 original is a top 3 traditionally animated Disney movie for me and I think this remake works largely as a function of the source material being so good. However, much like every other Disney live action remake so far save The Jungle Book it lacks the magic that made the original so special. Yes, the songs are all here and they are still great – even with some slight changes – but they just don’t feel the same. Asking Will Smith to live up to the vocal performance of Robin Williams as The Genie is an impossible task, but he actually does a fine job and certainly isn’t a negative in the movie. Something that absolutely doesn’t work for me in this movie is the casting of Jafar. It’s astonishing that a big budget company like Disney and a capable director like Guy Ritchie could actually think this version of Jafar is even remotely acceptable.
5/10 (Decent)

Ready or Not (2019) – This is a lot of fun, with a star-making performance from Samara Weaving. I wish they didn’t spoil some of the best scenes in the trailer, but I still found the movie plenty enjoyable. Weaving is hilarious and this movie is certainly worth checking out.
6/10 (Recommended)

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) – One of the surprise films of the year and arguably Shia LaBeouf’s best performance of his career, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a heartwarming story of a man with Down syndrome that runs away from his nursing home to pursue a professional wrestling career and finds himself making some unlikely friendships along the way.
7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Booksmart (2019) – I was expecting more… like one of the better movies of the year more. Instead, I found the far less mature Good Boys to be the more enjoyable Superbadesque raunchy coming-of-age comedy this year. This is still worth watching though and I think Beanie Feldstein has a bright future.
6/10 (Recommended)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) – A fine, somewhat worthy sequel, but everything about the first one was waaaaay better.
5/10 (Decent)

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Joker (2019)

October 5, 2019

Joker (2019)

Director: Todd Phillips (The Hangover movies, Old School, Road Trip)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Anticipation Level: Epic

How Was It? Honestly, I thought a one-off Joker movie that had nothing to do with the current DC movie universe being directed by the guy responsible for The Hangover movies was a pretty terrible idea. But then Joaquin Phoenix was cast in the lead role and suddenly you had to wonder what this movie might be because Phoenix is a generational talent. And then the first trailer dropped and I was completely sold. By the time Joker won Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival and the first critical reactions started rolling in, Joker was my my most anticipated film of 2019.

And it totally lived up to the hype. It’s my favorite film of the year with just under three months left in 2019. It almost feels cliche to make that claim since everyone knows I’m a diehard Batman fan (my nickname is Dark Knight, for crying out loud), but it’s just phenomenal. All the praise being lauded on Joaquin Phoenix is well deserved. He’s incredible. It’s hard to imagine anyone giving a performance that can even hold a candle to what Heath Ledger did in The Dark Knight, but Phoenix does just that in this movie. I think Ledger’s Joker is more in line with what comic book fans have come to expect of the character (i.e. genius psychopath/criminal mastermind), but the Joker in this movie is perhaps even scarier because he’s born out of mental illness and neglect and, well, there’s nothing supernatural about that. In fact, it’s easy enough to imagine that some people in the real world are actually out there boycotting this film right now because they are worried about its potential influence. You know… because it’s so different than all the other violent movies and video games out there that it deserves its own special spotlight. *eyeroll*

Joker is a very unsettling film. I mean… I loved it. I absolutely loved it, but I would not say it is an easy watch. It is a difficult and disturbing film. Joaquin Phoenix dives so deep into this role that I saw one reviewer say, “I’m worried about him” and that person wasn’t trying to be funny. He’s so good I can’t imagine anyone else winning the Best Actor Oscar this year. The only way he loses is if this role is too dark for the Academy or if they have some sort of recency bias against handing over a statue for the same role twice in just over a decade. Taron Egerton was great as Elton John in Rocketman but Joaquin Phoenix is simply better.

The cinematography and score are also Oscar-worthy in this movie. The film is beautifully and intimately shot, keeping the viewer highly invested in what’s happening on screen and the score ratchets up the tension and never lets up. You will be on edge the entire time and if you are concerned about what might happen, you probably should be.

My problems with this movie are pretty minor. Obviously, Joker takes place in Batman’s world, but this film never really feels like a comic book movie. The story occurs long before Bruce Wayne donns and the cape and the cowl and while the Waynes are a presence, Bruce is just a young kid and his influence on the story is pretty minimal. That’s fine. This movie is about Joker, not Batman. Still, it’s hard for me to imagine this Joker being Batman’s biggest foe 15 years in the future. Joaquin Phoenix is almost 45 and there’s no indication that Arthur Fleck is much younger, so… this Joker is going to be 60 when Batman starts showing up? Uh, okay. But that doesn’t really matter as this movie is a standalone film and Todd Phillips has indicated that Phoenix’s Joker will not be appearing in any upcoming Batman films and setting up that future rivalry is not the point of this movie anyway.

Joker might not be the most enjoyable film experience due to its dark and disturbing nature, but it’s my favorite movie of 2019 so far and Joaquin Phoenix gives another remarkable performance that just might earn him his first Oscar.

Replay Value: It’s a tough watch, but I’m ready for Round 2 and it’s a must own film for me.

Sequel Potential: A Joker movie that happens before Batman becomes Batman? How could there not be a sequel? Because Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t do sequels and I don’t expect him to appear as Joker again.

Oscar Potential: Phoenix is a lock nominee and my favorite to win Best Actor right now. I think the cinematography and score also have a chance to get nominated. I’d put it in the Best Picture race myself, but the fact that 30% of critics have given it negative reviews isn’t very promising in that regard.

8/10 (Must See)

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It: Chapter Two (2019)

September 6, 2019

It: Chapter Two (2019)

Director: Andy Muschietti (It, Mama)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgard

Anticipation Level: High

How Was It? Honestly, the only thing that kept my anticipation level below epic levels was the initial reactions of the critics. A 71% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t what I was hoping for. Still, I absolutely adored the first movie and while It (2017) may not be the horror classic I initially made it out to be, it at least deserves to be mentioned with the best genre flicks of the last several years.

The audiences seem to be loving Chapter Two and Twitter is going pretty crazy over this movie – especially over Bill Hader’s performance – but I’m going to make a prediction right now: in 2-3 years, everyone is going to realize this movie wasn’t very good. Think about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Most people liked it when it first came out. I even gave it a favorable review. Nowadays, it’s rare to find anyone that liked it and most agree it’s one of the weakest installments in the MCU. I have a feeling It: Chapter Two is going to follow a similar path. Everyone is overreacting now, maybe because they are in denial, and in a few years, this movie will be universally regarded as a dud.

Because… it’s a serious slog. I can’t imagine someone being genuinely entertained by this for three straight hours. It’s soooooo long and the running time seems to be born more out of ego than out of necessity – like director Andy Muschietti and the studio think they can get away with making this some horror epic because the first movie was so successful. I mean… they are probably right. Chapter Two will probably do big business, but I think the length and drop in quality will hurt its legs over the long run and I’d be surprised if it outgrosses the first movie.

I think the biggest problem with this movie is the source material. When I revisited the novel in 2017, I was surprised at how weak the story gets when I got to the adult portion of the book as I’ve always regarded It as one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It’s just not good. I actually think the filmmakers did a laudable job of adapting King’s work in Chapter Two and I like some of the changes they made – it’s funnier and the characters are way less annoying than in the novel. For instance, I couldn’t stand the adult Richie Tozier but Bill Hader makes him the highlight of the film in Chapter Two. Actually, the casting of the adult characters is pretty solid overall. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy seemed like perfect casting, but honestly, no one is going to remember the adult versions of Beverly or Bill in this movie. Hader and James Ransone (as adult Eddie) are great though. If it weren’t for them, this movie would be completely forgettable. They arguably save the whole thing and make it worth watching.

The biggest problem with Chapter Two is that the kids made the book and the kids made the movie in the 2017 film. The adult story just isn’t nearly as good. Muschietti seems to understand that and I think that’s why we get a three hour movie here: the kids get a lot of screen time and it doesn’t really help the movie… it just makes it unnecessarily longer. With that said, any time young Eddie or young Richie are on screen it is usually a good thing. Those two characters and actors are the heart and soul of these movies.

When it comes down it, I just didn’t enjoy this movie. I guess it was okay. Maybe it will even grow on me over time because I’m so dissatisfied right now. I think it would have been a tough watch as a two hour movie and it’s an hour longer than that! I was pretty forgiving of some of the questionable CGI in the first film – mostly because the actual movie was so good – but it’s harder to ignore here. I just don’t have a lot of good things to say about Chapter Two other than praising the performances of Bill Hader and James Ransone.

Obviously, everyone is still going to go see this… especially if they loved the first one like I did. So I won’t tell you not to watch it, but don’t be surprised if you walk out feeling disappointed.

Replay Value: I’m a horror buff, so I’ll still be adding this to my movie collection… and I’ll watch it again… I’ve seen a lot of bad horror movies multiple times… but none that are three hours long!

Sequel Potential: If this movie crushed, I wouldn’t put it past Hollywood to write a sequel that doesn’t exist as a novel.

Oscar Potential: BILL HADER FOR BEST ACTOR! Yeah right. He has NO chance. I thought he was great in this, but that is crazy talk.

5/10 (Decent)

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The Lion King (2019)

August 29, 2019

The Lion King (2019)

Director: Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Chef, Iron Man)

Starring: voices of Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner

Anticipation Level: Medium

How Was It? I was pretty bored watching this. Sure, it looks pretty amazing, but it’s not like I was itching to see a version of The Lion King with real animals. While the visual effects add a lot of wow factor, this movie is severely lacking in the magic and fun that made the original a classic – possibly because none of the characters aside from Timon and Pumba really stand out. Actually, Beyonce sort of stood out, but not in a good way; there were a couple of spots where her voice work actually made me cringe a little and trust me, I don’t really want to say anything bad about Beyonce. The coolest thing about this movie was Chiwetel Ejiofor’s voice work as Scar. He was awesome.

I really liked what Favreau did with The Jungle Book, but the live action Disney remake trend is already wearing thin and they’re not about to stop pumping them out. I think the only animated Disney classic I want to see a live action version of at this point is Pinnochio. The 2019 version of The Lion King isn’t bad – I enjoyed it for the most part – but it’s definitely nothing special and that’s pretty sad when you think of how wonderful the 1994 version is. I can’t think of any reason I’d ever want to watch this again. Give me the original 100% of the time.

Replay Value: I think I’ve already covered this.

Sequel Potential: Eek. They made two direct-to-video sequels back in the day and I didn’t watch either of those, but this movie $1.5 billion worldwide so…

Oscar Potential: Favreau’s The Jungle Book won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects so this should probably at least get nominated in that same category.

5/10 (Decent)

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Movie Reviews: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Farewell

August 14, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – I’m shocked at the critical reaction to this one: it’s sitting at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes right now. I thought it was extremely dull. I read and enjoyed the book this film is adapted from when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t experience much nostalgia while watching the movie because I only remembered one of the stories (“The Red Spot”). None of the characters or actors were particularly interesting and I didn’t find the movie even slightly scary. The overall narrative put together to connect the stories was fine, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection to anything happening on screen. I was mostly bored watching this and was looking forward to it being over. For comparison’s sake, I gave Crawl a 5/10 a few weeks ago, but that film was substantially more enjoyable than Scary Movies.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) – I’ve seen people say they hated it and I’ve seen critics call it Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. I don’t really get either reaction. Usually I am giddy watching QT’s films and find them overwhelmingly enjoyable, but similarly to The Hateful Eight, this one didn’t fill me with pure joy either. I was actually pretty confused about my feelings on the movie the whole time I was watching it and even hours after seeing it, I still wasn’t sure. I know it’s not one of my favorite Tarantino flicks, but I also know I didn’t dislike it because… there’s so many good things happening on screen. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are amazing in it. The set pieces and art direction are meticulously put together and bring late 1960s Hollywood to vivid life. It’s plenty funny. On the other hand, the multiple plots seem to meander along without any real meaning before uniting in a strange and nonsensical climax. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. Still, I’d be happy to watch it again… like right now. I feel like that speaks to the film’s potential to grow on me over time.

6/10 (Recommended)

The Farewell (2019) – Since most people will probably be unfamiliar with The Farewell, let me tell you a bit about the story: rapper/actor Awkwafina stars as a Chinese girl named Billi living in America that learns her grandmother is terminally ill and her family is planning a faux wedding for a cousin in order to go back to China and say goodbye one last time. Billi is being left behind because she is highly emotional and the family is worried she will tell the grandma that she is dying. Obviously, Billi ends up going to China anyway. I mean… this is great stuff. It’s one of the more personal films I’ve seen this year and the emotional impact is pretty high. I thought Awkwafina was a ton of fun in Crazy Rich Asians last year, but she proves she’s capable of being more than comedic relief by carrying this film on her shoulders and taking on a serious role. I’ve listened to her music and, well, she is waaaaaaaaaaaay better at acting. This is a touching film with plenty of charm and humor in it. There was a bit of a quirky Wes Anderson vibe to it and some of the slow motion shots of the family walking together as a group seemed out of place, but overall The Farewell is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this year.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Batman: Hush (2019) – It seems hard to mess up one of Batman’s best graphic novels, but DC Animation continues to do just that. This is better than the abysmal adaptation of The Killing Joke, but the writers take some interesting and questionable liberties with the story here and the end result is incredibly unsatisfying. I’m honestly not sure what they were thinking. Is it so hard to just do a faithful adaptation and not try to put a personal stamp on a well known story? I guess the main objective was to take a story that was written in the early 2000s and make it part of DC Animation’s current continuity of films, so this film takes place after the events of Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin, even though the character of Damian Wayne wasn’t created until 2006 and thus didn’t exist in the original Hush graphic novel. The coolest thing about Hush was always that it involved so many key players in Batman lore and they all show up here and that’s a lot of fun. I’ve always thought Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute) is an odd choice to voice Lex Luthor and that continues to feel weird here. This movie was enjoyable, but I hate the big changes they made to the core story. HATE THEM. DC has announced they are making a movie out of my favorite Batman story: The Long Halloween. Here’s to hoping they don’t mess that up too.

5/10 (Decent)

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Movie Reviews: Midsommar, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Crawl, Child’s Play

July 26, 2019

Midsommar (2019) – This definitely won’t be for everyone. It’s director Ari Aster’s follow up to last year’s awesome Hereditary and it is every bit as unsettling and quite a bit weirder. Florence Pugh gives another top notch performance and already has two roles this year that could earn her some Oscar consideration. For the first half of this movie, I was enthralled, thinking it was one of the best of the year, but as it moved into its last act, I couldn’t tell if I was losing interest or if I was just shocked numb. I definitely preferred Hereditary, but Midsommar gets high marks for its gorgeous cinematography, crazy setting, over-the-top gore and a great acting job from Pugh. I recommend, but be warned.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable… sort of)

Toy Story 4 (2019) – Somehow Pixar keeps pumping out extremely good sequels to their first franchise. For me, Toy Story 3 was the best film of the series and a perfect conclusion to this saga and one of my favorite films of the past couple decades, but when Disney can print a billion dollars with every new entry, you knew it wouldn’t be too long before we got another movie… and this probably won’t be the last one either. I really enjoyed Toy Story 4. The story meanders differently than previous installments and Forky is an amazing addition. The animation looks as good as ever and while the movie didn’t quite meet my expectations of being mind-blowingly good, I can’t say I was disappointed either. I am looking forward to watching it again and seeing if I can find a more magical appreciation of it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – I really enjoyed this. It’s consistently funny, has some awesome action sequences, and the cast is great. Jake Gyllenhall is a nice addition as Mysterio and I liked the way that character was handled. This movie was extremely pleasing but I did like Homecoming more, mostly because of Michael Keaton and the amazing scene between Peter and Vulture before the dance. Far From Home doesn’t have a sequence like that and for a hero known as “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” this version of Spidey has seemed to spend very little time in New York.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Crawl (2019) – If this movie doesn’t make you want to pack up your belongings and relocate to Florida, then I don’t know what will. This is basically Jaws in a crawl space with big ‘ole gators instead of a great white, so it’s not exactly breaking new ground, but it was pretty much exactly what I wanted and that made it entertaining enough.

5/10 (Decent)

Child’s Play (2019) – I was primed to hate this movie. How disrespectful is it to reboot a franchise when the original continuity is still producing new content? Series creator Don Mancini directed Cult of Chucky in 2017 and the original cast and crew are currently working on a T.V. series that continues the story of the first seven movies. So what the hell is this? Chucky is a just a highly capable A.I. doll that a disgruntled factory worker decided to flip the “bad” switch on? Eww. But somehow, some way, this movie works. It’s funny, it’s gruesome, and it’s pretty damn good. I’d… watch a sequel. *gasp*

6/10 (Recommended)

Bladerunner 2049 (2017) – There’s a lot to love about this movie – the cinematography and sound are unreal, Denis Villeneuve is a genius, Ryan Gosling is great, and the concept is really cool – but I just don’t get the Blade Runner series. I’ve heard plenty of people talk about the original like it’s an all-time classic and I’ve seen it twice now and both times I came away feeling underwhelmed. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I felt the same way about this sequel. It was good – fantastic from a technical standpoint – but the stories in both films didn’t move me at all. Maybe I just need to keep watching them until something clicks? The Blade Runner movies are really good, but I don’t think either of them are great.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Avengers: Endgame (2019)

May 9, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Director: The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Starring: The whole squad

Anticipation Level: Epic

How Was It? This was execution at its finest. I absolutely loved it and you really have to admire what Marvel has accomplished, not just in this film, but in what they’ve created with their entire cinematic universe. It is truly unprecedented in the history of movies. Not every film has been great, or even good, but they’ve landed far more hits than misses and Endgame is a perfect conclusion to it all. It is pure fan service and a total crowd pleaser with many laugh-out-loud, surprising, and fist-pumping moments. Thor was a total scene-stealer; Chris Hemsworth is a riot in this movie. Even at an incredibly steep 3+ hour run time, it zipped by and I was thoroughly entertained all the way.

Prior to this movie, I was starting to feel that superhero fatigue. I didn’t like Ant-Man and The Wasp and I was lukewarm on Shazam!, Aquaman, and Captain Marvel as well, so I was really happy Endgame knocked it out of the park. I think the Russo Brothers get it. You take a look at their directorial credits and all their movies are in the upper tiers of the MCU, with The Winter Soldier possibly being my favorite.

I think Marvel did a great job with the roll out of this movie. I loved the trailer. Well, the one that I saw anyway. It gave away nothing. They knew the movie would crush no matter what and didn’t have to spoil anything to get people in the seats. I mean… how much cooler would it have been if we didn’t all know beforehand that The Hulk was going to show up in Ragnarok? I had no clue the direction Endgame was going to go and I have to admit I was shocked by a lot of it, particularly the whole first act.

I won’t say Endgame is one of those superhero movies that transcends the genre – like The Dark Knight – but it’s one of the best movies in the MCU and considering the scope of it all, it’s an immensely impressive achievement. I’ve already seen it twice and I’d probably enjoy a third viewing as soon as tomorrow, so it should hold up well over time. Endgame was about as good as I could have hoped for, managing to wrap up a 22-film arc, with plenty of laughs and maybe a few tears.

Replay Value: For a three hour movie, the replay value is insane.

Sequel Potential: They will probably still be making movies based on these characters a hundred years from now.

Oscar Potential: Infinity War got a nomination for Best Visual Effects, so consider that a lock for Endgame. I suppose there’s some outside chance this could get a Best Picture nomination, but it’s more popcorn film/blockbuster awesome than Oscar worthy storytelling.

8/10 (Must See)