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Movie Breakdown: Annihilation (Noah)

February 22, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I absolutely adore Alex Garland in general. Ex Machina is one of the great sci-fi flicks of the last twenty years and everything he’s added his writerly touch to has been immensely watchable. Hell, his book The Tesseract is fantastic as well. Couple Garland with science-fiction stalwart Jeff Vandermeer’s ultra strange Annihilation novel and I can only imagine this is going to be one for the ages.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I, quite honestly, have no idea what to say about Alex Garland’s science-fiction opus Annihilation. I’m a huge fan of Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (on which Garland’s film is loosely based) and I wondered when they announced a film how anyone would bring the book’s abstract prose and strange narrative arc to the screen. Garland, an abstract creator himself, is a perfect choice for the film, as he tweaks and flattens the book into less a direct adaptation and more a complimentary line running parallel to the original content. Natalie Portman plays Lena, a professor in cellular biology who embarks on the most recent of exploratory missions into The Shimmer – a strange landscape slowly taking over the southern coast – to try and discover what happened to her husband. The majority of the film happens inside of this area – and Garland’s take on the vibrant, mysterious, overgrown setting is eerily beautiful – as Lena and a small team of women (Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny) slowly unfold the strange happenings at the center of the region. This is a film about what we are at our very core – emotionally, cellularly – and how we are affected and changed by our surroundings and our companions. And though it lives in a distinctly sci-fi world, Garland doesn’t hesitate from exploring the more horrific aspects of The Shimmer. The weight of their exploration pushes down on each member of the expedition in various ways and all of them slowly unravel, their surroundings literally changing their mind and bodily make-up. There’s a scene with what I can only describe as a skull-bear that will never leave me – the terrifying creature howling in the voice of a dying woman, browned teeth gnashing in the darkness. Annihilation isn’t going to be for everyone. Garland isn’t trying to make an easy film here and as the members of the expedition venture further and further into The Shimmer, the film gets weirder and weirder, every odd aspect brought to beautiful fruition by cinematographer Rob Hardy, and the character’s connection to reality gets looser and looser. There’s a panicked, disorientation to the film that Garland nails, every step forward a step further away from what we can easily understand. It is, as Garland’s second film, an enormous move forward in terms of concept and challenge, a big, bleak, bizarre effort that never tries to coddle the audience. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who it is, it’s going to blow their minds.

One Last Thought:

The other scene that is now burned into my brain is the tentacle intestine scene. You’ll know it when you see it.

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Movie Breakdown: Annihilation

February 22, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Alex Garland (Ex Machina) in the director’s chair is enough to get me interested in any movie, but my anticipation for Annihilation has been peaked by Paramount deeming it “too intellectual” and “too complicated.”  Just exactly what did Garland create here?  I need to see it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Like Contact, Arrival and various other heady sci-fi films, Annihilation is as ambitious as it is divisive.  You may truly adore this strange movie and want to defend it for all days, or you may loathe it and wonder why in the hell anyone would want to bother with it.  Speaking just for myself, I found it to be great.  The film begins with an introduction to Lena (Natalie Portman), a former soldier, current biologist who is having a very tough time getting over the death of her husband.  Then, because this movie likes its curve balls, her hubby Kane (Oscar Issac) strolls in the front door like all is well  Only, everything is wrong with him, and it isn’t long before Lena finds out that he’s been away on a mission in what’s known as The Shimmer, a possibly alien, definite death trap of an area that’s ever-expanding.  In an effort to get some answers for herself and to help Kane, Lena joins the latest expedition into The Shimmer.

If you’re thinking that all of this sounds exciting and interesting, you’re right!  Once the all-female crew enters The Shimmer, director Alex Garland uses crazy creatures, intriguing revelations and a constantly evolving group dynamic to steadily ratchet up the intensity level, and the result is quite a few moments worthy of a good arm chair grip.  Here though is where some will fall in love and where others will scoff, the last chunk of the film is very weird.  I won’t spoil it (because that would be dumb), but I will note that it completely shifts gears and what happens is something that you’ll either find immensely thought provoking or rather anti-climactic.  Good luck!

Challenge yourself this weekend and go see Annihilation.

One Last Thought:

I’ve never been one to go for the sort of coffee table clutter that details ships, characters and whatnot from movies, but I’d totally buy a book that shows me more of the mutated creatures and plants from Annihilation.  The designs all throughout the film are fascinating.

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Movie Breakdown: Game Night

February 22, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Is anyone actually excited about Game Night?  I mean, I dig Jason Bateman, but his comedy film track record isn’t particularly good.  Maybe Rachel McAdams or Kyle Chandler will make this one a winner?  I don’t know.  Either way, can’t say my expectations are high here.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Game Night isn’t quite a success, but it’s not terrible either.  Co-directed by John Francis Daley (he once starred in Freaks And Geeks) and Jonathan Goldstein (he wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming), the film is a surprisingly well crafted, fairly funny affair with adequate action and a swift pace.  Of all those things, I think it’s the succinct storytelling that deserves the most praise, as it makes the film actually feel shorter than its 100 minute runtime.  How rare!  Personally, I think too many comedies these days let bad jokes stretch on for too long, so it’s nice that Daley and Goldstein keep Game Night nice and tight.  Unfortunately though, a movie’s most redeeming quality can’t be that it doesn’t take forever to end, there has to be more, and there just isn’t a whole lot here.  I loved Jesse Plemons’ weirdo cop Gary, but everyone else is pretty forgettable.  The story serves up a nice couple of twists, but in general it’s riddled with so many overly convenient plot points that nothing anyone does seems to actually matter.  Also, while there are some really clever jokes, there are too many low brow layups.  Talk about hit or miss.

If you’re in the mood for something mindless and moderately entertaining, then Game Night is worth checking out this weekend.

One Last Thought:

Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein employ tilt shift a lot through the movie, and since it makes everything look miniature and toy-like, it really drives home the film’s game theme.  Kudos to them for this bit of cleverness

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Movie Breakdown: Black Panther (Noah)

February 15, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I mean how can anyone who likes anything not be excited about the fact that the man who directed Creed is lording over the debut film of a big time African-American superhero? And that every tiny bit of material that we’ve seen is both inspired, beautiful and potentially amazing? Yeah, I’d say my stance is bring it the fuck on.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is, strangely, not a great superhero movie. The standalone film about the new Wakandan king, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman, impressive as always) trying to keep the tradition of his homeland while fighting off outside forces feels clunky in the more outlandish aspects. Coogler, like so many skilled directors before him, isn’t made for big budget super heroics and the action and plotting that drives the narrative never feels comfortable. The action in general is pretty weak for one of these big Marvel hoo-has, as if Coogler couldn’t get the gritty fist-fighting of Creed to sync up with the spinning cameras and exploding nano-tech of this much more fantastical world. But, come on, this is Black Panther – the first Marvel film directed and written by an African American, the first Marvel film to feature an almost entirely black cast – the superhero stuff was never going to be the point. Coogler’s too smart of a director for it to be so. And the rest of the film, the thick chunks of character interaction and development and the subtext that bubbles just below the surface – that’s amazing. As a film, a real film outside of the spinning tops of Marvel Studios, it’s a slam dunk. This is a film about African tradition and what it means to go against those traditions. It’s a film about growing up without a father. It’s a film about family and community and how important those are. It’s a film about what being black – African, African-American, whatever – in the world is like. It is a film rooted in the culture of Africa and Coogler doesn’t go a damn second without throwing some beautiful spin on African textiles or style or design on to the screen. It’s bright and colorful and somber and dark at times. The bass-heavy thumps of Kendrick Lamar bounce in the background and it just drives the film forward. There isn’t a weak character in the film – outside of say Martin Freeman’s token white guy Everett K. Ross – and Coogler makes sure that no one is bereft of a character defining moment (Daniel Kaluuya’s war rhino scene is one for the books). It’s when the film is forced, by the strictures of Marvel Studios to be a film in that universe (because, duh, it is) that it softens, loses some of the edge Coogler brings to every second it isn’t discussing vibranium asteroids and power suits. Coogler has made a fantastic movie, it’s just been glued to one that doesn’t work as well.

One Last Thought:

If I had a stab at this film, I’d cut every swelling violin shoved into the big moments and replace them with anything Kendrick Lamar did for the soundtrack. The composed score is treacly and maudlin and takes away from the film’s greater identity.

One More Last Thought:

This is a huge tentpole, big-budget, money-raking film and for the first twenty minutes there isn’t a white face to be seen. It’s amazing.

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Movie Breakdown: Black Panther

February 15, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Black Panther has legit cultural significance and it’s the final Marvel film before Infinity War.  Do you really need another reason to be excited about it?  I don’t.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Black Panther is another hit for Marvel.  It’s culturally rich, which makes it not just feel like another superhero movie, and it’s generally more of standalone effort than a setup for the next MCU flick (something a lot of Marvel movies struggle with).  Also, I think that it features a couple of all-heart performances from Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan.  The great stuff here is legit great, but the film definitely has a variety of issues that aren’t possible to overlook.  Ryan Coogler, who is a director I greatly enjoy, just doesn’t quite roll out his best work here.  I don’t know if the glitz of such a big budget film threw him for a loop, or if the forced tie-in to a bigger universe is what tripped him up, but there are a lot of bizarre things at play.  The film has a fantastic, Kendrick Lamar-crafted soundtrack, but it’s not really utilized at all.  The fight scenes are borderline terrible, as they’re largely shot from the ground up and are difficult to follow.  The third act is slow and predictable, and I found myself frequently shuffling in my seat as the film’s two hour and 15 minute runtime started to started to stretch on and on.  Do any of these things take away from the overall film?  I don’t necessarily think so – it’s still a good time.  However, I have a hard time considering Black Panther to be a full-on home run.  Instead I think it’s a nice debut film for a relevant and important character.  Better things are yet to come?  Probably.

Go see Black Panther, just keep those expectations in check.

One Last Thought:

Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis serve no purpose in Black Panther other than to awkwardly tie it to the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Surely there was a better way to pull this off?

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Movie Breakdown: Maze Runner – The Death Cure

January 25, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Will Maze Runner – The Death Cure be the walk-off home run that the series so desperately needs in order to make the YA film hall of fame?  Probably not, but I’ve seen weirder things happen.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Maze Runner – The Death Cure is long, boring and dumb.  I can’t say I was expecting much from it, especially after the uninspired Scorch Trials, but I thought that maybe series director Wes Ball would go all out for the finale just for the hell of it.  Well, he sort of did – this movie feels like the biggest of the three – but it’s a completely forgettable effort simply because there’s nothing in it worth caring about.  Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his super friends are barreling towards the end goal of freedom and no overseers, which seems like it should be important, but it gets glossed over by their strong desire to find the captured Minho (Ki Hong Lee).  This mostly just gets a bunch of nameless young-ins killed  Isn’t the goal to save everyone?  It’s so stupid!  Also, it’s really tedious.  The damn movie should have been called Maze Runner – Where’s Minho?.  There’s bunch of other stupid things at play here as well – like a super-secret-may-not-even-be-real city that has an enormous amount of refugees living outside of it, everyone’s perfectly stylized hair, and a “this is why you’re special” ending that’s super anticlimactic – but there’s no real need to dive into any of that.  Just skip this one and go live your life.

One Last Thought:

This is a completely spoiler-filled last thought, so if this movie is important to you DO NOT read any further.  OK.  Here I go.  Towards the end of the film Thomas gets shot and barely makes it out of a burning building.  As he’s being dramatically saved, he passes out and then wakes up on an island with all of his friends and a bunch of young refugees.  His unconsciousness, I assume, only lasted a day or so, but when he rises, the new (and only previously dreamed of) colony is fully built.  There’s huge tents and established traditions and shit.  How long was Thomas asleep?!  Years?  Why did he not seem at all fazed by a fully realized village that was built while he was napping?  I found this to be more unbelievable than a villain group called WICKED.

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Movie Breakdown: The Commuter (Noah)

January 11, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

It’s my first film of the year and though I know it’s another over-plotted, run-of-the-mill action flick by Jaume Collet-Serra and his elderly star, Liam Neeson, my optimism is high.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Jaume Collet-Serra has somehow carved a niche into the world of action-filmmaking based solely on the strange formula of his pictures. The Commuter does not alter this trend. Liam Neeson, who has now become an actor who should be credited “As Himself,” stars as a former-cop turned insurance agent who – after getting canned from his job – is offered $100,000 to find and kill someone on his daily commuter train. It’s basically Speed meets Under Siege 2 meets Unstoppable. And though this “dream” combo does sound entertaining in the dumbest of ways, Collet-Serra doesn’t add anything new. Instead we watch an old Liam Neeson (he talks about being 60 somewhere between five to ten times in the picture) sweatily running around on a train getting increasingly sinister phone calls from Vera Famiglia while interacting with a bunch of generally lacking side characters as he tries to find a person named “Prin.” And just when you think you’ve seen enough of Neeson rolling around under trains, barking commands at people and somehow (at his self-professed advanced aged) fighting off knife-wielding opponents, the film takes a sharp turn and becomes an exposition heavy, police negotiation flick. It fits into the madcap, off-kilter world of Collet-Serra’s oeuvre – action and sweaty Liam first, sensible plot last – but is it good? No.

One Last Thought:

I’ve never seen a movie with great actors squandered so mercilessly. Patrick Wilson is a blip in this film, same with Vera Famiglia, and worst of all Sam Neill, after his absolutely brilliant performance in Hunt for The Wilderpeople is relegated to the timeless sideline of “gruff older cop.” Phew, this turd of a flick must’ve cost more then a few shiny doubloons.

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Movie Breakdown: The Post

January 11, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

As much as I like Steven Spielberg when he’s in full on spectacle-mode, I really love his historical dramas.  If we’re lucky, The Post will be another Bridge Of Spies or Munich.  If he swings and misses here, at least we’ll get to see Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks on the big screen together.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s two sides to The Post.  One is Steven Spielberg succinctly detailing what happened when the Washington Post risked everything to expose the Pentagon Papers, a secret government report that essentially pegged the Vietnam War as unwinnable.  This is, of course, fantastic stuff.  I couldn’t get enough of both Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, a man hell bent on doing what’s right regardless of the consequences, and Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian, a relentless scoop-hound.  They’re such great characters, and watching them develop such a massive, dangerous and important story makes for good fun.  The other side of this movie is centered around Meryl Streep’s Kay Graham, the inspirational owner of the Washington Post during the whole Pentagon Papers fiasco.  She starts out as an unwillingly decision-maker when it comes to things at the newspaper, but as the film goes on you watch her take charge of her life and her company, and it’s as equally fantastic as the more suspenseful side of the The Post.  I think it might actually be some of Streep’s best work, which somehow feels silly to note.  In any case, this is the sort of historical drama that will make you want to cheer.  Go see The Post.

One Last Thought:

David Cross plays Howard Simons in this movie, and he’s barely recognizable as the former employee of the Washington Post.  He also doesn’t have very many lines and in general he doesn’t do much of anything.  Maybe he had some scenes that got cut?  Otherwise I can’t figure out why he signed up for this one.

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Movie Breakdown: Call Me By Your Name

December 22, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I haven’t seen anything but enormous praise for Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name.  Here’s hoping it really is one of the year’s best films.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Is it weird to want to note that if you like Brokeback Mountain or Moonlight then you’ll love Call Me By Your Name?  I suppose that it’s no different than saying you’ll like Rocky if you love Raging Bull, but it sure does feel a little odd, like it somehow generalizes Call Me By Your Name.  Maybe I’m just overthinking things here?  In any case, director Luca Guadagnino’s latest film is beautiful.  I’m not sure it’s for everyone, as it is a fairly pretentious effort with a solid runtime (2 hours, 12 minutes), but those that can look past some of its more highfalutin moments will find an impactful movie that details a young man’s first love.  Personally, I found Call Me By Your Name to be fantastic.  Its slow, relaxed pace made me feel like I was actually spending a summer in Italy with the film’s leads, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Arnie Hammer).  Not to mention that there being no rush to shove the story forward allows for more than enough time to take in every moment and to fully attach to the characters.  I also have to applaud the way that the patient, warm film provides little meandering moments that make you feel nostalgic about your own first love.  What great work by Guadagnino.

I highly recommend that you go and get lost in Call Me By Your Name.

One Last Thought:

Between Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, Timothée Chalamet has had one hell of a year.  I’m guessing he’ll start popping up in everything now.  I approve of this.  On another note, it caught me off guard that he also played Matthew McConaughey’s rough and tumble teenage son Tom in Interstellar.

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Movie Breakdown: All The Money In The World

December 21, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I no longer know what to expect from Ridley Scott.  It’s either forgettable stuff like Exodus and Alien: Covenant, or something award-worthy like The MartianAll The Money In The World worries me a bit because it seemed to have zero buzz before Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey.

Post-Screening Ramble:

In case you don’t know, All The Money In The World is based on the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and the efforts that his mother, Gail Harris, went through to get his billionaire grandfather, Jean Paul Getty, to pay the ransom.  It’s a hell of a story, mainly due to Gail’s refusal to give up hope and JPG’s unwillingness to cough up any measure of cash to save his favorite grandson, and director Ridley Scott does a great job of diving into its details while also managing to keep you on the edge of your seat.  There are a couple of oddball things, like Michelle Williams uneven Gail and Mark Wahlberg’s surprisingly muted Getty-lackey Fletcher Chase, but Christopher Plummer as JPG and Romain Duris as the kidnapper Cinquanta are both stellar.  Also, as I alluded to up above, the film is just an all-out entertaining ride.  It’s certainly dialogue heavy, but it’s snappy stuff that steadily keeps the story moving forward.  Also, what happened to that teenage boy is simply fascinating.  Expect to want to hit Wikipedia for more info before the credits have scrolled off of the screen.

Go see All The Money In The World.  It’s one of the better movies that Ridley Scott has put out recently.

One Last Thought:

I think that All The Money In The World shouldn’t be seen solely because Christopher Plummer stepped in for Kevin Spacey at the last possible minute, but he really is the best part of the film and one of the main reasons to watch it.  Go figure.

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Movie Breakdown: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

December 19, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Despite having a cast I generally like, I scoffed when Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle was announced.  No one wants that!  Then I saw the first trailer and actually found myself chuckling.  Maybe I want that!

Post-Screening Ramble:

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is slow to start, but once it finds its footing, it becomes one of the more fun films of 2017.  Its story is pretty simple – the board game from the original movie transforms itself into a video game, and then four kids get sucked into it.  Once inside they realize that everything is setup like an actual video game – there are levels, they have limited lives, each of their avatars have certain strengths and weaknesses – and then they get on with figuring out how to complete it so that they can go home.  The film itself then harkens back to 1995′s Jumanji while tossing in a healthy bit of The Wizard Of Oz.  In the game Spencer is a hulk of a man (Dwayne Johnson) and Martha is a badass (Karen Gillan), but in real life they’re both people who are rather unsure of themselves.  Bethany’s avatar is a portly cartographer (Jack Black), but she’s actually the quintessential pretty girl who could really use a dose of humility.  Fridge is a selfish, big time football player, but in Jumanji he’s a small guy (Kevin Hart) and he has to humble himself so that he can properly support everyone else.  Obviously, it’s all a bit basic, but not only does this approach allow each character to grow, it also sets up a whole slew of funny scenarios.  I laughed a lot.  I also cheered quite a bit, too, because while the movie may be an overtly silly affair (complete with chunks of low brow humor and questionable CG), it has a lot of heart.  Oddly enough, that’s how I think of the original film as well.

I was honestly surprised at how much I ended up digging Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.  You should go check it out.  By the way, even though the movie has some cursing and a handful of violent deaths, I’d still take the kids.

One Last Thought:

You know, I’d totally watch a whole movie that’s just Jack Black portraying a teenage girl.  The man is really good at it.  Who knew!?

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Movie Breakdown: The Shape Of Water

December 8, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’ve been anxiously awaiting Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water ever since that first teaser rolled out way back when.  It looks like it has somewhat of a Pan’s Labyrinth vibe, and I’m all about that.

Post-Screening Ramble:

For me, The Shape Of Water ranks just under Pan’s Labyrinth when it comes to Guillermo del Toro films.  It’s centered around Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who works as a janitor in a research facility.  She lives a somewhat stilted life, but her besties – one is her sassy co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and the other is her gay neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) – and her daily routine keep her going.  And that’s it!  Just kidding.  Eventually Elisa’s quiet existence gets blown away by the arrival of an amphibian man at the lab.  There’s also the presence of the creature’s capturer, Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), that throws her for a loop.  Weird but beautiful things then happen.  Actually, beautifully weird is probably the best way to describe this fairy tale for adults (it frequently earns its R-rating).  There are so many lovely things in the movie.  I couldn’t get enough of Elisa’s endearing interactions with her friends, and I really enjoyed how loyal she is to them and vice versa.  The film itself also just has an underlying sweetness to it that’s difficult to not get caught up in.  Then on the other hand it has some stuff that’ll make your brain go “UH UH.”  Again, it’s beautifully weird.  Do yourself a favor and see it as soon as you can.

One Last Thought:

The Amphibian Man from The Shape Of Water.  The Faun and The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth.  Abe Sapien from Hellboy and Hellboy II.  The Silver Surfer from the movie that doesn’t deserve a name mention.  Doug Jones deserves a lifetime achievement award.  Someone make that happen.

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Movie Breakdown: Coco

November 20, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I hadn’t even heard of Coco until I saw a commercial for it during a football game two or three weeks ago.  That’s super odd to me, especially since it’s a Pixar film.  Is this thing getting buried?  Or is it one of those films that zigged when I zagged and therefore I just know nothing about it?  I hope it’s the latter.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Coco starts slow.  So slow in fact that for the first chunk of it I kept having to repeat “I believe in Pixar” to myself so that I wouldn’t just go ahead and write the film off as pandering trash.  It’s that bad.  The narration is grating, the characters aren’t particularly likeable, and I could not at all figure out where co-directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina were trying to take the film.

Well, as it turns out, their destination was the Land of the Dead, and once Coco’s lead character, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), finds himself there, the film becomes a delightfully different adventure that’s complete with bright colors, inspired designs and lots of Mexican culture (the songs are particularly great).  This shift honestly bowled me over, and by the end of the movie I was right on the verge of crying my whole soul out.  I don’t often get caught up in championing a film because it prominently features a woman, a minority or whatever, as I think it just somehow lessens the act while also occasionally making bad movies seem like good ones, but Coco legit feels like a culturally significant effort.  Maybe it’s the threat of Trump’s racist wall, or perhaps it’s because I’m half-Mexican, but I walked out wanting to convince everyone to see it.  Hopefully you will.

One Last Thought:

I think I’m going to learn Un Poco Loco and then make it my default karaoke song.  It’s so damn good.  You’ll see once you watch the movie and then can’t get the song out of your head.

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Movie Breakdown: Justice League (Noah)

November 15, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

It’s hard for me to think anything but horribly negative thoughts about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, as it is absolutely one of the biggest failures of a film, big-budget of otherwise, that I’ve ever seen. Zack Snyder and DC Comics could barely handle Superman and Batman on the big screen together, so I’m setting my expectations terribly, terribly low and hoping that I won’t lose any friendships over this one.

Post-Screening Ramble:

It’s an amazing sight to see a film company course-correct in real time. To use a gazillion dollar film as a public response to the allegations of “grim-dark” tone and bad characterization is a fascinating thing. And there is no doubt that Justice League, with it’s hand-off between Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon and it’s extensive re-shoots, is just this. DC knew it messed up, knew that its last few films leaned too heavily on early-80s darkness and tinkered with a film that would’ve followed suit to make it a beacon of the shining light of not-dark they’re hoping to be. To do so, Snyder/Whedon bring Batman (old and broken Ben Affleck) together with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot showing she’s the real deal again) to bring together a league of fresh-faced superheroes to do battle with a horned guy who wants to blow up the world for his mommy. It is, frankly, a rehash of every superhero movie up to this point and if you’re looking for narrative originality, you should steer your ship in a different direction. This isn’t a movie that purports to be anything but a classic get-the-team-together-to-fight-a-big-bad-guy, and that isn’t an entirely poor decision as Whedon uses the simplistic narrative box to build up the characters that will inhabit the DC Universe going forward. And hey, it works. The team of heroes that Batman and Wonder Woman bring together are energetic and interesting, funny and bad-ass, each gifted an original voice and the character actions to go along with them. Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen (i.e. Flash) is the stand-out, a nervous, awkward kid gifted with the ability to run super super fast, but lacking in the confidence to do so. Jason Momoa is a pleasant surprise, his late-film confession to the rest of his super-pals a strong moment of emotion in a film geared towards comedic levity. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) suffers from the enormous amount of CGI needed to bring the character to life, but Fisher manages to instill the living video game with some amount of emotional resonance. The CGI in the film is a problem. Scenes of Wonder Woman’s homeland look pulled from a 90s Myst knock-off and it isn’t a singular offense. It’s surprising, shocking even, that a movie that cost this much in an era dominated by computer graphics could look this bad. In the end though, for someone who whinged and whinged and whinged about how bad this film was going to be, it’s okay. It doesn’t do anything new, but it takes the DC Comic palate – dark and somber – and injects life into it in a way that refreshes the whole line, a way that strips away the darkness in a believable sense and sets the table for a new wave of films more in line with Wonder Woman than anything else.

One Last Thought:

DC and Marvel need to figure out their bad guys. This is the nth film from DC that features a bad guy who’s trying to blow up the entire world and goddammit, I’m sick of it. DC is full of great villains – Lex and Joker and Reverse Flash and a whole hell of a lot more street level baddies – and they don’t have to be seeking to blow up the Earth all the time. Just put some people in Gotham who are looking to kill Batman, or kill Flash or kill Wonder Woman and have them square off in an interesting way. Stop it with the gods looking to destroy everything, it’s boring and the entire movie watching world is getting exhausted by it.

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Movie Breakdown: Justice League

November 15, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

For a while now I’ve been trying to get myself excited for Justice League, but I just haven’t been able to get over the “yeah whatever” hump.  With that being said, I’ve yet to see anything about this film that makes me think it’s going to be a stinker.

Post-Screening Ramble:

It’s fine.  That’s my review of Justice League in a nutshell.  The film has plenty of things that work well – Gal Gadot’s attention-commanding Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller’s bumbly but charming Flash, Jason Momoa’s bro-y but entertaining Aquaman, a fairly lean plot (this is good since the run time is under two hours), actual chemistry between characters.  It also has a lot that’s not so great – an utterly boring baddie in Steppenwolf, video game-level CG, an awkwardly designed Cyborg. occasionally clunky dialogue, a lazy magic box MacGuffin.  I actually think that if you were to map it all out, you’d find that for everything the film gets right, it gets something else wrong.  That’s why, without a doubt, Justice League is the most average big budget affair that I’ve seen in 2017.  So, if you’ve been looking forward to it, you’ll probably be disappointed, as it just doesn’t do enough to be tagged as a home run.  If you haven’t been dying to see it, you’ll probably think it’s pretty good, as it doesn’t do anything bad enough to be called a failure.  Talk about an average affair.

Honestly, I have no idea if the DCEU is finally heading in the right direction or if they’ve taken another misstep with what they’re rolling into theaters this weekend.  All I can do is note that it’s fine.

One Last Thought:

Batman sure does seem rather under-powered in Justice League.  The guy is coming off a fight where he bested Superman AND he’s assembled a world-saving team, and yet he always seems in the way or like he might just get squashed like a bug.  It’s weird.

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