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Movie Breakdown: IT

September 6, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I’m not a fan of Andy Muschietti’s Mama (ha!), but I’ve been really digging the look and feel of his IT.  Also, my girlfriend has read the book twice this year, so I’ve got her hype driving me as well.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t disappoint.

Post-Screening Ramble:

IT isn’t so much Stephen King’s IT as much as it’s a horror film with an IT theme.  The kids are all present, there’s an evil force that looks like a clown, and the story takes place in Derry, but that’s about it in the grand scheme of things.  This means that you should NOT go into the film expecting lots of character development and back story and heady King elements from the book.  Instead, you should go into it ready to be scared.  Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) is absolutely frightening, and it’s not just because of his glowing eyes or gross teeth – it’s really due to him being everywhere.  Director Andy Muschietti doesn’t hide Pennywise or occasionally roll him out for a jump scare.  Nope, he tosses him out there right from the start, and then those kids (and you, to be fair) just can’t get away from that fucking clown.  Every dark corner/nook/whatever, he’s there, lurking and ready to feed.  It sucks, man … but in an awesome way.

I don’t want to just praise Skarsgard’s instant-classic portrayal of Pennywise though, as the kids in the film really are great.  Jaeden Lieberher is stellar as the stuttery but strong Bill, Finn Wolfhard’s Richie is trash-talking perfection, Jack Dylan Grazer’s hyper-worried Eddie is fantastic, Jeremy Ray Taylor’s take on Ben is charming, and Sophia Lillis knocks it out of the park as Beverly.  There’s also others in play (Wyatt Oleff as Stan, Chosen Jacobs as Mike, Nicholas Hamilton as Bowers), but none of them are particularly notable since they just simply have less to do.  This is the film’s main issue issue – there are too many characters, and it somewhat stifles the story.  Personally, I think one of the movie’s three screenwriters should have considered combining Eddie with Stan and Ben with Mike.  This would have allowed enough extra screen time for certain details to shine brighter (like Pennywise’s influence on the weak) and to make the third act feel less rushed.  Maybe the inevitable sequel will be better at incorporating everyone?

Regardless of my nitpicky things, you have to go see IT.  The film is legit scary.  Just be sure to check your expectations if you’re a fan of the book.

One Last Thought:

It’s been roughly 20 hours since I saw this movie, and I’m still a little worried that Pennywise is going to jump out and try to eat some part of me.  I genuinely can’t remember the last time that a horror film affected me in this way.

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Movie Breakdown: I Do … Until I Don’t (Noah)

August 29, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I almost liked Lake Bell’s directorial debut, In A World … but after a clever enough premise, it sort of fizzled in its want of tying up all the loose ends. Could be Bell has picked up a few things since then.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I Do … Until I Don’t feels like two films hastily stitched together. It isn’t that the film doesn’t have merits (or the two films, if you’re paying attention), it does, it’s just that 15-minutes before it slides to a polished halt, it just decides it is entirely different than what came before. Lake Bell – the writer and director of the film – plays Alice, a one-time artist who left her hopes and dreams on the side of the road to move to Vero Beach and co-manage her husband Noah’s (Ed Helms) family blind shop. It’s been a few years when the film starts and Alice and Noah aren’t exactly engaged in marital bliss. Neither are Alice’s sister, Fanny (Amber Heard) and her trustafarian husband Zander (Wyatt Cenac) or random Vero Beach socialites Cybil (Mary Steenburgen) and Harvey (Paul Reiser). On to the scene comes independent filmmaker Vivian (Dolly Wells), seeking broken relationships to use as fodder for her new avant garde documentary. For the rest of the film Bell focuses on the individual relationships (and their many many problems) as she pushes them closer and closer together. The actors are all seasoned comedians (outside of Amber Heard, who holds her own) and play off each other well, managing to be both indicative of the state of the modern relationship and warmly funny at the same time. Bell weaves in a nicely quirky, slightly mean-spirited atmosphere into the film particularly through Alice, a drifting almost loser, who blames any and all for her own life stagnation. It never pushes any boundaries but for two-thirds, it at least toots along, occasionally awkwardly, as the ending looms. And then the ending arrives and the film turns from low-key relationship comedy to the sort of feel good pap you’d find yourself half-watching at three in the morning on Cinemax. It’s an abrupt shift – music, character choices, even a warmer glow suffuses the surroundings – and it doesn’t work. You watch in cock-eyed confusion as Bell introduces brand new characters, drastically alters the intentions of others, and one by one ties up the loose ends, until all that’s left is a saccharine blob with a pretty little bow.

One Last Thought:

Ms. Bell, you’ve got one more shot.

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Movie Breakdown: Shot Caller (Noah)

August 17, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

The only thing I know about this film is that Jaime Lannister is in it. But I like Jaime Lannister, so, hey I guess I’m mildly excited.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Shot Caller, written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh, is the type of film that feels like an epic, but when its final credits roll (with swelling orchestral arrangements exploding behind them) you realize that you haven’t had your ass in a chair for all that long. You realize that the story of man giving up his moral compass to survive in prison hasn’t stretched for the length of an HBO mini-series, but instead it’s less than two hours. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Money, a hedge fund manager turned violent convict who’s been released into the wild and is now navigating a dangerous path of double-crosses and gang-life. The film jumps back and forth in time and both timelines are heavy with plotting, so much so, that the film feels heavy, sodden down with the sheer act of trying to explain itself. The moments in the past – the transformation of the main character into Money – are the stronger points, and Coster-Waldau does an admirable job of sloughing his white collared character for the moral morass of prison gang life, but it’s not enough. Ric Roman Waugh clearly wants to make this every form of crime flick – cop drama, undercover cop drama, prison drama, gang drama, etc. – and the balancing act of doing it all drags the film down. There’s a lean, well-acted story of a man doing what he needs to do to not die in prison somewhere in here, but it’s so painfully bogged down by everything else that’s going on in the film, you’ll never be able to find it.

One Last Thought:

Jon Bernthal’s death in this film is a masterclass in coughing up blood and gibbering nonsense until your character kicks the bucket.

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Movie Breakdown: The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Noah)

August 17, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I have been oddly amused by the trailers for The Hitman’s Bodyguard. It may be the cast – Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman in Old European Villain Mode – or it may be that the trailer paints it as a sprightly, action-comedy. Or, it may be that my standards for film viewing have finally crumbled under the weight of modern Hollywood and that anything that isn’t VeggieTales seems pretty fucking great.

Post-Screening Ramble:

The Hitman’s Bodyguard can only be described as sub-par. It’s a loosely jumbled together, action-comedy that squanders some serious star power in favor of dick jokes and badly cut action sequences. The story is basically The Hangover but with assassins. Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is an elite security person who, after the brutal murder of his client, has fallen on hard times. When his ex-girlfriend (twist!) hires him to move a key witness, super assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), things go wrong and the two old enemies have to try to find their way to Amsterdam, dodging (and killing) baddies all the way. It isn’t really a movie, but a structure that allows for the illusion of suspense and some riffing moments between the two leads. And you’d think that Reynolds and Jackson could drum up some chemistry, but they (like every other actor in the film) feel like they were paid to pretend to be an actor portraying an assassin. Even Gary Oldman (old reliable himself) isn’t given enough to justify his presence. He spends the majority of the film in a hotel room or a generic court until he doesn’t. That’s pretty much the condensed version of his storyline. Selma Hayek might fare the worst though. There’s a glimpse, early on in the film of tangible romance between her and her incarcerated assassin husband, but it’s quickly swept under the carpet in favor of loud screeching and unexplained meanness. Beyond that everything feels meta, and all of it feels fake and entirely unbelievable. Sure, Hughes stuffs as many action scenes in beautiful European locales as possible, but those don’t add anything. Hughes camera lingers too close, his cuts too quick, and what comes out are messy, sloppy bits of film. Sadly, even with Reynolds and Jackson trying EXTREMELY hard, there’s not much to laugh at here. Hughes has made an almost toneless film, mean spirited and crass but still reaching for some sort of emotional pay off, leaving his actors on the side of the road with their thumbs out.

One Last Thought:

Mediocrity can fucking stuff it. Give me great movies or movies that reach so high they just can’t touch the prize. This middling, action-comedy crap – that I’m fine without.

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Movie Breakdown: Logan Lucky

August 17, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Steven Soderbergh isn’t so good at being “retired” or whatever, so he’s gone and directed Logan Lucky.  The movie looks like a hillbilly version of Ocean’s 11, so I don’t really have any choice but to be excited about it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

As expected, Logan Lucky is essentially Steven Soderbergh’s countrified take on his own Ocean’s 11.  It doesn’t take place in a fancy casino in shiny Las Vegas.  It’s set in rural West Virginia and the plan is to knock over the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina.  There’s music by John Denver, not Frank Sinatra.  There are no criminal masterminds with wildly tricksy plans.  There’s just some some regular people with an accidental advantage that may make them rich.  The characters aren’t charming or sophisticated like George Clooney’s Danny Ocean, they’re more loveably goofy like Casey Affleck’s and Scott Caan’s Malloy brothers.  Hell, there’s even a moment where the heist gets referred to as Ocean’s 7-11, so if that doesn’t really drive home what Soderbergh has done here, then I don’t know what will.  This leaves just one question, is this backwoods remake of sorts worth your time?  Yes.  So much yes.  It’s a really funny, engaging effort that’s surprisingly clever, and even though I’m not sure at all why Soderbergh rolled out of his semi-retirement to do this movie, I’m really happy that he did.  Maybe he should do alternate takes on all of his films.

See Logan Lucky, if only so that you can watch Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig speak with a thick drawl.

One Last Thought:

Daniel Craig is so damn good as the smarmy Joe Bang that it actually bummed me out to hear that he’s going to do another Bond film.  I really think it would be fun to watch him take on some lighthearted roles for a few years.

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Movie Breakdown: Brigsby Bear

August 11, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I haven’t seen any of director Dave McCary’s other efforts, so I don’t know whether or not I should be excited about his Brigsby Bear.  I will say this though, I like the quirky look of it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Brigsby Bear is a tough one to talk about because it’s honestly better if you go into it knowing nothing at all.  Don’t watch the trailers, don’t read any summaries.  Hell, it might even be a good idea to not glance at the poster up above.  Just run out and see it!

Or, if you’d like some more info, here’s a rundown.  James (Kyle Mooney) loves Brisgby Bear Adventures, a TV show that features a big bear who goes on … adventures.  Things aren’t quite what you’d expect though, as James doesn’t just love the show, he’s 100% obsessed with it because he doesn’t really have anything else in his life.  Unsurprisingly, this makes things for James pretty difficult when the show gets unceremoniously canceled and he then finds himself having to figure out the real world while dealing with the subtraction of his most cherished thing.  This “adjustment” that has to happen essentially makes Brigsby Bear a coming of age tale, but – thankfully – the film stiff arms the usual formula and instead of having James change, it’s actually the supporting characters around him that end up having to redefine themselves.  How refreshing.

Brigsby Bear is a charming, oddball little dramedy that’s immensely heartfelt and loaded with wonderful little surprises.  I laughed, I got a bit choked up, and I cheered.  You should see it ASAP.

One Last Thought:

It was really nice to see Mark Hamill do something other than voice-work or Star Wars flicks.  The guy is a good actor and he should be in more stuff!  How do we make that happen?

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Movie Breakdown: Wind River (Noah)

August 10, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Taylor Sheridan – writer/director of Wind River – has been having a pretty good last few cinematic years. He wrote Sicario, one of 2015′s best movies. He wrote Hell or High Water, the best movie of 2016. And now for his directorial debut he’s tackling a murder mystery on an Indian Reservation with Jeremy Renner as an apex-predator hunter who has to find out what happened to a dead girl. To say I am excited is, well, an understatement of mammoth proportions.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Taylor Sheridan has pulled off quite the magic trick with Wind River. The film on the surface has all the juicy details of a strong murder/thriller/crime procedural. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a hunter for the Fish & Game Department in a desolate, weather-beaten small town. On the hunt for a family of mountain lions, he stumbles across the dead body of a girl, miles away from anything. Joined by reluctant FBI agent Jane Banner and an Indian Affairs officer named Ben (Graham Greene), the three must dig deep into the sad state of affairs that are the Native American reservations. As a murder mystery, the film works in spades. Sheridan drags the clues out slowly, pulling his characters deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of politics on the rez, always circling their prey. There are moments in the film – it is violent without apology, and all the better for it – that demand cheering and clapping, as if the audience is seated at a typical action flick and the baddies have just been kicked off a mountain by Sylvester Stallone. At the film’s heart though, is abject sadness. Sheridan does not shy away from the trauma wrought to Native American’s by the institution of reservations. This is a dirty, broken land with a strong people still, somewhat, trying to find purchase. Trying to find meaning, to rise above what’s been taken from them. Every step Lambert and Banner take finds them on another broken edge of the tribal life. Drugs, oil, families pulled apart simply by the destitution forced upon them – it’s not an easy film to watch. Jeremy Renner is a strange actor, one who doesn’t always fit his role particularly well, but here as Lambert, stony-eyed but brimming with emotion, he’s near perfect. A modern day cowboy barely conversational but clearly dangerous and clearly imbued with his own beliefs on right or wrong. Elizabeth Olsen continues her streak of excellence, her Banner an uninitiated newbie, learning as she stumbles along. Graham Greene’s portrayal of Ben is also great, a man without the resources to deal with the shitshow he’s been given. It deserves to be said again: Wind River is not an easy movie. As it shouldn’t be. Sheridan is facing down some of America’s big bad issues, and he doesn’t flinch, dragging the audience down into the grimmest parts of the great country of ours.

One Last Thought:

When does another Taylor Sheridan movie come out?

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Movie Breakdown: Dunkirk

July 20, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

It’s Christopher Nolan.  If you’re not at least a little excited about Dunkirk, then you’re probably dead.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I figured Dunkirk was going to be pretty straight forward affair.  There are soldiers trapped on a beach, and civilian boats have been sent to retrieve them.  Oscar-worthy drama ensues!  This is partly true, as there are troops stuck with no where to go and the British government does send normies to scoop them up, but Christoper Nolan cuts out all the pomp and circumstance and opts for a direct, visceral experience.  You don’t see anyone in a board room (with swelling music behind them) arguing about what should be done or anything like that.  Instead Nolan provides three viewpoints.  The first is from the stranded men, who are steadily being dive-bombed, both on land and in the water (if they happened to hop a ride on a rescue boat).  The second is from the sky, as pilots race to Dunkirk to try and protect both the men on the beach and in boats.  The third is from the civilian side, as they too race to Dunkirk to try and save as many soldiers as possible.  It is an intense ride, one that shows you the horrors of the Dunkirk situation and the desperation and fear it filled people with.  It’s not all depressing though, as it also provides a nice look at the courage that it instilled in folks.

I’m not yet sure where Dunkirk ranks for me in regard to Nolan’s other films, but I do think it’s one of the finer war movies since Saving Private Ryan.  It’s stunningly shot, full of great performances, and just in general a very compelling movie.  See it immediately.

One Last Thought:

At some point there needs to be a movie that features nothing but Tom Hardy’s eyes.  They’re so emotive and it’s always very clear as to what he’s trying to say, even if you can’t understand his actual words (like in The Dark Knight Rises, Dunkirk, Mad Max: Fury Road).

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Movie Breakdown: A Ghost Story

July 14, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I loved what writer/director David Lowery did with Pete’s DragonA Ghost Story, I imagine, is not going to be similar in any way, but because he’s attached and it’s an A24 film, I’m down to give it a go.

Post-Screening Ramble:

If you’re peering at A Ghost Story and thinking it’s some sort of mid-summer indie horror flick, then you should look away because it isn’t that at all.  This film is a quiet, slow affair that requires a real good pair of patience pants to enjoy.  It begins with an introduction to C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), a couple preparing to move out of the home they’ve been in for a long time.  Before that happens though, C is in a car accident and dies.  He awakes in a hospital as a ghost (complete with a sheet that has eye holes cut in it), and then he spends the rest of the movie just watching things happen in the home that his special lady friend no longer occupies.  I know that doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but the film is actually pretty solid since it ditches the usual afterlife type stuff and instead focuses on time.  C is tied to his former home, and as he watches that space transform over the years, you’re reminded of the history that fills everything around us.  I found this to be a great angle, and even now, a few weeks after having seen the movie, I still finding myself thinking about it.  What a nice thing to have during the flashy blockbuster season.  I say see A Ghost Story.  Again though, be sure to note that it’s a real thinker and isn’t scary at all.

One Last Thought:

While watching this movie I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of notes Casey Affleck’s ghost received during filming.  You can’t see anything beneath his sheet, so I like to think it was stuff like “slump more” and “be ghostier.”

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Movie Breakdown: War For The Planet Of The Apes

July 12, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

I never would have guessed it when the James Franco-led Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was first announced, but there’s a real chance that it and the films that have followed will form one of the best trilogies ever.  Here’s hoping that writer/director Matt Reeves doesn’t stumble at the finish line.

Post-Screening Ramble:

War For The Planet Of The Apes picks up a few years after Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.  Caesar (Andy Serkis) is a wanted … ape, and he and his kind are trying real hard to avoid conflicts with the army that answered the human distress call from the previous film.  That group is led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a real determined killer of things, and they feature apes that decided to join up with the humans instead of trying to fight them.  So tense!  Now, that’s obviously just the setup, but since there’s so much unexpected stuff that takes place afterwards, I’m not giving you any other plot points.  Actually, since it’s difficult to even talk about this film at all without getting into spoilers, I’ll just say a few other things and then bow out.

First of all, War is an emotional roller coaster that really puts Caesar (and you) through the ringer, and I dug the hell out of it.  Secondly, the hilariously honest Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) turned out to be a real big favorite of mine.  Thirdly, do not go into this expecting some kind of summer blockbuster-y type of war movie with lots of crazy battles and such.  It isn’t that type of film, it’s much more intimate.  Lastly, expect this biblical-like adventure to turn you into a chatter box once you walk out of the theater.

See War ASAP.  It’s fantastic.

One Last Thought:

I feel like these Planet Of the Apes movies will be like Jurassic Park and have CG that’s championed forever.  There’s just so much detail, especially in how the the apes move.  On the flip side of things, I think it’s going to be difficult for me to go back and watch something like this without steadily chuckling.

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Movie Breakdown: Spider-Man: Homecoming (Noah)

July 6, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Spider-Man has been wallowing in the halls of Sony for years now. It isn’t that there hasn’t been good Spider-Man films (Sam Raimi’s are still classic, if not dated, flicks) but Andrew Garfield’s emo spin on the character did nothing for just about anyone. So, Marvel, comic book movie maestros that they are, picking up the reigns to one of their absolutely classic characters, is just about the most exciting thing I’ve heard in years.

Post-Screening Ramble:

We’ve all been waiting for a great Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 3 had Tobey Maguire dancing off against Topher Grace’s Venom. Sure, we sludged through Marc Webb’s duo of angsty mediocrity (sorry Andrew Garfield, you couldn’t do anything about it), the allure of a teenage superhero with the powers of a spider, and the mouth of a PG-13 stand-up comic slowly fading away. And then came Marvel with their indie film director (Jon Watts) and their British Peter Parker (Tom Holland, now, officially a fucking star) and their casting of Michael Keaton as The Vulture/Adrian Toomes. And, then, back to every kid’s favorite superhero, came a sense of excitement. And, you know, the excitement is entirely warranted. Jon Watts, and the humane machine that is Marvel, have made the first movie that manages to capture not only the mythos of Spider-Man for a modern age, but the spirit of a comic. This starts with the casting of Tom Holland as Peter Parker, an eternally boyish, comic patter spewing nerd-dork, who wants nothing more than to use his superpowers – speed, strength, stickiness – to fight baddies. Holland is perfect as Parker, all unrestrained glee balanced out by the emotional rollercoaster of, well, being a teenager. Watts and Marvel know that Spider-Man can’t be a dour Dark Knight, no no, he’s an eternal optimist, the smiling, one-liner spitting good guy who fights until he can fight no more. And instead of another rehash of the Spider-Man origin story (the whole tale of boy-being-bit-by-radioactive-spider is broken down in a two minute bit of dialogue) Watts turns this into a John Hughes film with web blasters and alien technology turned bad. If my greatest concerns about Marvel movies has always been their inability to craft worthy villains for their enjoyable heroes, it may be time to place them on the shelf. Michael Keaton (riding the wave of the New Era of Keaton) plays Adrian Toomes as a very bad man who does very bad things but for, as the viewer will come to learn, potentially good reasons. He’s the Keaton we love – grim, sardonic, the chisel-faced everyman turned to the wrong side – but Watts and company make damn sure he’s a capable threat. His Vulture – powered by a set of cyberpunk-meets-Top-Gun style wings – is a unrepentant badass, and when paired against the nascent superhero that is Spider-Man, you will worry over our wee little Peter Parker like only a doting Aunt May could. What works best is that Watts and Marvel aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. This is classic Spider-Man, surrounded by a lovable cast (Marisa Tomei is as charming here as she’s been in anything since My Cousin Vinny) – full of non-stop comic observations, and the sort of go-get-him attitude even the most devoted Spidey fans will connect to. This is the Spider-Man we’ve all been waiting for (and the Happy Hogan, and a little bit of Tony Stark, and some loose connections to MCU). Now we just have to wait for the next one.

One Last Thought:

I have comic book movie fatigue. Real bad. It took me a second to shake it off and really enjoy this film, to see past the fact that it’s even if it isn’t an origin story, it’s still a formula, still a good guy versus a bad guy with the lives of his friends and family at stake. But, put the fucking cynicism in the garbage bin, this flick is so enjoyable, so entertaining, being an asshole about it, is a waste of your goddamn time.

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Movie Breakdown: Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 4, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Even with Spider-Man’s very entertaining appearance in Captain America: Civil War, I’m still somewhat leery of Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Here’s hoping that Marvel having more control than Sony will be enough to fully make the character watchable again.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Right before my screening of Spider-Man: Homecoming started, I wondered if I had already seen the movie.  I thought about the over-revealing trailers and whether or not the film had any surprises left.  I also thought about the superhero fatigue I’m currently experiencing and how even if the movie is good, will it do anything that hasn’t already been done?  Thankfully, the answer here turned out be YES.  Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best film to rumble into theaters so far this summer.

The movie picks up just after Captain America: Civil War.  Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is home in NYC and the only thing he has on his mind is a second mission with Tony Stark (and The Avengers).  School, his one friend and any other responsibilities, it’s all noise to Parker, and he spends his time watching the clock and impatiently waiting until he can hit the streets as Spider-Man and attempt to further prove himself.  Meanwhile, there’s a fella named Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) who is trying really hard to keep his illegal alien weapons business in NYC off of the Avengers’ radar.  As you’ve surely guessed, the two collide as Spider-Man & Vulture.

That’s the basic plot, and I won’t note anything else.  As for those trailers that showed too much, they do somewhat come into play while watching Homecoming.  Because of them it really isn’t hard to sort of piece together what’s going to happen next, but thankfully there are a handful of surprises.  Also, what’s in those trailers is just snippets of full scenes, and I think you’ll be thrilled with the way everything fully plays out.  Trust me!

Anyhow, here’s what I think really makes Homecoming work – it never lets you forget that Peter Parker/Spider-Man is a kid.  He’s a sophomore in high school who can’t talk to girls and is generally clumsy.  Parker is also just like any other kid in that he wants to be treated like an adult.  It’s this struggle for Parker that’s the core of Homecoming, and it really does well to keep the film grounded and to make it feel like a standalone effort.  Yes, there’s plenty of flashy action pieces and MCU connections to be had, but the inexperienced and overly eager Peter Parker/Spider-Man is what makes those scenes – and the film itself – memorable.  It’ll be interesting watching the character grow from here.

Somehow someway Spider-Man: Homecoming completely rights the ship for the web-slinger AND manages to avoid doing it in a way that comes off like an origin story or just a setup for the next MCU film.  What a triumph.  See it a couple of times.

One Last Thought:

There are a couple of characters that make their return to the MCU in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed seeing them around again.  I guess that just goes to show what Marvel has managed to build over the years – even the “small” people in their films tend to hold weight and aren’t just filler.

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Movie Breakdown: The Beguiled

June 29, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Lost In Translation is one of my favorite movies ever, so I’ll gladly line up for anything that Sofia Coppola does for the rest of time.  Obsessions aside, I actually do think The Beguiled looks pretty good.  Plus it was well-received at Cannes, which can occasionally mean something.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I really enjoyed The Beguiled.  The film takes place during the Civil War, and it revolves around a wounded Union soldier who seeks help at an all-female Southern boarding school.  At first all is well, but it’s not long before the presence of the charming Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) sends his caregivers into a fervor.  There’s a lot of pent up energy, resentment and sadness buried in the ladies (both young and old) that populate the school, and McBurney pulls it out of all of them.  Writer/director Sofia Coppola is smart though, and she doesn’t just let The Beguiled turn into some sort of over the top soap opera.  No, her film is made up of nerves, jealous glances, defensive postures and judgemental mumbles.  She wants you pay attention, to be patient, and to let yourself soak in the desperate atmosphere she’s created.  I think this may be one of my favorite films by her.

If you want something quieter than what’s currently blowing up theaters, then I think you should seek out The Beguiled.  It’s beautifully shot (seriously, it looks like an actual live Southern painting), has great performances (super big ups to Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning), and it’ll make your brain and nerves tumble.

One Last Thought:

Elle Fanning is an interesting actress.  She plays a lot of the same type of characters, but somehow she puts just enough twist on each them to keep things fresh.  It’s honestly really impressive.  Side note, what happened to her sister?

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Movie Breakdown: Baby Driver (Noah)

June 27, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Even if The World’s End was (at the time) the Edgar Wright movie that I connected with the very least, he is still one of the great directors working today. And if he wants to make a movie about an iPod listening getaway driver trying to escape the crime game, well, then I’m there in a Santa Suit on opening day.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I think there’s a lot to be said about Edgar Wright’s first movie post his beloved Cornetto Trilogy. Where Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End were strictly British films (in style, content and cast), Baby Driver is Wright’s most American feeling film. There’s a sense of apple pie, American nostalgia that permeates the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort) – a tinnitus-affected music lover with some serious skill behind the wheel – and his want to quit the “crime team” and go live a life with Debora (Lily James), his diner-server lady friend. He’s pursued by baddies – some with hearts of gold, others with hearts of coal – and to save the damsel in distress he’s got to drive some cars and kick some ass. Wright does well to keep the film from feeling stale though, as he’s clearly seen every driving movie ever and with the use of Baby’s tinnitus as a plot device he has some room to zig and zag. But, if traditionalism bums you out, Baby Driver might not be your bag. This is a film about love and about good and evil and the grey murk that lies between (but only briefly before the cheer of this flick blasts that shit out of the water) and it’s about a kid with a hearing problem saving the day. It walks a line between corniness and homage that Wright maintains, but chunks of the film still come off as saccharine. Is it ever unenjoyable or lacking in intelligence or wit? Of course not, but this still feels like a palate cleanser – a quick, fun production that lets Wright play in the meta-action sandbox (though only a little) he loves so much, toy around with some new acting pals and get a movie into the theater. It lacks the emotional heft of Shaun of the Dead or The World’s End and the bizarreness of a Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim. Instead it coasts along flatter, less interesting middle bits that lie between both. I’m hoping it’s the smoothing of the foundational cement so Wright can leap up and out into the weirdness. As of now though, it’s a nice stop-gap.

One Last Thought:

I watched The World’s End right after seeing this and what really stands out is the visual nature of it compared to Baby Driver. This film is sort of bland in terms of cinematography gusto and in the context of Wright’s other movies, well, it’s glaring. This could be because the film takes place in Atlanta, which seems to be a very large, very spread out REI superstore where people also live.

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Movie Breakdown: Transformers: The Last Knight

June 21, 2017

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Pre-Screening Stance:

There’s not a single part of me that believes Transformers: The Last Knight is going to be worth my time.  With that being said, I really feel like Michael Bay and Co. have to eventually get one of these right.  They just have to!

Post-Screening Ramble:

I try to avoid labeling things as awful or amazing (because most of the time they’re not either), but Transformers: The Last Knight is a truly awful movie.  It’s not fun, and it’s confusing as hell.  From what I could gather, here’s the story.  Back in the Dark Ages, Merlin (Stanley Tucci, for some reason) was a drunk who stumbled upon a derelict spaceship.  In it was a transformer who gave him an all powerful staff and the ability to control a three-headed robo-dragon.  Sloshed Merlin then used both to save all of England.  Afterwards his actions became myth and the super staff (and accompanying dragon) went missing.  Flash forward to now-ish, and Optimus Prime is floating in space and transformers have been outlawed on Earth.  There’s a unit called the Transformers Resistance Force (TRF) who hunt down robo-kind and destroy them because people are tired of having their homes and stuff blown up.  Inside of the TRF are double agents (namely a spikey-haired Josh Duhamel) who also work for the Army (but in a different branch?) and they’re kind of OK with transformers, but they also want to see them gone.  In addition to these guys, there’s Cade Yeager (a bewildered Mark Wahlberg), and he spends his time saving transformers because he believes they should be allowed to live on Earth.  There’s also a young girl, Izabella (a spunky but annoying Isabela Moner), who Cade saves near the beginning of the movie.  She happens to be good at fixing transformers, but she and her rickety robo-pal never really do anything but get in the way.  Then there’s a lot of Autobots (like Bumblebee) and Decepticons (like Barricade) in play.  Unsurprisingly, Megatron is around, too, and he wants to find the legendary staff (why didn’t he know about it in previous movies?) and destroy Earth.  On top of all these regular and metal characters is Sir Edumnd Burton (a bizarre Anthony Hopkins) and his trusty robo-sidekick, Cogman.  They’re a part of some secret organization that protects transformers.  PLUS, there’s Vivian Wembley (a Megan Fox-looking Laura Haddock), a lady who can’t seem to land herself a man, but she knows a lot about King Arthur, Merlin and the like.  That’s everyone/thing, I think.  In any case, they all end up jammed together because Optimus Prime meets his maker, the all CG and very video gamey Quintessa, and she goes about convincing him to transport Cybertron to Earth so that they can restore it and have a new place to live.  This could mean the end of Earth (just like in all the movies before this one).

Whew.  As you may have noticed, that’s a fuck ton of plot … and it’s just the setup for acts two and three of The Last Knight.  So much more follows!  This damn film just never shuts up.  It spews out plot like few things I’ve ever seen before, and after a while it becomes impossible to figure out what’s going on.  Also, this movie is obnoxiously loud.  I – and I’m not kidding here – sat next to a couple with two crying children, and it didn’t even bother me all that much because they were constantly drowned out by yelling and explosions.

Don’t see this movie.  It’s terrible.

One Last Thought:

I find it bizarre that I can’t at all tell whether or not Michel Bay enjoys making these movies.  I know it’s possible he only does it for the big payday, but surely some part of it is fun for him?  Why doesn’t it ever show up on the screen?

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