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Movie Breakdown: Jason Bourne

July 27, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

The Bourne Trilogy is pretty damn great.  The Bourne Legacy isn’t terrible, but I can’t say I’ve ever really wanted to revisit it.  As for Jason Bourne, I want it to be good, but if it isn’t, I’ll just treat it like I do its aforementioned semi-sequel and pretend it doesn’t exist.  Easy come, easy go!

Post-Screening Ramble:

Like pretty much every other major film that’s rolled out this summer (it hasn’t really been a great one, has it?), your approval or disapproval of Jason Bourne is going to be dependent on what sort of film you’re expecting.  If you’re simply down to see some familiar characters doing some espionage-type things, then you’ll probably be into it.  If you’re wanting a worthy entry into the Bourne series that expands the original story or at least starts an interesting new thread for the character, then the film may disappoint you.

To me, The Bourne Trilogy’s greatness stems from 1) Bourne being a great character and 2) The way each entry in it is essentially a chase film with spy elements.  The poor, goodhearted Bourne is on the run and he’s trying to figure out his past.  And there’s satellites and laptops!  Ah!  Jason Bourne, for whatever reason, alters this formula.  There’s definitely some chasing (the scene in Las Vegas is particularly exciting) and a mystery (albeit a lazy one) for Bourne to solve, but overall the film puts Bourne, his plight and his muscles in a corner while it focuses more on its various CIA characters.  Each of the shady figures have their own sneaky agendas (career advancement, internet policing, etc), and Bourne simply serves as a device that moves their plots along.  Yes, that’s right, the movie may be called Jason Bourne, but its titular character is practically a sub plot.  Go figure.

As I said up above, if you just want a spy flick with some action here and there, then see Jason Bourne.  Those of you hoping for more though should just wait and catch it on the small screen.

One Last Thought:

Alicia Viklander is the best part of of Jason Bourne.  She’s such an alluring presence on the screen.  On another note, I hope her Tomb Raider movie doesn’t suck.

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Movie Breakdown: Nerve

July 27, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I like Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, but Nerve looks pretty silly.  Also, my lack of excitement for the film isn’t helped much by the fact that the duo behind the internet-kitschy Catfish directed it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Nerve has a fun concept, but it’s not particularly well executed.  The film starts by introducing the photography-loving, non-risk-taking Vee (Emma Roberts) and her two best friends – a nerdy fella who is obviously in love with her, and a girl who is a bit of a daredevil.  It’s the latter who introduces Vee to Nerve, an underground game that’s quickly becoming a hit.  Via the app you can either watch people take on dares, or you can actually accept some of your own.  Naturally, Vee should be a watcher, but in an attempt to prove that she’s not who people think she is, she starts accepting dares.  This is when she meets Ian (Dave Franco), and the two pair up and have a glorious night!  Or not.

For the first solid chunk of Nerve, I was into it.  Sure, the film takes a little bit to get going and it’s shot in a unfortunate OMG-tech-is-so-kewl kind of way, but Roberts and Franco have solid chemistry, the “dares” properly ascend from cute to exciting/dangerous, and I found it easy to buy into the idea of everyone loving a game where you wander around obsessed with either garnering attention or watching others live.  Somewhere near the third act though the film just totally falls apart.  Weird motives and masked characters pop up without any explanation, things go from exciting to silly, and the movie just loses all momentum.  Talk about limping across the finish line.

If you decide to catch Nerve, keep your expectations in check.

One Last Thought:

If those vids of kids climbing skyscrapers and cranes make you grab onto your chair because somehow you’re afraid you’re going to fall to your death, then Nerve may not be for you.

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Movie Breakdown: Captain Fantastic

July 22, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Viggo Mortensen is an all-time favorite of mine, and he just so happens to be in Captain Fantastic.  This automatically means I’m excited to see it.  Granted, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the trailers have made it look like a quirky good time.  Also, I’m intrigued by the fact that Matt Ross (Gavin Belson from Silicon Valley) both directed and wrote the film.

Post-Screening Ramble:

It’ll be interesting to see how people react to Captain Fantastic.  The film follows Ben (played with spirit by Viggo Mortensen) and his pack of kiddos as they undertake a road trip in order to attend their mother’s funeral.  I suppose that sounds fairly normal, but what provides a bit of a twist is that Ben and his family live off the grid, deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.  There the kids go through daily physical training sessions and they’re home-schooled on advanced subjects.  The whole lot of them seem rather well adjusted, very intelligent and happy, but as the film glides along you start to see that all isn’t well in the perfect world that Ben believes he has built for himself and his family.  His kids may be able to survive in the woods and have full-on philosophical discussions, but their social skills are poor, they’ve never had the chance to apply most of what they’ve learned, and they’re often in situations that the outside world considers unfit and/or dangerous for a child.  Should Ben and his family live how they do?  Should he put an end to it and place his family in society?  The film looks at both questions, and while I don’t really think it ever fully commits to saying yes or no to living on or off the grid, it does endearingly try to at least remind the world that regardless of whichever lifestyle you choose for yourself and your loved ones, flexibility is a must.  Now that’s a message I can get behind.

Go see Captain Fantastic.  It has heart and it’s funny.

One Last Thought:

As of now, Viggo doesn’t have any other films lined up, and that’s a damn shame.  Here’s hoping he doesn’t stay off the big screen for too long.

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Movie Breakdown: Star Trek Beyond

July 21, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Let’s face it, just about everything in regards to the marketing for Star Trek Beyond has been decidedly weird.  It’s like the studio wasn’t really sure who to sell the movie to – Trekkies or normies – so they just mashed the two marketing campaigns together and went to work.  Perhaps this approach stems from it being directed by action-junkie Justin Lin and written by super nerd Simon Pegg?  Either way, I hope it’s a success.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Star Trek Beyond is a fun film.  There’s a lot of neat visuals, good laughs, big action and everything else that one might expect from a summer blockbuster.  I guess the real question is whether or not that’s what you want from a Star Trek film.  If it is, then you’re going to like it.  I certainly enjoyed its various quips and explosions, and I walked out of the theater feeling good about what I had seen throughout its brisk two hour run-time.  However, those of you hoping for the series to go all-in on deep space exploration or to grow its main characters, I think you’re going to scoff at Star Trek Beyond.

As you may remember, Into Darkness ended with the Enterprise setting off on a five-year journey into deep space.  Beyond picks up about midway through this excursion, but the crew’s mission just so happens to be next to a newly built space station-world-thingy, so at no point does it seem as though they’re really on their own or doing any measure of exploring.  On the character front, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov are all around, but mostly just as familiar-face fodder, while Bones and Scotty are given a good chunk of screen time in order to give the film heart and humor.  None of them evolve in any way, though.  As for Kirk and Spock, both are given seemingly important subplots (hint: neither really want to be in Star Fleet anymore), but aside from the introduction and conclusion of their separate plans, nothing is ever discussed or even revealed.  It’s so useless!  And what’s even weirder is that I’d say these parts should have just been cut, but the amount of screen time they take up is so inconsequential that it doesn’t matter.

If you want sci-fi fun, go see Star Trek Beyond.  If you want sci-fi headiness and character development, don’t go see Star Trek Beyond.

One Last Thought:

This probably goes without saying, but this series just won’t be the same without Anton Yelchin’s Chekov.  He played the character in such an animated, inspired way.

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Movie Breakdown: Lights Out

July 20, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

James Wan has reached a point where if his name is attached to a horror film, then it’s probably worth checking out.  With that being said, even if I didn’t know he produced Lights Out, I’d still be excited to see the film since the trailers for it have been rock solid in a “should I watch this if I enjoy sleeping” kind of way.

Post-Screening Ramble:

If you just want to have a good time, then I think you’re going to dig Lights Out.  Like The Babadook, The Conjuring, It Follows and other recent horror hits, it features a slew of suspenseful scenes with well done jump scares occasionally peppered in just to make sure you steadily feel on edge.  From there, to be honest, it’s hard for me to say much else about the film.  It has a super brief hour and 21 minute run-time, and its story, which is essentially about a family desperately trying to figure out how to deal with an unwanted guest from their past, isn’t particularly layered or drawn out.  The movie starts, a rather bad thing happens, some relevant info gets uncovered, scary things happen, and then before you know it the film is in its final act and barreling towards a conclusion.  That’s it.  So, as I noted up above, if you just want to watch something that will be fun and perhaps give you the willies, then go see Lights Out.  You can even leave your brain at home!  On the flip side of that, if you’re looking for some kind of game changing, in-depth monster flick, then you may want to seek a different film out.

One Last Thought:

Lights Out reminded me just how much I like and appreciate Maria Bello.  I should revisit some of her older films, especially History Of Violence and Thank You For Smoking.

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Movie Breakdown: Ghostbusters (2016) (Noah)

July 15, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Amidst all the sweaty-man web-trolling, my only instinct – regardless of the absolutely subpar trailers – is to root for this film. Also, Paul Feig, when he’s on, is a comic genius. When he’s not, well, he makes The Heat.

Post-Screening Ramble:

For all the hype – negative or otherwise – that’s been lofted around about an all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I have to say I was expecting to either love or hate Paul Feig’s new film. Sadly, I walked out of the theater, thinking nothing more than, “Wow, that really wasn’t a very entertaining movie.” Which with a cast of women (gasp) this endowed with the ability to be funny, feels particularly egregious. And it’s not just the humor that falls flat, it’s the story and the ghost logic and everything else that in 2016 should be wrapped up in a neat little bow, yeah, all of that stuff just trips on the curb and bites it. The film starts with Professor Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig, who has still somehow not discovered how to maximize her abilities) finding out that her old friend Abby Yates has started selling their old book about the scientific proof behind the paranormal. Through a series of ham-fisted plot developments, Yates, Gilbert and Yates’ partner, the surprisingly unfunny Kate McKinnon, end up discovering a ghost, and then, discovering a ghost conspiracy. Somewhere along the way, Patty (Leslie Jones), an MTA officer/New York history buff, joins up and then wham-bam-thank-you-ladies, it’s Ghostbusters time. Other stuff happens and big, super-saturated ghosts walk around New York City, and Chris Hemsworth plays dumb and good-looking really well, and then a vortex opens and then, well, not to spoil anything, but the Ghostbusters save the day and the film ends. And, honestly, my viewing of the film was about as entertaining as that last sentence. The film feels soft, like a bunch of corporate suits sat in a room and gave Paul Feig exactly the percentage of funny, heart-warming, improvisational and crass he was allowed to add to the film to still make it potentially (because there’s a good chance this film bombs huuuuuge this weekend) tentpole franchise. And that’s the problem, this isn’t a movie made to make people laugh (though it tries hard, I’ll give it that), it’s a film made to usher people, softly back into the world of Ghostbusters so in two years or four years or every other year, they can pump out another half-baked comedic “meh” and a bunch of folks who don’t even want to step in the same arena as offensive, will crowd the theaters to see if Slimer makes a doo-doo joke. After everything, months and months of lady-bashing and high-octane nerd-assaults against this film, what it comes down to has nothing to do with which naughty bits are hanging between the legs of the stars or if it maintains the spirit of a film that was made back in 1984 – it just isn’t a very good movie, and that’s really all that matters.

One Last Thing:

For a movie that “pushes the boundaries” because it has four women as its stars, it really toes the line of caricature with Leslie Jones’ Patty character. All the other white women in the movie are scientists and Patty pulls tickets at the subway. Beyond that though (which is frankly, enough) Jones jokes are all built around this sort of “aw shucks, ghosts are crazy” humor that appears a little too frequently for modern sensibilities.

Another Last Thing:

The new Ghostbusters theme is awful. I’m not going to try to paint various shades of opinion here, it’s just terrible, perhaps the worst part of the entire film. Well, aside from the even more awful bro-screamo-metal band that plays for two and half minutes for no reason whatsoever.

And One Other Last Thing:

There’s a dance scene that the credits roll over that I’m glad did not end up in the finished cut of this film. That is all.

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Movie Breakdown: Hunt For The Wilderpeople

July 14, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’ve been so anxious to see Hunt For The Wilderpeople that I’m worried my expectations are far too high.  Fingers crossed that writer/director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Boy) and the venerable Sam Neil hit it out of the park.

Post-Screening Ramble:

On my press comment card for Hunt For The Wilderpeople, I simply wrote: “Did my heart just melt?  Yes.”  That’s because it had, in fact, just melted.  Even as I sit here now, a few days after my screening, I still get all mushy just thinking about the film.  It’s centered around Ricky (a perfectly cast Julian Dennison), a boy with a troubled past who is shipped out to the New Zealand “bush” for one more shot with a foster family before he gets planted in a juvenile prison.  There he meets the very standoffish Hec (a perfectly cast Sam Neil) and – due to a handful of unexpected hiccups – it’s not long before the two find themselves deep in the wilderness on an adventure that forever changes both of them.  As you’ve probably already guessed, the “changes” consist of coming of age while a mix of clever jokes and tragic things happen.  Be prepared for a full on dramedy, friends.

By the way, I had a hunch going in that it would be a Wes Anderson-esque affair, and it did turn out to be a film that feels rather influenced by the famed auteur.  I will say this though, I never felt as though writer/director Taika Waititi was deliberately trying to copy him.  It’s more the tone of the film that comes off as particularly familiar.  In the end though, you won’t really care, because you’ll be too busy having your pants charmed off of you.

Please go see Hunt For The Wilderpeople immediately.

One Last Thought:

I’m a bit perplexed as to what should be expected from Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.  I love the guy, but he’s an odd choice for that gig.  Here’s hoping he nails it and ends the reign of decidedly average Thor entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Movie Breakdown: Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates

July 6, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I like Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine and Audrey Plaza, but the poorly titled Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates just does not look all that funny to me.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates is essentially a half-reverse Wedding Crashers.  Two brothers (a charismatic Zac Efron and a semi-funny but mostly annoying Adam Devine) are instructed that they have to bring dates to their sister’s wedding.  Presumably, the dates will squash the two’s relentless hunt for a good time and that will keep the wedding from being a disaster.  Meanwhile, two total screw-ups of the female persuasion (an adorable Anna Kendrick and an immensely irritating Audrey Plaza) are on the hunt for a way to get out of town.  This, I believe, is called a perfect storm.  Inevitably, the four all end up together and they’re off to Hawaii, where silliness and self-realization occurs.

When I say it’s a half-reverse Wedding Crashers, what I mean is that instead of two goofballs infiltrating a formal event, it’s two goofballs using two other goofballs to get in on a destination wedding.  The same kind of plot points are still hit, but there isn’t a straight-laced character that drives change in anyone (i.e. Rachel McAdams’s effect on Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers).  The four main people are all screwed up in some way or another, and each of them uses the others’ immaturity as a way to grow up and change how they feel about themselves.  It’s kind of weird since it makes for a film where everyone bumbles about with no goal in mind until something just suddenly (and conveniently) dawns on them.  On the humor side of things, the film is mostly funny.  There’s a lot of screaming and clearly improvised lines that sometimes miss so hard it hurts, but overall I chuckled a solid amount.

To be honest, Audrey Plaza’s performance is so awful (her dirty girl/ghetto/internet/whatever accent is jarringly bad) that it makes me not want to recommend Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates.  However, I thought the rest of it was alright, and it’s worth a matinee after a couple of shower beers in the morning.

One Last Thought:

I had three screening last week.  The first two – Swiss Army Man and The BFG – featured a lot of farting, so I assumed there would be some form of flatulence in Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates.  Nope.  Instead I was shown that the real connection between all three films was actually Steven Spielberg.  To further clarify, SAM references Spielberg’s Jurassic Park quite a lot, The BFG is directed by Spielberg, and Mike And Dave also mentions Jurassic Park.  How weird is that?  Anyhow, that’s a glimpse into how my brain works.

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Movie Breakdown: The BFG

June 29, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’ve never read The BFG, but I like Roald Dahl’s other works .  Also, Steven Spielberg is a pretty talented fella.  Hard to imagine this won’t be something special.

Post-Screening Ramble:

If I were a child, I imagine I’d be raving about The BFG.  The film has a very warm, welcoming glow to it, there are plenty of silly, slapsticky bits, there’s goofy dialogue, and the story itself is oh-so-very sweet (girl accidentally sees giant, giant purposely takes girl, girl and giant eventually help each other achieve better lives).  As an adult though, I have mixed feelings about the film.  It’s certainly well made, and I will forever stand by my opinion that it’s great for kids, but I found it to be boring.  The film is a long two-hours and it’s short on spectacle and wonderment.  I kept waiting for Spielberg to dazzle me, but instead he peppered me with glimpses of things that ultimately never go anywhere.  It would have been great to see a flashback that detailed the history of the giants, or even one that provided more info on the film’s main tall guy, Runt (voiced admirably by Mark Rylance).  But no, aside from one sequence that takes place where Runt sometimes works, the movie just skims along, showing nothing of real substance while hoping that you buy in simply because it carries a good message.  That’s not enough for me.

Those of you looking to take your kids to something wholesome, go see The BFG.  Those of you looking for something special, go see another film.

One Last Thought:

Before the screening started my guest asked if there would be any Swiss Army Man-like farting in the The BFG.  I immediately laughed her off and proudly exclaimed that THE Steven Spielberg wouldn’t put any fart jokes in his fairy tale.  I was wrong.  There are two prominent fart segments in the film.  Oh bother.

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Movie Breakdown: Swiss Army Man

June 28, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

When it comes to Swiss Army Man, the only thing I really know about it is that it’s a movie with a lot of farting.  Does that mean it’s good?  Or does all the farting equate to something unwatchable?  I honestly have no idea.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Let’s just go ahead and get a couple of things out of the way.  Firstly, yes, the film features a lot of farting.  You know that fake movie in Tropic Thunder where Jack Black plays a bunch of characters who fart a lot?  Well, there’s probably more farting in Swiss Army Man.  Secondly, yes, the film is totally weird.  It’s about a troubled, lost man who discovers and befriends a dead dude, and then he uses the corpse as a multi-purpose tool in order to save himself.

Now, with all of that out of the way I can get on with telling you if it’s worth your time or not.  AND?  It is.  While Swiss Army Man is sure to weird out most who see it, the film is charming, funny and heartfelt.  Personally – and I realize this thought may be as equally bizarre as Swiss Army Man – I couldn’t help but find it to be a nice but super strange companion piece to Where The Wild Things Are.  Both feature people desperately trying to work things out, both feature an imagination-driven world (that may or may not be real), and both have an important message to deliver.  In Where The Wild Things Are the message is in regards to children and how they develop/process their emotions, and in Swiss Army Man it’s about finding love, friendship and acceptance.  You should check it out.

One Last Thought:

Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter career choices have been interesting (Horns, What If, Victor Frankenstein, Swiss Army Man).  I like that he genuinely seems to be taking on projects simply because he finds them fun and/or interesting.  It’s kind of like what Elijah Wood has done since he tossed that pesky ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

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Movie Breakdown: The Neon Demon

June 23, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Bronson is a great movie.  Drive is a great movie.  Only God Forgives is not at all a great movie.  I’d love to say I’m feeling like Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film will be this or that, but the weird trailers for it have left me unsure of what to expect.

Post-Screening Ramble:

The Neon Demon is a heady, visceral, grotesque, beautifully shot and totally weird movie that you’re either going to love or loathe.  It begins with an introduction to Jesse (a very earnest Elle Fanning), an underage girl who has made the jump from nowhere to LA in order to capitalize on the one thing that she feels like she has going for her in life – her beauty.  Right off the bat she meets Ruby (an endearing Jena Malone), a friendly make-up artist who offers her advice and help.  Only, Jessie doesn’t need any help.  She’s a real natural beauty, and everyone in town is immediately enamored with her even though she has no modeling experience.  What then follows is writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn’s thoughts on what makes someone beautiful and what people will do to either stay beautiful or become that way.  No punches are pulled.  Like I mentioned up above, it’s a film that’s all at once beautiful and disgusting, and you’re either going to be really into it or think that it’s not your cup of tea.  Personally, I loved The Neon Demon.  It’s immaculately shot, the music (and sound overall) is fantastic and Winding-Refn’s cynicism hit big with me.  I can, however, see how the film may be a real test of some folk’s patience.

Don’t see The Neon Demon because you’re hoping it’s another Drive, see it because you want something with weight here in the season of fluffy box office fare.

One Last Thought:

Whenever I see Elle Fanning in something, I always think about Dakota Fanning.  Whatever happened to her?  I’m guessing the last notable movie I saw her in was The Runaways, and that was released a chunk of years ago.

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Movie Breakdown: Finding Dory

June 16, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Finding Nemo is a fantastic film, a total classic with great characters and a wonderful story.  Can’t say I’ve ever wanted a sequel though, especially one that’s based around Dory.  I mean, she’s certainly a wonderful little fish, but that character is a gimmick, kind of like Mater in Cars, and we all know what happened when Pixar focused on him in Cars 2.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Finding Dory isn’t quite Finding Nemo, but that won’t keep you from loving it.  The sequel picks up a year after its predecessor, and everyone is all happy and feeling good about life until Dory randomly gets bonked and not only remembers that she has a family, but that she accidentally got separated from them long ago.  From there a whirlwind adventure, complete with adorable little Dory flashbacks, first film callbacks, great new characters (Ed O’Neil’s Hank, an octopus, is particularly awesome) and more – gets underway as Dory attempts to find her family.  It’s a nice film.  Not perfect.  But nice, charming and full of heart.  And to be honest, because it so so enjoyable, I won’t at all be surprised if some of you disagree with me and say it is perfect.  Personally, I believe the film has more bright-spots than anything, but it does occasionally drag and is probably 10-15 minutes too long.  I also think it suffers from some tonal issues due to the way director Andrew Stanton relentlessly tries to wring a different emotional response out of you with every single scene.  Still, some of you may not notice or even care about either of those things since the characters you love are back and have been handled with care.  C’est la vie, you know?  Now, head to theater with confidence knowing that Finding Dory isn’t Cars 2.

One Last Thought:

What’s funny and perhaps kind of odd is that my favorite character in Finding Dory isn’t technically a character at all.  You’ll know what I mean once you see the film.

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Movie Breakdown: Maggie’s Plan

June 7, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I haven’t seen any of writer/director Rebecca Miller’s other films, and Greta Gerwig has always been very hit or miss for me.  With that being said, Maggie’s Plan looks like the sort of light-hearted, borderline silly indie fare that I often dig.  Plus, I feel safe in assuming that a film featuring Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph and Julianne Moore will end up being worth my time.

Post-Screening Ramble:

In a lot of ways, Maggie’s Plan is exactly what I expected.  Maggie (Greta Gerwig as Greta Gerwig) is a sweet but unknowingly self-centered and naive woman who desperately wants to have a baby, but she doesn’t want to be in a relationship, as she’s never had one that’s worked.  So, she gets artificially inseminated and then goes about living a happy and fulfilled life?  Nope!  She meets a married man named John (Ethan Hawke as Ethan Hawke), falls in love and then starts a family in the exact way she wanted to avoid.  For a while things are fine, but then Maggie realizes that she’s no longer in love with her sweet but unknowingly self-centered and naive husband, so she launches a plan to trick him into returning to his handful of an ex-wife Georgette (a clearly inspired Julianne Moore), who he has never quite moved on from.  Yes, it’s as zany and goofy as it sounds, but here’s what surprised me about the film – there’s an overarching theme throughout it that aims to remind us all that while it may not look like it to me or you, some people are just supposed to be together.  Maggie and John aren’t unhappy, but they’re good friends at best because he and Georgette, despite their seemingly obtuse relationship, share a type of bond that can’t be explained.  It’s there, it’s real and it works in a way that makes each person better than they’d be on their own or with anyone else.  That’s just life, man.  Kudos to writer/director Rebecca Miller for packing a lunchbox full of truth roll-up in her charming little indie comedy.  See her film when you can.

One Last Thought:

In Maggie’s Plan there’s a cameo by Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, The Julie Ruin) where she covers Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, and I found it to be both somewhat jarring and kind of right.  Here’s the official version, if you want to check it out for yourself.

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Movie Breakdown: Louder Than Bombs (Noah)

June 6, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Everything I’ve seen/heard about Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier’s English-language debut seems to mark it as the type of purposefully joyless indie film often times frequented by one of its main actors, Mr. Jesse Eisenberg. Lucky, for me at least, I am fond of joyless films, regardless of the presence of Mr. Eisenberg.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Not to be too much of a pretentious fuck, but the closest thing I can compare Joachim Trier’s film, Louder Than Bombs, to is Joan Didion’s brutally, heart-wrenching memoir A Year of Magical Thinking. In that book, Didion lost both her husband and, spoiler alert, daughter in the same horrible year. In Louder Than Bombs, a trio of sensitive, intelligent male family members (Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, and Devin Druid) lose, in a physical sense, their mother – a famous war photographer. Grief is not a simple, linear emotional arc, as much as Hollywood tries to tell us that. And in both these texts, we are dropped into the middle of the grieving process, and instead of watching the bad stuff go away, and the good stuff get closer, it is more like experiencing a hazy cloud of memory and reflection. The audience in Trier’s film ostensibly follow a week or so in the lives of Jonah (Eisenberg), Gene (Gabriel Byrne), and Conrad (Devin Druid) – a family still speaking almost two years after their mother killed herself. This isn’t, I mean it is but it isn’t, just a weekend of healing, it’s a slow unveiling of the emotional state of each of its characters, all deeply scarred by both the death of their mother and the life that chose to live so far from them. And instead of us just watching them interact, we see their lives expand in ripples, sometimes touching, sometimes overlapping, but always rippling outwards from the grieving point. Gabriel Byrne is a joy to watch, a soft man who had lost his wife long before she died, now burdened with the all the parts of parenting he never wanted or asked for. All of the acting could be described as staid, with no one being asked to extend themselves too terribly far, but it’s a part of the picture, maybe even a part of the genre, Trier’s working with here. This is a deeply sad film, and each character (and thus actor) is so immersed in their own forms of melancholy, that even the slightest change in emotion can be identified as character progression. Trier is a very good director, but on occasion the film seems to broadcast its intent too much – this is a film about sadness, look how serious this film is – and though it never grows stiff or boring, at times it borders just on the farthest edge of manipulative. Regardless, Trier’s (and Didion’s) choice to float down from the memory cloud and spend some time here and there and everywhere in between makes for a film that gives the audience the chance to cycle backwards and forwards through the memories and emotions of the people on screen.

One Last Thought:

Jesse Eisenberg is handily the most awkward man alive. I’m always wondering if he’s going to snap and kill someone on screen or just sadly shuffle into a corner and break into tears.

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Movie Breakdown: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

June 2, 2016

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Pre-Screening Stance:

My level of enthusiasm for The Lonely Island steadily rests somewhere around a five on a scale that runs from 1-10, so it’s kind of hard for me to not shrug my shoulders when it comes to Popstar.  With that being said, I have found the trailers to be pretty solid.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I’ve seen a few people compare Popstar to Spinal Tap, and while I wouldn’t quite go that far (at least in terms of quality), I get the comparison.  The film is done in the same mockumentary style, and it certainly aims to peg artists/musicians/stars.  Popstar, however, is really frenetic and it features a lot more slapstick silliness.  In between its moments of noise though, you’ll find that the film takes dumb lyrics, bloated tours, bizarre personalities, TMI social media practices, and it eviscerates all of it with the hope that the world might watch the film and then take a moment to sincerely side-eye its musical idols.  It won’t happen, but it’s a nice thought, and I appreciate that The Lonely Island fellas (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) have at least floated such an grand opportunity via Popstar.

So should you see it?  Honestly, if you love The Lonely Island or you simply found the trailers to be amusing, then you already know exactly what you’re in for, and you’ll be happy with the results.  If you’re on the fence or you’re hoping for something super clever, I would advise that you dodge it.  Again, its mocking of today’s pop stars is on point, but it’s definitely a big ball of ADD goofiness.

One Last Thought:

In the film there’s a direct stab at Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ terrible (and in my opinion, wildly offensive) track Same Love, and it’s so perfect and hilarious that I almost cried tears of joy.  Those two are hacks and I sincerely hope that their pandering pile of shit song continues to be mocked.

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