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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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Movie Breakdown: Last Flag Flying

November 15, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’m only going to see Last Flag Flying because it’s directed by Richard Linklater.  I mean, I like the cast, but old guy road trip movies are rarely ever good.  Also, could they have made a more boring trailer for this movie?  I doubt it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Last Flag Flying is a lot more than just a road trip movie.  It begins with Larry “Doc” Shepherd (a melancholic Steve Carell) recruiting two of his old service buddies from Vietnam – Sal Nealon (a coarse, motor-mouthed Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (a very settled Laurence Fishbourne) – to help him bury his son, a Marine killed in the Iraq War.  Obviously, the end goal here for this trio of friends features a rather difficult task, and there are plenty of moments in the movie that will tug at your heart strings, but in general, Last Flag Flying is a very sharp-witted comedy that covers life (especially the growing old part) in a grounded, real way.  I related to every character in every single one of their situations in this film, and I’m not near as old as them, nor am I a veteran.  That’s how well written and dialed in it is at every turn.  In the way that Richard Linklater’s Boyhood vividly reminded me of my childhood, his Last Flag Flying is an instant reality check for me at 34.

If you have a free afternoon sometime soon, I recommend that you take a chunk of it and spend it with this film.  It’s a good one.  In fact, it’s just good enough to make me forgive Linklater for the giant disappointment that was his last movie, Everybody Wants Some.

One Last Thought:

Nice Bryan Cranston characters are … well, nice.  I think he’s at his best though when he’s playing someone like Sal, who has been bent out of shape by the world.

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Movie Breakdown: Lady Bird (Noah)

November 10, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical film. Greta Gerwig also co-wrote and starred in Frances Ha. This seems to be a winning combination.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Lady Bird could be Frances Ha: The Prequel, and I mean that in the best way. The film centers on the self-named Lady Bird (played by Saoirse Ronan in a role that could, maybe should, net her a gold statute in February), a high school senior figuring her life out under the iron-fisted rule of her big-hearted but mean mother. This is a charming film. A film about discovering the joys of adulthood, of leaving home, of pushing back on everything we’ve come from. Gerwig writes Lady Bird as the sort of blissfully ignorant, wildly willful personality laid claim to by high school seniors, a harsh yet lovable ball of emotional turpitude that ping pongs from friend group to friend group, hormonally pushed argument to hormonally pushed argument. The relationship at the center of the film – between Lady Bird and her mom is a beautifully realistic one. Laurie Metcalf’s Marion echoes Lady Bird’s conflicted interiors – a woman who loves her child so much but is so scared of losing her that she can’t show it – and when the two are on screen together, their acid-tongued interactions make up the best scenes in a film full of amazing scenes. Gerwig manages to take us through all of Lady Bird’s senior year of high school without the film ever dragging. We watch Lady Bird grow and change and screw up and change some more in a series of almost vignette like scenes (think Frances Ha’s sprawling timeline). There’s a confidence behind the direction, a sense of choreography and musical accompaniment, that allows the viewer to sit back, to immerse themselves in the warm, mellow flow of the film, to join Lady Bird on the bumpy road to adulthood, knowing that Gerwig is slowly taking us somewhere special.

One Last Thought:

Best use of Dave Matthew’s Band in a movie, ever.

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Movie Breakdown: Murder On The Orient Express

November 8, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

This one looks like it should be a winner.  It’s based off Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery, it’s got a rather big cast of famous faces, and Kenneth Branagh is a pretty solid director (especially when it comes to period pieces).  Why then do I feel like it’s going to be a dud?

Post-Screening Ramble:

I greatly enjoyed Murder On The Orient Express, but I can see how it may not fly over too well with some.  It’s a hefty, patient film that expects you to be dazzled by every shot and intrigued by every line of dialogue.  The best way – I think – to describe it is Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films without the break neck pace and stylized methods.  Detective Hercule Poirot (a scene-chewing Kenneth Branagh) is an even-keeled perfectionist who solves crimes by asking questions, observing people and thinking.  So, unlike Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock, he doesn’t punch anyone or get loaded, and his only real quirk is that things have to be even/equal/etc.  If this sounds as though it might be boring for you, then it probably will be.  If, however, you’re down for a classic who-dun-it with a pretty setting and the right amount of over-acting, then this one will delight you.

My overall recommendation is that you head out and catch Murder On The Orient Express this weekend.  Not only is it a perfect fall weather movie, but it’ll make you want to go home and toss on the classics that inspired it.

One Last Thought:

This is a beautifully shot film and I’d really love to catch a 70mm screening, but it’s being shown in that format just about nowhere.  That’s a shame.  What”s also a bummer here is that I’d like to say maybe it’ll happen down the road, but my guess is that at some point seeing a 70mm print of anything will cease to be an option.

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Movie Breakdown: Thor: Ragnarok

November 2, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Let’s face it, Thor and Thor: The Dark World are pretty shrug-worthy movies.  This isn’t to say I think they’re bad, because I generally like both films, but there’s just nothing special or really memorable about either of them.  Here’s hoping that  Taika Waititi (Hunt For The Wilderpeople, What We Do In The Shadows) can flip this issue on its head with his Thor: Ragnarok.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Like Marvel’s other 2017 releases, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 2Thor: Ragnarok is an exciting romp that’s vibrant, funny and action packed. It begins with Thor – of course – hammering faces and then running off to Asgard to celebrate his victory.  Once there he gets into it with Loki, he chats with Odin, he meets Hella (a perfectly cast Cate Blanchett), and then wham bam he finds himself on a literal trash dump of a planet that’s ruled by a fella called Grandmaster (a perfectly cast Jeff Goldblum).  This is where Thor’s actual adventure begins, and boy is it a real damn good time from here.

If you ask me, I think all the credit for Ragnarok being a winner should go to director Taika Waititi.  He injects so much color and humor into every scene that – for once – it isn’t somewhat of a chore to watch Thor operate outside of the Avengers.  It’s not all just jokes and crazy costumes that work in Ragnarok though, Waititi delivers the loud stuff as well.  Thor is more powerful (and fun to watch) than he has been in any other movie, the big battle with the Hulk in the gladiator arena is rad, anything with Valkyrie (a perfectly cast Tessa Thompson) is great, and the climactic battle is far from a let down.

While they probably could have called the film Thor: New Zealand (I liked this, you may not) and while there are a couple of strange bits at play (the history of Asgard is nonsensical, the Heimdall subplot feels tacked on), I found Thor: Ragnarok to be a blast.  Go see it this weekend.

One Other Thought:

Don’t see this in 3D.  It’s too dark.

One Last Thought:

I would like a spinoff film that features the Taika Waititi-voiced Korg.  Few things make me as happy as that rock man with his pleasant disposition and thick New Zealand accent.

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Movie Breakdown: Tragedy Girls (Noah)

October 27, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Horror is having a moment right now. IT and Get Out are two of the bigger movies of the year and every week seems to usher in some new fright flick to the screens. Tragedy Girls looks to play with the genre using the lure of social media and serial killers as its focal point and it feels like this has been done before, but hell, I’m willing to give it a chance.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s a weird lack of energy in Tragedy Girls, a sort of laconic “yup, we made a movie” feel that strips it of being as good as it could be. The film centers on Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp), a pair of attention-seeking high school seniors who decide that to get all the likes, they’ll need to start murdering people. Both Hildebrand and Shipp play their parts to the hilt, capturing the sort of sociopathic mindset of social media-obsessed high schoolers. Director Tyler MacIntyre polishes the film into a candy confection with a heart of gore and blood, the deeper issues of friendship and status obsession just beneath the surface never getting lost in the flash. It’s a good movie, no doubt, but the meta aspect of the film – a serial killer movie about two girls trying to get famous by being serial killers – drags it down. MacIntyre is using the concept of serial killing made cool by popular culture to address the popular culture that birthed it. It’s an interesting angle, but it also makes his movie adhere to the plot points of the average serial killer film (if you’re going to, make it resonate as predictable rather than illuminating). The heroes of the story posit themselves as experts on serial killing but the main characters are also teenagers who’ve grown up watching the same movies all of us horror dorks have consumed. It makes sense for the plot, but it dampens the surprise or the mystery of what’s going to happen – we’ve seen this before because these girls have as well. It takes a film that purports itself to be high energy, teenage whiz bam whatever and makes it a sort of slow, awkward reveal. An entertaining one to say the least, but a slightly flat one nonetheless.

One Last Thought:

Craig Robinson as a sex symbol should be a thing. Like all the time.

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Movie Breakdown: 78/52 (Noah)

October 27, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

There’s a wash of these types of films these days – talking head pieces about single moments that have helped to shape or define culture – and though I never tire of endless movie trivia to recite to my friends when intoxicated, I’m most certainly curious as to what makes a film about only the shower scene in Psycho.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s a tendency in these sort of micro-breakdowns of films and filmic moments where the director and the assemblage of famous (or not-so famous) talking heads imply that whatever moment we’re looking at helped to redefine, well, everything. It’s a distracting tendency, one that glows with the amber hues of nostalgic remembrance, placing import where in most cases, import never existed. Alexandre O. Phillipe’s documentary 78/52 (the number of set-ups and cuts it took for director Alfred Hitchcock to call the shower scene in Psycho complete) avoids these pitfalls, instead using its “cast” of famous horror directors (Mick Garris, Karyn Kurasama, Eli Roth, etc.) and editors (Walter Murch!) and horror nerds (Bret Easton Ellis, Elijah Wood) to explore the scene, shot by shot by shot, slowly picking apart the genius that Hitchcock was able to layer into a now iconic moment. The film acts as a running commentary, with each participant being placed in front of a screen, interviewed and then shown the scene (maybe the entire film) and Phillipe documents them discussing what each individual moment entails. These are very informed film scholars and directors and dorks parlaying years of experience into a crystalline, near academic dissections of the scene. It could be boring but Phillipe layers in enough movie fun facts with the theoretical explorations of what this film meant, what each shot entailed, and what every tiny flicker of editing added up to, so boredom never becomes an issue. Instead this sumptuously black-and-white documentary highlights a moment that actually opened up the boundaries of film and laid the groundwork for a whole new international genre.

One Last Thought:

The film starts with a sort of seedy recreation of an older woman driving to the Bates Motel and getting in a shower and getting Janet Leighed and it’s not good or explained or ever looked back on. It is not indicative of the rest of the film.

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Movie Breakdown: Only The Brave

October 19, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) knows how to make a movie that looks great, but he’s yet to make one that actually is great.  Will Only The Brave get him over the hump?  Maybe.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Only The Brave is not what I expected it to be.  I just sort of assumed there would be some male camaraderie and a whole lot of bad-ass firefighting moments loaded with slow-mo and sweeping music, but in reality, the film – and you’ll have to excuse the bad pun here – is a total slow burn.  The first chunk of it features Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) and his crew as they attempt to become certified as Hotshots, which are elite firefighters.  There’s a bit of them actually out in the woods fighting fires, but in general you see them together and/or with their friends and families.  The second half of the film is almost more of the same, but there are a couple of big scenes where you see the team at work in dangerous and difficult situations.  Surprisingly, all of this low key, dialogue-heavy stuff is what makes the movie a winner.  I know it seems like the light action would maybe work against Only The Brave, but its characters are so interesting and their jobs so wild that it’s easy to get lost in how these guys (and their loved ones) operate on a day-to-day basis.

If you know anything about 2013′s Yarnell Hill Fire, then you already know how this film ends.  It was a truly tragic moment.  I recommend that you go see this super solid movie, and then afterwards take a moment to appreciate the Granite Mountain Hotshots (and others like them).

One Last Thought:

WELP, guess who Jeff Bridges is in Only The Brave?  That’s right.  He’s goddamn Cowboy Jeff.  That means he’s played the same character in two different movies this year!  The overall Cowboy Jeff list, as far as I can tell, is now: Only The Brave, Kingsman – The Golden Circle, True Grit, R.I.P.D and Hell Or High Water.  He’s growing stronger.

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Movie Breakdown: Kingsman – The Golden Circle (Noah)

September 21, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’m still smarting from the distasteful end of the mostly enjoyable original flick. I know, I know, it’s just one line about anal sex, but I’m a sensitive old man.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman – The Golden Circle follows the rules of the sequel just about to a tee. Where in the first Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) learned the ropes of being a well-dressed super spy in the service of Kingsman, in part two he’s robbed of everything he loves and forced to join up with his American counterparts – the Statesman – to solve the mystery of who done the dirty deeds (not a spoiler: it’s psychopathically nostalgic drug runner played by Julianne Moore). This is just the tip of the narrative iceberg though – Colin Firth’s Galahad reappears afflicted with amnesia, Eggsy’s girlfriend (Hanna Alstrom, the Princess of Sweden as seen in the final scene of the last flick) gets into trouble, the President of the United States is up to bad things, there’s stadiums full of cages and a secret plague slowly seeping into the drug users of the world and, I kid you not, more. It’s a stuffed film, bloated even. It feels like the penultimate issue in a crossover between two comics, the one where there’s the X-Men AND The Avengers and the bad guys and every page is a splash page and there’s twenty battles and thirty romantic entanglements and it’s so heavy you can barely stuff it under your bed so your stupid little brother doesn’t get his snotty hands on it. It’s fun – as is any movie where there’s a character named Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) with a laser lasso, and Elton John, I shit you not, jump kicks a guy in the face, but the excessive, well, everything spreads the film extremely thin. Characters from the trailers are turned into extended cameos (Jeff Bridges, I’m talking about you) and whatever subtle point about the American War on drugs that Vaughn was trying to make is muddled and underdeveloped. What really drags the film down though is that Vaughn is trying to make this more than a stylish drawn, beautifully executed super-hero spy flick. He is, because he’s a good director, trying to imbue it with actual characters with actual emotions, but with so much going on, there’s no chance that any of the emotional beats ever really land. The action though, whoa doggie, it’s amazing. There’s a fluid, whip-effect to Vaughn’s action sequences – the camera dances around and through the fights like a participant – and the director uses it to turn every battle (and they are battles) into a breath-taking rush. It’s a fun flick, don’t get me wrong, and in the hands of an artist like Matthew Vaughn, it never gets boring, never loses steam, is never less than exciting. It’s just too much.

One Last Thought:

Matthew Vaughn can’t get through a film without some sort of raunchy over-the-top bit of humor involving a female orifice. So, prepare yourself.

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Movie Breakdown: Kingsman – The Golden Circle

September 21, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

If you ask me, Matthew Vaughn has never directed a bad film.  With that being said, there’s something about Kingsman – The Golden Circle that seems off.  Here’s hoping that its flat trailers have been hiding all of the best parts.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I went into Kingsman – The Golden Circle not expecting much and feeling a little miffed about it being two hours and twenty minutes long.  I walked out anxious for the third entry and wondering why the movie didn’t run another 15 minutes or so.  Eggsy/Galahad (Taron Egerton) is back, but he’s not the immature, lost kid from the first film.  He’s a Kingsman vet, he has a steady girlfriend in Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom, the … backdoor girl from the end of the last movie), he’s got good friends, and all is well.  Naturally, no one in a movie can be this happy, so his life hits a real speed bump when a drug lord named Poppy (Julianne Moore) poisons people all over the world (via her products – weed, cocaine, etc.) and also wipes out the Kingsman.  This sends Eggsy/Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) on the run and into the hands of the Statesman, the American equivalent of the Kingsman, which features Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Ginger Ale (Halle Berry), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Tequila (Channing Tatum).  Also, somehow someway, the original Galahad (Colin Firth) pops up, and then there’s a real damn party at play with far too many characters.  The movie works though, as the majority of the folks on the screen take a back seat in favor of a wildly entertaining amount of pure comic book-inspired action.  Kingsman – The Golden Circle is a blast.  Yes, there’s too much going on and not enough time for you to get to know most of the movie’s inhabitants, but you won’t care because you’ll be delighted by just how outright bonkers this sequel is on all fronts.  I mean, there’s a laser lasso!  And robo-dogs!  And so much more!

You’re not going to find anything at the theater this weekend that’s more fun than Kingsman – The Golden Circle.  By the way, I’d re-watch the first one before you see part two.  There are a lot of references from it that get quickly thrown around.

One Last Thought:

I think it’s time that Jeff Bridges create a new favorite character.  He’s now played the same cowboy in Kingsman – The Golden Circle, True Grit, R.I.P.D, Hell Or High Water and whatever else.  And yes, I know that the majority of those aren’t even bad movies, I just want to see him do something else.

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Movie Breakdown: mother!

September 13, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

For a moment there it really seemed like director Darren Aronofsky was on his way to huge things.  Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler and Black Swan were all successive winners, and this propelled him into the running for big-budget films like The Wolverine (this eventually went to James Mangold) and the Robocop remake (this eventually went to Jose Padilha).  In the end though all that the world got from Aronofsky was the mediocre and perplexing Noah.  I hope this is a return to form for him.

Post-Screening Ramble:

If you’re someone who’s prone to anxiety attacks, then mother! is not the movie for you.  It’s sort of like Jordan Peele’s Get Out – in that you know everything is wrong but you’re not quite prepared for just how wrong everything is – but this film is more unsettling, thoroughly insane, surprisingly gory and without hardly any humor at all. I honestly don’t know if I liked it, and I sure as shit don’t know if any of you are going to dig it.

The story is told entirely from the viewpoint of Mother (Jennifer Lawrence).  She lives way out in the middle of nowhere with Him (Javier Bardem), and they spend their days working – she is slowly rebuilding their home, and he is trying to write poetry.  Things don’t quite seem all that well, but before anything can be explained/shown, a man shows up at their door.  This is maybe 10 minutes into the film, and once he arrives things get shaky and before you know it you’re in for one hell of a trip.  I won’t say anything else plot-wise, but I will note that it does attempt to twist your brain right out of your skull.  Good luck!

To be honest, I need to see mother! again.  Aronofsky has really made something bizarre and rather inaccessible.  I can’t even really tell you what it’s about.  Maybe it’s a look at bad relationships, particularly the kind where one person does all the giving and the other does all the taking?  Or perhaps the film is rooted in feminism and wants to show how dominant men are evil?  I really have no clue.

This one is a total YMMV situation.  See it are your own risk.

One Last Thought:

There’s a whole brigade of people who have turned on Jennifer Lawrence, so I’m guessing they’re going to love watching her get put through the ringer in this film.

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Movie Breakdown: IT (Noah)

September 7, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I saw IT in 3rd grade a week after an arm break. I dreamt that Pennywise the Clown (the film’s villain) waited at the top of my childhood home’s stairs with an axe. It’s the only dream from my childhood (outside of a recurring one featuring Pinhead and a talking Buddha statue) that I can remember. So, yeah, I’d say I’m excited.

Post-Screening Ramble:

After the abysmal The Dark Tower, we all have to admit to being nervous about IT. Sure, the trailers have been spot-on, the iconic Pennywise (as played by Bill Skarsgard in the film) seems suitably creepy and the early reviews have been strong. But this is Hollywood, the puncturing spear of cinematic dreams. I would like to tell you, IT is a very good, if not almost great film. The story of six kids in Derry, Maine at the tail end of the 1980s, squaring off against a demonic force in clown form is beautifully shot and genuinely scary throughout. Director Andy Muschetti doesn’t pull punches, offing Georgie in gruesome fashion within the first 10 minutes of the film. It’s a good choice as you’re fully aware that Muschetti can, and will, kill off his youthful protagonists, making Pennywise’s deranged threats all the more real. And Pennywise’s threats, in the form of the kid’s greatest fears, are consistently terrifying. Muschetti mixes CG and practical effects to great effect, with all of the various creepy-crawlies – the leper is a particularly chilling baddie – oozing with realism. The kid actors are uniformly good – Finn Wolfhard’s Richie is a mile-a-minute shit talker, and Sophia Lillis embodies Bev as an old soul in a damaged, youthful body – and as the film rushes towards its ending, you worry about their individual fates. And the film does rush. The source material for the film runs nearly 1,000 pages, and even adapting just half of it is a monumental effort. You feel it in the lack of character development in characters like Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor, who’s great in his limited role) and Mike (Chosen Jacobs, who could’ve been cut with little notice) as well as a few glossed over plot jumps. All in all though, it’s Bill Skarsgard’s show. His Pennywise epitomizes evil. From the first peek at his jacked up rabbit teeth and glowing yellow eyes, you’re terrified of him, and it only gets worse from there. I couldn’t have asked for more from an adaptation of this work. Muschetti has announced himself as a filmmaker to keep an eye on, and I’m more than excited that he’s been picked to helm both the sequel and the Locke & Key television series coming to Hulu.

One Last Thought:

The fact that this is great makes my whole summer.

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