Displaying Category: Review

Star Wars The Last Jedi

Star Wars The Last Jedi ticketstubEpisode VIII is fun, but it feels very long and had possibly two endings too many. We get a lot with Rey and Luke, Finn and a new character, Rose, there's Leia, and Rylo, and Snoke... so like most Star Wars movies, there are several plots happening simultaneously, and that leads to my biggest complaint with the movie, the timeline. While Rey spends at least a week training with Luke, Finn and Rose and the others in the Rebel fleet are engaged in a battle and run off on a mission that lasts approximately five hours. I know this isn't new, it also happens in Empire Strikes Back, but I suppose my standards for this sort of time distortion are higher now.

The space stuff is always my favorite, and there is a lot of it in this movie. As with most Star Wars movies, this one opens with a pretty epic space battle that introduces some questionable physics (how do you drop bombs in space?) but it is cool, so I can (try) to let it go.

Another concern I have with this entire trilogy (so far) is the fetishistic attention on the big questions and mysteries of the series. Everyone is so obsessed with getting the big questions answered that it seems to have overtaken the actual enjoyment in basically mindless action set pieces, adventure, and fun characters.

This second movie in this trilogy ends in an interesting way that, I expect, sets up for a really interesting conclusion to the series (or trilogy, at least). I am still looking forward to it, despite my complaints.

3/5

Pitch Perfect 3

Pitch Perfect 3 ticketstubThe Bellas are back, again, for the last time, first blood, the revenge! The Pitch Perfect formula is carried into the third movie, but by this time, has been diluted by a lack of the compelling ingredients of the first movie and returning to the well-trod ground of the first two. The funny moments are still funny, but not at all surprising or original feeling. It's just comfortable and fun, and that's not a bad thing. The music is still good, but again, we know what to expect. While there is talk of a competition, the stakes are lower and not as much of an ending so much as a mechanic to get to the ending. We also get a lot of the Fat Amy character, and she is hilarious and possibly the best character to come out of this series, but I prefer more evenly spread attention across the entire ensemble.

It's a fun movie, and it brings the series to a pleasing end, but it definitely doesn't stand out.

3/5

The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist ticketstubDo you remember that spectacularly bad movie The Room by the now infamous writer/director/producer/star of the film, Tommy Wiseau? No? It's okay, these days, it's mostly known for being bad and having a sort of cult following in the vein of Rocky Horror Picture Show. People go to midnight screenings and do callbacks and have props, I hear it's pretty amazing. I've never done that myself, I saw it being riffed on a live RiffTrax show. Anyway... The Disaster Artist follows Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero as they meet, become friends, move to Los Angeles, and, after some rough years of trying to get work in Hollywood, decide to make their own damn movie. The reason this is such a spectacle is that Tommy, played cringingly by James Franco, is such an inexplicable character, and Greg, played by James' real life brother, Dave Franco, is such an ordinary guy. Greg is puzzled by Tommy's quirks, but also kind of enamored by how completely oblivious he seems to the world's standards of normalcy. He wears outrageous clothing (for example, five belts of various types and styles and positions around his waist) and will run lines loudly in a crowded restaurant. He seems to not give any fucks about how the world sees him, yet desperately wants to be seen by the world, and he wants to be seen as the hero of whatever he's doing. As Greg tries to be an adult and score acting gigs, Tommy feels more and more left behind as he fails to find any success at all in Hollywood. This growing divide prompts Tommy to suggest the two of them make a movie, and that's how we get The Room. We watch them go through writing and casting and hiring production people and right into the filming of various iconic scenes. They go to great effort to recreate the sets, scenes, acting styles, and lines with excruciating detail. In fact, at the end of the movie, before the credits roll, they do side-by-side comparisons between scenes from the original movie, and scenes shot for The Disaster Artist and it is a beautiful thing. I would say my favorite scene of the movie is the post-credits scene in which James Franco is playing Tommy and is approached by the real Tommy playing a different character, and the brief conversation that ensues, in a way, caps off the whole experience, like the cherry on a grand sundae.

Was it good? Fuck yeah it was good. Franco captures the weirdness of Tommy and Dave Franco plays a great starving actor, hungry for work and attention, but also a grounding force for Tommy, though, as he learns, Tommy can't be grounded. He will always be floating in skies of his own creation. The Room is not a good movie, but a story about The Room is amazing, filled with hilarious scenes, cringing scenes, reality, fantasy, and heart. Absolutely worth a watch, even if you haven't seen The Room, but it will definitely be better if you have.

5/5

Lady Bird

Lady Bird ticketstubThis seems like the sort of movie I would like, a teenager dealing with life and love and growing up, I'm into it and I'd heard good things about it. I believe it takes place around 2003 over the course of a year in the life of Christine, who wants everyone to call her "Lady Bird." This is her thing. She wants to be her own person who stands out from the crowd, while also, trying to fit into a crowd. She also desperately doesn't want to stay in California for college, so that's her big motivation, find a way to get out of Sacramento and out to the east coast. She has relationships, she tries theater and she lies. She lies a lot. About everything. This is also a movie about Lady Bird's relationship with her mother, and this is one of those things that bugs me, not about the movie, but about this sort of familial relationship. When parents aren't proud of their kids for anything, when there isn't praise, or love expressed. It's all about how the kid isn't good enough, is going to fail, needs to set their expectations low... but it's also a very real relationship, and certainly difficult for a young person to navigate while trying to discover their own selves.

The movie does all of these things well. The acting is wonderful, the music brings me back to that time, it's well shot, it's funny, I think my biggest disappointment is that it didn't move me. It may just be me, I certainly heard sniffles and sighs around me in the theater, and maybe the mother daughter relationship is the experience I'm missing. So it's a good movie, but maybe not as much a movie for me as I was hoping.

3/5

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ticketstubIn case anyone was wondering what Thor (and Hulk) were up to during the events of Captain America: Civil War well, here you go. Asgard is threatened by the powerful Hela, and Thor must form alliances to defend his home. What stands out to me most is that the stakes in this movie are relatively high, the destruction of all Asgardians and potentially, the loss of the other nine worlds and more, but this is actually a very light-hearted movie filled with genuinely funny scenes. Lots of jokes and sick-burns and sight-gags and physical comedy (which I don't normally like, but works pretty well here). So understand, this is a fun movie with great action sequences and very little emotion and pretty much nothing dark. There are actually situations that, I think, are meant to be dark, but the comedic tone everywhere else overpowers those darker scenes and dilutes their effectiveness. I think I was too busy laughing to mourn the loss of the seriousness this movie might have had. So that's it really. Thor is a lot of fun, go check it out for that, and maybe to fill in some more of the Marvel Universe goings-ons.

4/5

The Foreigner

The Foreigner ticketstubA summary of this movie reads a lot like Taken, a man with a past as a trained operative goes on a revenge mission against those who took his daughter from him. One of the main differences in this movie, though, are the political impacts and dealings happening parallel to Quan's search for the names of those responsible. Bronson is the Irish politician with an IRA past who Quan, played by Jackie Chan, threatens to get the names of the bombers. Both do an amazing job, but I think most notable is Chan in a dramatic role in a Western movie. There isn't a moment of comedy or camp anywhere to be seen. Just grief, and drive to find those responsible, and it's almost chilling. I would say the only thing that bugged me is the difference between the slow moving old man we see in the beginning of the movie, and the trained fighter we see later. Are we supposed to believe that Quan has kept up his training and works out regularly, but no one knows he's got skills? And I wasn't clear if he was an agent of the United States or just known by the US. I guess what I'm saying is that I wasn't entirely sold by Quan's background, but the movie was still good. Tense. Maybe a little too much watching people talking on phones. If you're looking to scratch a "serious action movie" itch, I think this would work for you.

3/5

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 ticketstubMuch of what I expect is conversation-worthy about this movie comes from the major plot points and twists, so I won't be discussing those. What I can say, is that this movie is very pretty, very visual, designed in a way to make it all feel real and lived in. You can see the evolution from where we are now with technology, to the technologies presented in the movie... well, most of them. We haven't quite figured out synthetic organisms on the scale of cats and dogs and humans. The score also felt like an evolution from the synthesizers of the original movie to the synth mixed with the heavy rumbles found in many modern films. The action scenes felt familiar, brutal, like every fight is a desperate struggle for survival, which made for some very intense sequences. Again, taking cues from the original movie, 2049 gives the viewer plenty of room to breathe and take in the scenery. Long slow shots that give you time to live in this world, to imagine yourself walking down that street, or flying over the city. It's very effective for immersion and pacing. I would say I liked the movie, it worked really well and it very much felt like it followed from the original movie. I'm just not sure I loved it, and I can't quite tell you why.

4/5

It

It ticketstubAs horror movies go, It is pretty damned good. It has a setting in the late '80s, early '90s, so it hits that nostalgia bone for people around my age. It's about a demon (or something) that takes the form of a clown in order to feed on fear, and therefore, the movie is made up of terrifying scenarios. It has great effects and some satisfying jump-scares and just the right amount of reality. What I think makes this film extra scary, though, are not the horrible terrifying scenarios Pennywise puts the characters through to terrorize them, but the things the people of this town do to each other, largely in the form of abusive parents and sadistic bullies. These kids go through so much at home and at school and in-between, some of it breaks them, some of it makes them stronger (as something to fight back against). But honestly, those scenes, where people are being horrible to each other, is what caused me the most discomfort.

As a production, the movie is put together well, has a smooth escalating build to a finale, is filled with horror scenarios that, while fairly common themes in horror, are satisfying for what they are, and uses believable characters in the children that have clearly been through some shit and are flawed as a result, but overcome all that to become heroes (if unrecognized by the town). You really want to cheer for these characters and every time they stumble you feel that letdown, but you feel confident they will eventually get up and do what needs to be done. It works really well. And, by that I mean, It works really well. Note, this is a hard R rating. There is graphic violence and gore and tons of F-bombs and various forms of child abuse. I felt really uncomfortable about the 8 year olds sitting behind me in the theater.

4/5

Spider-man: Homecoming

Spider-man: Homecoming ticketstubHey look, another Spider-man movie! Hey look, a Spider-man movie that isn't an origin story!!! Now there's something to be excited about. What makes this version of Spider-man different, (besides the lack of an overt origin story) is that he actually appears to be a kid in high school, and in fact, a fair bit of the movie takes place in high school. I'm not a real stickler for the importance of movies adhering to their source material, but the character and setting do feel more honest when portrayed as a teenager doing teenager things. In this case, Peter Parker's real drive isn't to save the world, it's be accepted by the Avengers, and by Tony Stark in particular. He wants them to take him seriously, he wants them to not treat him like the kid he clearly still is. In the process of trying to prove himself, he stumbles across a gang of arms dealers selling weapons made from alien scrap. Peter's struggle is between being the normal "good" teen trying to get through high school and hopefully attract the attention of the girl he's crushing on, and, as they say, using his powers for good. He wants to help and protect people, and he doesn't like being kept on the sidelines where he feels wasted and useless.

Yes, okay, but is this a good Spider-man movie? I would give an emphatic yes on that. In fact, I think it may be the best Spider-man movie yet. It is a little slow, and it's not huge and stakes don't feel near apocalyptic, but I kind of like that. We tight focus on Peter and his beginnings as the Spider-man. He still seems kind of clumsy and he is clearly still trying to figure out the ins-and-outs of being a superhero. There's some comedy and maybe a tiny dash of campy-ness, but mostly it feels sincere. It also makes numerous connections to the Avengers, so it has a bunch of comfy touch points along the way. This is an easy recommend for me.

4/5

The Big Sick

The Big Sick ticketstubThis movie follows the beginnings of the relationship between stand-up comic Kumail, and graduate student Emily. Over several weeks, the relationship develops, but it comes out that Kumail, a Pakistani, has not told his parents that he's dating a white woman for fear that his family will disown him. Shortly after this argument, Emily gets sick and is very quickly put into a medically induced coma.

This could have been a typical romantic comedy, but to me, The Big Sick feels fresh and challenges the audience to consider how cultural differences can impact a relationship, and the importance of understanding and communicating. We're also dealing with the role of parents, how valuable they are to us, but also the importance of recognizing when you need to put your own happiness before theirs.

I have been listening to Kumail and Emily on podcasts for years, and I have heard Emily explain the real life story from her perspective and it's all very moving and relevant, I think. Seeing Kumail's perspective, both as a man trying to navigate his familial relationships and his love for Emily, all mixed in with his clever observations as a comic helped to give this movie a fresh feel. It was funny and moving and I had feelings...and lots of tears, and it felt wonderful. If you like romantic comedies (and modern trends in comedy), I think you will really love this movie. If you just like good movies with lots to make you feel things, then I also think you'll enjoy this.

4/5