Sunday, March 17, 2019

Paddleton, 2019 - ★★★★

Available on Netflix, this is a small, short and simple movie with a real look at the "Right to Die" decision. This film is basically just Mark Duplass and Ray Romano on a bittersweet buddy road trip for 90 minutes. Duplass' Michael has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and enlists the help of Romano's Andy to fill and deliver a lethal prescription of pills. It's hard to believe that these two best friends have really nothing in their lives but each other, but that premise makes the movie's ultimate decision that much more critical and painful to watch. Outstanding acting from the two comic leads in muted, low key, real performances. This is a swift breezy movie to watch with real stakes at the end. While there are some dull moments (including way too much old school kung Fu movie references), this is just more proof that the Duplass brothers know how to make good movies.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Captain Marvel, 2019 - ★★★★ (contains spoilers)

This review may contain spoilers.

It's Marvel's turn to roll out a high-profile superhero in this answer to Wonder Woman. In many cases Marvel outshines DC comics here (as is common with most Marvel movies). There are elements I liked better in Wonder Woman, but overall Captain Marvel just sets up the universe going forward a little better. Brie Larson is the proper casting decision and is great in this role.

The movie is well paced and entertaining combining good action sequences with outstanding visual effects. The anti-aging effects of Samuel L. Jackson in particular are just amazing to behold. We're getting to the point where we don't even need to have actors faces appear on-screen. It's scary and cool at the same time. The biggest drawback I have with the script is the confusing introduction of the movie. During the first 30 minutes of the film it's hard to follow the timeline and keep the different alien races straight. Despite the rough start, things smooth out as the film steams along to a pivotal mid-credits stinger scene that got me all jazzed for Avengers EndGame.

My biggest spoiler-filled issue here is with Captain Marvel's space helmet. Through most of the movie we see Cap in space required to wear her crazy Mohawk helmet. However, towards the end of the movie, she flying through space without the helmet. I guess her powers got so great that she didn't "need" it anymore?

Bonus points to Marvel for putting in a cute, resourceful alien cat into this film that closely resembles my cat Chip. I had a great time watching this and can only think this will serve as a launching pad for a lot more Captain Marvel appearances in MCU movies over the next 10 years. Larson better buckle-up, because she's going to be the face of Marvel for a long time.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, 2019 - ★★★★½

This film concludes one of the best animated series in film start-to-finish. In what might well be the best of the trilogy, HTTYDTHW focuses on family and love with a pretty straight forward story of finding a new home and dealing with a ruthless villain. It introduces a love interest for Toothless in the form of a new "Light" Fury dragon.

As in the first two films, the animation is spectacular especially during the sequences of flight. The colorful phosphorous wonder of the Hidden World and especially the fine details in the granules of sand in a scene on the beach show just how far Dreamworks Animation team has come since the first film.

The voice acting is strong all-around but Kristin Wiig in particular shines as the motor-mouthed Roughnut, as she delivers the funniest moments in the movie during a rant while held captive as a prisoner. There are a few laughs throughout but this movie's drawing point for me is its heart. The final 15 minutes of the film are extremely emotional as friends and family change for the main characters. It's right up there with Coco as one of the best endings I've seen in an animated film. Thankfully we get to hear a couple final plays of the fantastic signature theme music of the series by John Powell in the closing moments, which added to the emotional pull of the film.

If you've seen either of the first two films, you owe it to yourself to witness the very satisfying conclusion to this series.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

6th Annual ARCademy Awards

You'll find the annual Oscar Preview Podcast I do with my friend Omar Latiri of Arts Review and Commentary below. Enjoy my half-assed attempt at being an aging rock-star.






Saturday, February 9, 2019

Minding the Gap, 2018 - ★★★★


Bing Liu is a budding filmmaking superstar. His very personal tale of him and two friends lives in Rockford Illinois is one of the best documentaries of the year. Liu is able to get real and raw emotion from his friends, including a remorseful and powerful recounting of a troubled marriage from his Mother. Like Jonah Hill's Mid 90's, Minding the Gap illustrates clearly how skating can be a true outlet for troubled youth in America. I actually enjoyed Won't You Be My Neighbor and Free Solo more than this, but it still is well deserved of it's Oscar nomination.

What Men Want, 2019 - ★★½

Unfortunately all the funny moments were in the trailer. Taraji is game but the rest of the cast is kinda lukewarm. Super weird resurgence by Brian Bosworth and a random cameo by Karl Anthony-Towns. Definitely wait for video for this one.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Prodigy, 2019 - ★★★

Slightly above average "horror" movie that wouldn't have worked as well without a pretty solid child actor. Orange is the New Black's Taylor Schilling is effective as a loving and concerned mother of a "possessed" child Miles. There are some jump scares but this feels more like a serial killer thriller than a traditional horror film. The story is kinda hokey in parts and Peter Mooney (a Chris Evans wannabe) is god awful as Miles' father. You can certainly wait for video on this one.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Wife, 2017 - ★★★½

It's hard to review this movie without giving a huge spoiler. In a story that's not what it seems at the beginning, Glenn Close plays the wife of an American author about to receive the Nobel prize for literature in Sweden. Close delivers a slow burning performance that really builds to a breaking point near the end. Throughout the first half on the film I was pretty confused as to why Close was tabbed as the front runner for Best Actress. My confusion totally vanished towards the end of the film. This movie is definitely slow at times but rewarding in the final third. Jonathan Pryce is effective as "The Husband" in his most prominent role since Evita. This is the best I've ever seen Glenn Close and she really does deserve the win she will get in a couple of weeks.