Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Bad Boys for Life, 2020 - ★★★★

A MLK day treat for me personally. This third film in the Bad Boys saga (full disclosure... I loved both 1 and 2 in the series) brings us right back to detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) as they patrol the streets of Miami Beach once again. Things are different this time as Marcus is now a grandfather and Mike is no longer "bulletproof". A supporting cast of young up-and-coming SWAT team members are in the mix this go-around and the age jokes are plentiful throughout.

The real heart of this movie is Lawrence who gives a real emotional performance that works. When Marcus sheds some real tears in the middle of the film because of a few key events that affect him, you really believe his acting. He's definitely fallen out of shape a bit but his acting may have actually improved over the years. Will Smith is still the usual cocky lead that drives these films and he makes up for the subpar Gemini Man that he released earlier in 2019. The banter between Smith and Lawrence is what makes these films so good. They just feed so well off of each other and the scenes with heavy dialogue between Mike and Marcus are the moments that shine brightest with this movie.

I really enjoyed this film and it falls right in line with the same tone and quality as the first two. Kudos to young directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah who took the franchise reigns from Michael Bay (who makes a clever cameo in this film) and are setup to direct the next Beverley Hills Cop film as well. The action they showcase on screen is top-notch and well crafted. High concept fight scenes help propel the story and raise the stakes in the end. There's a reveal towards the end of the film that sets things up for another Bad Boys entry (that has just been green-lit). I say bring it on. I love the chemistry of these two characters and as long as Smith and Lawrence are game, I'll be there to see the next film.

The Two Popes, 2019 - ★★★★

I went into this film not looking forward to it but came away extremely glad that I took the time to watch it. This is an excellent "behind-the-scenes" look at the Catholic church and that papal machine. It's really interesting to see inner-workings of the conclave and the selection process of choosing the next pope.

Jonathan Pryce is really good in the lead role as Pope Francis. He looks a lot like the real pope and his chemistry with Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is fun to watch. Watching where Francis came from in his history and the choices he made leading up to succeeding Benedict was effectively conveyed on-screen by director Fernando Meirelles. You rarely get to see the lives of cardinals and bishops in such a raw format. I'm sure a lot of this isn't totally authentic but it makes for riveting cinema.

Make sure to watch through the credits scene to see a hilarious back-and-forth with the two popes watching the 2014 World Cup Final following the papal transfer of power. I learned a lot watching this film and it's well worth a viewing on Netflix.

Parasite, 2019 - ★★★★½

Bong Joon Ho spins an original tale of class dynamics in modern-day Korea with this interesting look at an entrepreneurial family taking advantage of an opportunity that falls in their lap. Getting into all the plot details here will ruin the experience for a first time viewer so I'll just touch on the asthetics which are remarkable. The crisp, well-paced narrative rolls along with effective from performances from a talented cast.

Bong's production design is excellent and the sleek modern home that sets the stage for much of the movie's events is filmed beautifully. So much so that the house itself becomes a key character in the film. The story is the standout aspect of this movie as there are clever twists and turns throughout. I found myself enjoying the ride and marveling at the high-level craftsmanship of Bong's work.

The only slight issue I had with this film is the over-the-top violence we see towards the end. I'm not usually one who is put off by violence but I don't really know if the film really needed to go to that level to be effective. Still this is a remarkable achievement from a foreign language entry and hopefully this gets rewarded by the Academy next month.