Monday, June 24, 2019

Triple Frontier, 2019 - ★★★½

Total guys movie and a callback to the 80's team-up action adventure genre. Affleck is running the show here but Hunnam and Issac bring their share of testosterone as well. The story ain't that original or memorable, but the cast definitely has chemistry and the high stakes towards the end makes this a worthwhile viewing.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Toy Story 4, 2019 - ★★★★½ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

I'm not sure if we really needed another Toy Story film after being 9 years removed from the previous edition, but we get one none-the-less and director Josh Cooley's version is a solid effort with a serviceable story by Rashida Jones. Most of the gang is back together again and Andy has finally been replaced in the narrative by Bonnie (which was hinted at with the conclusion of Toy Story 3).

The plot focuses on a new homemade toy that Bonnie crafts together in kindergarten, a spork monstrosity named Forky. Forky (voiced wonderfully by Tony Hale) doesn't realize he's a toy and it's up to the rest of the gang to keep him with Bonnie as she goes on a road trip. Woody ends up meeting us with his long lost crush Bo Peep (once again voiced by Annie Potts) at an antique store.

The rest of the voice cast is really good including a clever turn by Mr. Everything these days, Keanu Reeves as Canadian daredevil Duke Kaboom. Christina Hendricks lends her sweet convincing voice to Gabby Gabby, a 50's era doll without a voice-box. Key and Peele play Ducky and Bunny respectively and seem to be sort of forced into the story a bit. They are funny at times but just seem to be extra fluff (pardon the pun) on top of an already crowded cast.

After having recently watched all 3 previous films in succession over the weekend in preparation for this film, it's really amazing just how much Pixar's animation prowess has grown since the original film. Sequences with rain near the beginning of the film seem like they were put into the film to have the Pixar animation wizards flex their muscles. Simply put, no Pixar movie has looked as smooth and refined as this one. I found myself marveling at the porcelain texture of Bo Peep and the lifelike faces and eyes of the humans in the story that totally contrast against the lifeless primitive human figures in the original film I had just re-watched. 24 years of CGI technical innovation is easily summed up in comparing Toy Story and Toy Story 4.

SPOILER BELOW

At the end of the film we see Woody stay with Bo Peep and leave the rest of his gang (and his kid Bonnie) behind. I'm assuming this means that Toy Story 5 will not include Tom Hanks. It seems that Hanks is hanging up his cowboy hat and spurs, leaving this role. That final nod made the goodbye scene with Woody and Buzz a very emotional moment. I had a few tears. It lifted my rating a full star because I realized that for two toys to hug and leave me with that powerful of a feeling is really a tribute to Pixar and the character development they've put into these 4 films for nearly 25 years.

This is a worthy addition to the Toy Story franchise but it may ultimately be the weakest of the 4 films despite a welcome addition to the cast with Forky.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Secret Life of Pets 2, 2019 - ★★★½

A father's day trip to the movies for me today. The kids liked it well enough but it definitely was not as good as the first film. Kevin Hart shined a lot more as Snowball in the first film. He doesn't have much to do here and his role is kinda wasted.

The crazy cat lady angle was pretty spot on and Tiffany Haddish's Daisy was a welcome addition. Bonus props to Harrison Ford for voicing the grumpy farm dog with the same gruff personality Ford bring to his interviews. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one, just don't expect anything mind-blowing.

Murder Mystery, 2019 - ★★★

Harmless fluff that has it's funny moments. Sandler and Aniston have good comedic chemistry. I guessed who the "Murderer" was halfway through the movie though. Worth a watch, but don't expect too much.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Rocketman, 2019 - ★★★★½

Taron Egerton is a full-blown Hollywood star after this fantastic turn as Elton John in Dexter Fletcher's Rocketman. As a biopic/musical of the life of the English musical legend, this film stands out as the PROPER way to do a rock biopic. A much more accomplished and engaging experience than the bland Bohemian Rhapsody from 2018, Rocketman delivers on all levels thanks to inventive and creative musical numbers and strong performances all around.

Jaime Bell shines as Bernie Taupin, John's frequent collaborator and songwriter. Bell brings a loyalty for Taupin and we really understand his platonic love for John which built one of the most prolific collaborations in the history of the music industry. Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, The Bodyguard) is excellent as well as John's manager/love interest John Reid. We get two strong turns by Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh as John's disapproving parents. All of these characters end up explaining why John's life turned into a symphony of drugs and alcohol which Fletcher ends up illustrating brilliantly through fantasy sequences perfectly timed to John's discography.

The real meat of this film comes from two sources: Elton John's wonderful song catalog and Egerton's dynamic and personal performance. From the get-go we know that Egerton is going for it full blast. He's very engaging and outgoing as John, delivering one hit after another. His singing is actually very good and makes me fully enjoy his performance far more than last year's undeserving Best Actor winner Rami Malek. Let's hope the Academy at least honors Taron with a best actor nod after the complete control that Egerton brought to his portrayal of Elton John.

This film just works from start to finish and is really a fun ride in the theater. I found myself listening to the Elton John catalog days and weeks after I saw this. This is a great tribute to an influential musical pioneer and a fun film that has a lot of rewatchable potential.

Booksmart, 2019 - ★★★½

Olivia Wilde's directorial debut is clever and witty, featuring a great performance by Jonah Hill's sister Beanie Feldstein and a solid supporting turn by Kaitlyn Dever (Beautiful Boy) as two best friends finishing out their days in high school. The movie has some clever scenes and is written well but ultimately doesn't really deliver as many laughs as I was looking for. There are slow moments and it seems that Feldstein really is the only one bringing her true "A" game.

Wilde's direction is very good though and her choice of musical scoring is very effective. I feel she has a future behind the camera as well as in front of it. It was nice to see her include her husband Jason Sudeikis in a handful of scenes as the school principal. While the film tries to hard to push the played out Superbad theme of one "wild and crazy night" it manages to be relatively entertaining throughout. Definitely worth a home viewing and I'm thinking that Feldstein is about to break out as a true young star with her next film.

Ma, 2019 - ★★★½

Tate Taylor's Ma is an interesting take on the high school party scene and what happens when a social outcast tries to take revenge later in life. This is an Octavia Spencer vehicle all the way and she simply dominates every scene she's in. You can't take your eyes off her and you know she's just having a blast playing the role of "Ma" a local mother who invites high schoolers into her basement to party with friends.

What starts out as a seemingly friendly gesture from Ma turns into a typical horror gross-out slash fest along the way. Supporting turns from Luke Evans, Juliet Lewis and newcomer Diana Silvers help move the story along, but we're always just waiting for Ma to get back on screen. The movie really goes over the top towards the end and it's really not inventive or memorable overall. I did enjoy Octavia so much that I would recommend a home viewing here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, 2019 - ★★★

This is more of the same and just a continuation of the first film. In a ways, watching this type of film this feels a lot like playing a video game (Uncharted, God of War, and other third person action games). There are levels setup between nearly useless plot advances and narratives. Reeves, Fishburne, Berry and others service the story well and bring their top bad-ass personalities to the table, but overall it's just more of the same. I find myself zoning out in some of the fight sequences because it's so repetitive. There's a lot of gross out moments in this one including the knife to the eye early on. However, I can only take so much of the same punch-kick-punch then pistol to the face or skull over and over again.

I'm not sure if I'm ready for a fourth film but I bet we get one. Maybe I'm just burned out from watching all three films for the first time in a span of a couple weeks. Worth watching if you've seen the first two, but expect more of the same and not a lot of imagination.

Bonus kudos to Mark Dacascos who went from being the chairman in Iron Chef (SECRET INGREDIENT) to going toe-to-toe with John Wick.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Wine Country, 2019 - ★★

Great concept, poor execution. Rudolph is the best thing here, but too few laughs for the quality of comedic actresses involved.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Shazam!, 2019 - ★★★★½

Review coming soon...

Avengers: Endgame, 2019 - ★★★★★

Review coming soon....

Little, 2019 - ★★★

This is a funny-enough reverse Big that has a few solid laughs but never really ascends to a great comedy. Regina Hall and Marsai Martin (who co-wrote this at such a young age) are solid as they play both little and big versions of entrepreneur Jordan Sanders. BUT, the real star of this movie and someone I need to see more of (never watched her HBO show) is Issa Rae who plays Sanders' assistant. Rae's comedic timing is amazing and she gives commentary on screen to the ludicrous situation in the exact voice that we as an audience are thinking inside. Rae definitely elevates the overall quality of the movie. Rent this for a few laughs when it comes out on video.

Hotel Mumbai, 2018 - ★★★★

In the same vain as United 93, this is a harrowing, realistic "you are there" look at modern terrorism. Dev Patel and Armie Hammer simply react to all the events happening around them. The actors are solid (especially the terrorists who show absolutely NO remorse) and the script is tightly paced. I'm not sure there's anything really redeeming about reliving this and seeing so many people slaughtered for no real reason. But the film is very well crafted and a gripping, sobering ride. I would NEVER see it again, but it's worth a single viewing.

Pet Sematary, 2019 - ★★★½

Great casting especially with John Lithgow in the creepy neighbor role. I knew nothing about the King story going in as I never saw the original. Clarke is solid here and is finally a dependable leading man. There are some scares throughout but not overly terrifying. The jump scares when the trucks whiz by the road are the most jolting events of the film. Way over the top near the end and I'm not sure I loved the actual ending, but still a good time at the theater and this really makes me think about the afterlife in a different way.

Aquaman, 2018 - ★

Watched this mess on the plane yesterday. I find that I don't really care about sharks battling crabs underwater. Mamoa is a one-note actor and there's way too much grunting and screaming through lukewarm battle sequences. The CGI is overly cartoony and people "swimming" around seem so unnatural. Patrick Wilson is a total mess here and it seems that James Wan is just trying to cram him into this film because of The Conjuring. Wilson IS a good actor but he does not make a good villian. Really the only reason to watch this trainwreck is to look at Amber Heard. I don't know how DC went from this film straight into a funny and engaging movie like Shazam. The visual effects are night and day between those two movies as well.