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.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Captive State, 2019 - ★

The concept is cool (it has a raw present day Alien Invasion feel similar to District 9). The effects are ok (despite shotty cinematography). But the Achilles's heal in director Rupert Wyatt's sci fi mess is a murky convoluted plot that never takes flight. So many useless characters are introduced and we don't care at all about any of the featured ones. At the end I was just happy that it was over and I didn't have to care about this movie anymore.

Wildlife, 2018 - ★★★½

Dano has a real eye for direction and Oxenbold is a future star. The story is a little muddled and not much of a payoff at the end. Decent film though.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Us, 2019 - ★★★★★

Jordan Peele's latest directorial effort is a film just as creepy as Get Out and features another original story concept from one of the most original minds in Hollywood. It's hard to believe that this actor/filmmaker who seemed to be on a one-note career has completely switched over to become a master of suspense, crafting unique "horror" films. Peele delivers another amazing film with Us, the story of a family who comes to grips with a carbon-copy version of themselves in a Santa Cruz beach setting.

The movie builds slow at the start but kicks into high gear when the "red" version of the family arrives. With a clever and original premise that delivers twist and turns similar to Get Out, Peele is able to simultaneously resurrect Luniz's 1995 rap hit I've Got 5 On It and 1986's Hands Across America. I won't give away any spoilers, but the real motivation of the "red" family is a great story twist that made me think about the connection of events in the film long after I left the theater.

It's really early for Oscar talk considering we just had the last ceremony a month ago, but Lupita Nyong'o is a standout amazing star in this film. Her performance as her doppelganger is so creepy and calculating that you can't believe the same actress is playing both characters. I thought she was excellent in 12 Years a Slave (her Oscar-winning role), but she's even better in this film. The rest of the cast, led by Winston Duke is strong and supports Nyong'o's herculean effort. We also get a wonderful contrasting performance by Elizabeth Moss in a supporting role. Everyone in the cast is having a blast delivering Peele's vision here.

Jordan Peele has done it. He's gone two-for-two with his first two films, both earning 5 stars on my scale. I can't wait to see what he does next and I'm hoping he'll veer slightly from this type of film as I'd love to see what he can do in another genre. Go see this movie right now on a big screen and buckle up for a signature Jordan Peele ride.

The Dirt, 2019 - ★★½

Entertaining but way "extra" and over the top. I realized how free Crue songs I really know. Most of the acting is sub par but Machine Gun Kelly (Tommy Lee) really stood out as a rapper who may really have a future in acting.

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.