Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Disaster Artist: You Are Tearing Me Apart, Franco!


It was about six or seven years ago when I first discovered The Room with my college roommates in our imitation frat house. I don't know how we came into possession of the movie. I don't know how we'd even heard about the movie. But, I do know that we watched it... several times... quoted it often, and added it to our list of "must own" bad movies right along with films purchased at the 99 Cent Store and the entire Sean Donahue filmography (that's an even longer story). Any time I hear a reference to The Room or catch a scene or even just someone gross walking by who resembles (and probably is) Tommy Wiseau, I'm taken back to my early college days of a bunch of unshowered, beer-soaked college students laughing their asses off at one of the best/worst movies ever made.

I feel like there's two ways The Disaster Artist could've gone when trying to tell a story relating to The Room. It could've done what it did and crafted an intimate look at the two men responsible for bringing The Room to life and given us a behind the scenes look at the batshit craziness that went on during the production of the film. OR it could've just been a shot-for-shot remake of the movie The Room with actual actors in it portraying the characters from the film. Either way would've been fine with me. Thankfully, we get a lot of both. James Franco brings Tommy Wiseau's story to life not just portraying the character, but also pulling a Wiseau and writing and directing the movie about his life. Wiseau is a [somewhere European] man with a bunch of money (no one knows why or how) who dreams of being famous and taken seriously as an actor. His fearlessness on stage is what draws Greg (Dave Franco) to Tommy. Together, the two of them move to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams of acting. After years of rejection for both of them, the two decide to make their own movie. This sets Tommy off on his journey of writing The Room.

Speculated to be autobiographical, Wiseau writes a story about a guy named Johnny who is "great, All-American man". He has a love in his life, Lisa (Ari Graynor), and his best friend Mark, (played by Greg... played by Dave Franco). However, through some very strange and unintelligible circumstances, Lisa cheats on Johnny with Mark. Johnny finds out about the betrayal and kills himself as his last piece of revenge on Lisa. It's truly a remarkable movie to watch. Through The Disaster Artist we get to see how this actual disaster was made and it's nothing short of what-the-actual-fuck-mesmerising. Throughout the filming process (of which Tommy literally has zero knowledge), his coterie of actors and crew (ranging from Seth Rogen to Jacki Weaver to Zac Efron to Josh Hutcherson to Paul Scheer) begin to realize he may have zero idea about what he's actually doing and that they may, in fact, be making the worst movie of all time... at least he's paying them. In a brief, but very touching moment with Jacki Weaver, she's asked why she's taking part in such a shit show and she comes back with-- we're actors. It's what we do. Even the worst day on a film set is better than the best day anywhere else.  Sometimes it's not about the quality of the product, but the beauty of making something creative.

But, here's what's really interesting about The Disaster Artist... it's clearly a movie showcasing what an actual nut Tommy Wiseau really is. And this movie does poke fun of him and his choices... but somehow, and I'm still not even sure how, the movie honors him. Seriously. It would've been a very easy choice to make a movie roasting a millionare nut job who thought he was making the greatest American movie of all time. But that's not how Franco and co. approached the film. They humanize Wiseau to the point that not only do you sympathize with him, but you may find yourself understanding him. Wiseau the actual person has always been shrouded in secrecy. The dude has an untracable accent and has always claimed to be from New Orleans. He spent over six million dollars of his OWN money making The Room and no one knows where it comes from. And no one seems to know how old the man is. So, when we watch Wiseau make strange and petty choices we have to assume that these choices are coming from a deep, emotional place of hurt and loss from his past, but we'll never know.

Wiseau is a weirdo, but he's very loyal to his friends. He sees a spark in Greg and the two of them become best friends. However, whenever Greg talks to women or has his girlfriend over, or anything like that, Wiseau turns into a petulant child acting as though Greg has betrayed him and plunged a dagger into his heart. This is where a lot of the "emotion" from The Room comes from. But, Franco doesn't create some fictional narrative to explain this. He presents it in his portrayal of Wiseau in such an honest way that we understand it comes from a dark moment or moments in his past, but we're never going to get all the facts. And that's what the audience can connect with. We all have something emotionally shitty in our past that can rear its ugly head in unwanted situations that drive our actions. Are we going to lash out as childishly as Wiseau does? No probably not. But we can understand where that lashing out stems from. Franco does a wonderful job showcasing Wiseau as an actual human being we can understand, which lends to the understanding of how The Room actually came to be. It's actually a very touching and poignant movie-- something I didn't think was possible to do in a movie about a bad movie.

The cast is great. It's clear they're all maturing as actors as well as comedians. There aren't long Seth Rogen-y diatribes purely to get laughs, but the movie is very funny. The story itself is so unbelievable and weird that nothing new needed to be added. It's one of those "truth is stranger funnier than fiction" type of stories. And Franco does a fantastic job as Wiseau. His portrayal is so authentic, after about twenty minutes into the film you don't notice him doing the Wiseau-accent. He doesn't over-play the role or ham it up in scenes just to get a cheap laugh. You can tell Franco has a weird sort of respect for the man and wanted to do him justice by giving him the most accurate portrayal possible. Franco's real life brother Dave Franco is also very good and has a great rapport with his brother (though he still does that annoying Dave Franco thing where he stutter-steps the first few words of every sentence he speaks-- "you.. you sure about that?" "I don-- I don't know if I can..." etc. Dude has always done this and it bugs the hell outta me.)

There are a lot of familiar faces and cameos in the film and they're all here to honor a film that, even though it's TERRIBLE, has been remembered longer than most Best Picture Oscar winners. They're here to add their thank you to a movie that garners more sold out screenings (even today) than movies that won them all the awards in the world. It's a very good movie that could've easily bullied a vulnerable man who has taken several Hollywood beatings in his time, but instead showcased his humanity and his vulnerabilities and, in turn, made us re-think our preconceived notions of the man named Tommy Wiseau. According to Wiseau, the movie is 99.9% accurate. After seeing The Room... and now The Disaster Artist... I actually believe that.

P.S. - You don't have to see The Room to appreciate The Disaster Artist, but I would recommend it if you can. Oh, and make sure you stay until after the credits are over.

B+

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Roman J. Israel, Esq.: Hot Damn I Love Denzel Washington


There are only a handful of actors who we're willing to watch nearly everything they put out just because we know the type of actors they are and the quality of the movies they give us. We see Daniel-Day Lewis movies because we know how picky he is with his roles and if he's waded through hundreds of scrips and selected this very one, then most likely it's going to be worth it for us (I still think his upcoming film Phantom Thread looks boring as hell, but I'm seeing it regardless). We know actors like Leo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks (though, even I couldn't get myself to watch Cloud Atlas), and Denzel Washington choose roles that are exceptional and we have faith that even if the movies as a whole aren't spectacular, their performances will be. I feel spoiled because I've had a pretty exceptional week at the movies. I've gotten to watch 100% ORIGINAL FILMS, not based on any source material, or comic book, or sequel or anything like that. I've had the pleasure of watching complex characters in unique stories from talented writers and directors and it has been nothing short of a goddamn treat. Coco, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (seriously, see that one), and now Roman J. Israel give me hope as a writer that there are still producers in power out there willing to produce films for audiences to enjoy truly original works.

Dan Gilroy is a marvel. He's not a household name yet, but be on the lookout for his name attached to many works to come. In fact, he's such a good writer/director I'm certain Marvel or Lucasfilms will pick him up to churn out an Avengers or Star Wars film. I wouldn't necessarily be too upset about this, but it would keep us from getting more of his original content. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is only his second directorial work (though he's written many others like Kong: Skull Island and The Bourne Legacy). His first feature was a film called Nightcrawler which is vastly underrated. In it, he crafted a character portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal that we'd never seen in film before. He runs his movies like a character study where the flawed protagonist is the sole focus and the story just kind of happens around him. He also happens to set most of his movies, at least the ones he directs, in Los Angeles and somehow makes his intricate look at the city feel like its own character. This is where the character of Roman Israel is inspired. Gilroy has delivered yet another interesting character to focus on with an actor capable of delivering the goods.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a lawyer working at a small-time attorney's office. He's the guy who puts together the cases. He's the guy who does all the grunt work like doing research and writing briefs and investigating clients, etc. However, the namesake of the office and Israel's partner of 35 years has a heart attack and Roman is out of a job. In comes George Pierce (Colin Farrell), a high-priced defense attorney to swoop Roman up. Roman doesn't fit in with the new firm. He lives in a run-down apartment, he's worked forever for a mere $500/week, he's bad with people due to him being somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum, but he's a genius. Roman, who never asked for anything his entire life other than a job, starts to see what can happen when one begins to care about money. His life has been spent trying criminal cases in order to fund his passion, which is social activism litigation. Yet, even Roman knows it's a thankless job. After accepting the job at the new film, Roman experiences an inner crisis of self-doubt when he starts to wonder if being privileged in life has more perks than the one he's been living for years.

The story kind of meanders all over the place, but that's because Gilroy isn't necessarily concerned with the plot (much like Nightcrawler). Roman is the focus. He's an interesting character to watch unfold because he's unlike most characters we get to see regularly. A lot of this is thanks to Denzel for another magnificent performance. He brings much life and nuance to the character. The subtle ticks like the constant adjusting of his glasses or the way Roman decides to wear his hair that day accentuate an already elaborate character. He's blunt, but not an asshole. He's kind, but selfish. He makes calculated decisions, even if they're not the right one. When Roman begins to change from selfless activist to selfish "corporate guy", it's a struggle to watch. We know he's lived his entire life with next to nothing and it's nice to see him get his for a change. But we also know the actions he's taking go against every fiber of his moral code and integrity. It's fascinating to watch unfold.

There's also the fact that Denzel is still getting better and better. That's the beauty of watching one of the best actors to ever grace the screen is they are still working to improve and challenge themselves as actors. With every new character Denzel portrays, we are given a look into the life of someone who we've never seen him play before. He versatile in that he can play the action star, he can play the asshole, he can play an ex-activist lawyer on the spectrum. He's such a joy to watch and a marvel on the screen. However, I fear much like Nightcrawler, and Denzel's previous role in Fences, he's going to get overlooked once again in the Best Actor category. There's also the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis is already on the radar for the Oscar after announcing Phantom Thread will be his final film. I have this feeling Denzel is going to be robbed just like Gyllenhaal was robbed (though I do think Denzel will get a nomination... something ol' Jake didn't even get). However, Gilroy is going to have a very memorable and successful career if he keeps crafting characters like he has and getting the best actors in the world to lend their voices to the roles.

Yes, narratively and structurally, the film does feel somewhat like it's kind of all over the place and there's a bit of a tonal shift toward the end of the film that may strain a bit of credulity, but that's not the point. We're here to watch Denzel Washington give his all to a character that can teach us, through unique (and oversized) lenses about a different perspective in the world. The movie is highly enjoyable and I'm looking forward to any further characters Dan Gilroy can expose and bring to life. And, hey, if he decides to work with Denzel again on another project-- even better.

B+

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Lady Bird: Coming Of Age Done Right


I don't know what it is, but I really love coming of age movies. We've all had "rough childhoods" even though most of them have been Downy soft. But, there's something about watching an angsty child or teen go through an emotional reboot that comforts us in our lives. Movies like Dazed and Confused, The Breakfast Club, The Graduate, The Way Way Back, The Edge of Seventeen, Say Anything really know how to do coming of age right, even if most of them are somewhat formulaic. Lady Bird joins the ranks of one of the best coming of age movies. It reaches new heights as well for flipping the script on formula and structure to give us something new and great. Greta Gerwig's directorial debut is nothing short of fantastic.

Saoirse Ronan is Christine, but has self-dubbed herself "Lady Bird". She's a senior at a Catholic school (even though she's got zero faith in a God) her mother (Laurie Metcalf) sent her to because her brother "saw someone knifed at the public school". Most of the students come from upper class families, while Lady Bird's parents are struggling to make ends meet. Lady Bird spends her days like the typical teenage girl-- struggling more with her social life than her academic one. She crushes on guys like Danny (Lucas Hedges), joins activities with her friend Julie to meet said guys, and squabbles with her mom who, like her, has a flair for the dramatic.

The thing that I really like about Gerwig's crafting of Lady Bird is that she's not this unique flower. She's not the manic pixie dream girl wildcard character whose unique individuality is the core of her being.  She's like every basic high school student who hasn't really found her true self yet. She doesn't love anything because it's a part of her core interests... she loves things because other people she looks up to loves them. She joins the play because the guy she's interested in is in the play. She desecrates a nun's car in order to gain the attention of a more popular girl. She claims to know obvious pop culture references in fear of looking lesser than to the person dishing them out. She also has unrealistic expectations for herself, even though they're quite self-evident. She's upset when a guidance counselor laughs at her for wanting to get into Yale, even though her grades are sub par. Lady Bird conforms to whatever others around her love, thus crafting her counterfeit personality.

Gerwig knows that teenagers are amorphous blobs that rarely carry around a uniqueness to them. They are told by others what to like, what to watch, what to listen to, and what is cool and uncool. That's what makes the movie feel so real. Lady Bird is all of us when we were teenagers. We were overly dramatic (though I'm sure most of us didn't roll out of a moving car in the midst of an argument with our mom) and mischevious little shits who thought we knew everything and, in reality, knew nothing. It's not until we took a good hard look at who we were as individuals did we start to shape the people we were to become. Gerwig crafts such a wonderful narrative around the truth of youth that this movie will speak to anyone, no matter what the age.

Ronan does an amazing job as Lady Bird. Assuming she's drawing partly from her own childhood, her portrayal is very real. Her performance is the most authentic thing about Christine. The other aspect of the film that's terrific is her relationship with her parents. Her father is the "friendly" parent, always putting on a smile and never causing a rift with his daughter-- even though there is a lot of inner pain going on with him that he's perfected shielding his kids from. Her mother is the over-worked nurse who wears her emotions on her sleeve, always stressed, and never afraid to pass off some harsh judgment on anything she doesn't see eye to eye on. This continuously causes a rift between her and her daughter, which in turn, causes Lady Bird and her father to get closer. The problem with Lady Bird is that she's very much like her mother (like we all know we truly are deep down) and this causes tantrum-inducing conflict. The way Gerwig has written these characters is like she truly knows all of us.

Finally, Gerwig's storytelling is remarkable. She comes from a line of indie movies (and Noah Baumbach films), so she's picked up a few tricks about messing with the conventions of storytelling and film narratives. Gerwig spoon-feeds her audience absolutely nothing. She gives the viewer the benefit of the doubt that they have a brain. When Lady Bird is opening letters from colleges she's applied to, there's no long focus on the letter or narrator telling us whether she got in or not. She relies on her actress to provide the emotions. Lady Bird has a Mexican brother, Miguel. There isn't some unnecessary explanatory moment where we're told Miguel was adopted or abandoned by his family or anything like that. Lady Bird calls him brother. Her parents call him son. We don't need the intricacies of how a non-white dude ended up in a white family. To them-- he's family and his origin story is unimportant. I loved that about the film.

Lady Bird currently sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 161 reviews counted. This is no easy feat, but it is certainly earned. I can't recall the last 100% fresh rated theatrically released film. It's not playing everywhere, but if you are able to find it somewhere near you (or can make a trip to LA), I highly urge you to see this movie. It's an enjoyable and refreshing trip to the cinema, and I'm willing to bet somehow it will speak to every one of you.

A

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Coco: A Wonderful Film For Everyone... But Make Sure To Show Up 20 Minutes Late


Normally I begin my reviews with some amusing anecdote about one of the writers of the film or something correlating with the genre of film or how I feel about these types of films in general... in the case of Coco I'm going to forego this in favor of a stern lecture. Instead of writing about how Pixar is the best in family entertainment (because this is obvious... seriously, if you can't tell the difference between the quality of a movie like Inside Out to the quality of a movie like The Boss Baby, then you need to stop going to movies), I am going to take a second to talk to the parents out there... or the soon-to-be-parents, or people, in general, who may, one day, be in a theater with a child. TELL YOUR KIDS TO SHUT THE HELL UP. Look, I get it. Kids don't understand social etiquette. They get to yell and scream and sing along and jump and dance and puke all over themselves when they watch movies at home. Train your kids to leave this shit in the living room and keep quiet at the movies. I know this is an impossible task. And I'm not asking for perfection. Keeping a child still in a theater seat for 90+ minutes is no easy feat. They're going to get excited and they're going to want to lend their kids-say-the-darndest-things commentary to the film... if it happens every once in awhile... it's endearing. When they do it throughout the entire goddamn movie... it literally ruins the movie experience for EVERYONE else. Not just the people around them. If your kid gets a little loud, a courtesy "hey Joshua, be quiet, buddy" is perfectly acceptable. Letting your kid provide a spectator's commentary, using their outside-voice is NOT. If you know that this is your kid-- don't bring them to a movie. A theater experience isn't cheap anymore and it makes that ticket even less worthwhile when some shitty little four year old (who doesn't know any better) isn't getting any guidance (*cough* discipline) from his grown-ass should-seriously-know-better adult parents. If you can't keep your kid mostly quiet and respectful for the movie... please... leave them at home so you don't ruin the experience for the rest of us. 

And now back to our regularly scheduled program. 

Coco is a wonderful film. It's a film that when it's over (and you're done bawling your eyes out), makes you realize how good Pixar is when they're making original material and not sequels. I get it. They're a business like any production company and you want that money rolling in, but here's the thing. You don't actually have to pull the sequel routine like most production companies. The Pixar brand name alone will put many, many asses in seats. You don't have to give us THREE CARS MOVIES if you can keep giving us movies like Up and Inside Out and now Coco. The film takes place in Mexico on Dia de Muertos. Little Miguel dreams of being a musician like his hero Ernesto de la Cruz. However, due to a little family drama from his past involving a musician great grand-father abandoning his family in favor of seeking a musical dream... his family has completely outlawed any music. Miguel sneaks out of his house to participate in a musical talent contest during a Dia de Muertos festival, sneaks into the masoleum of de la Cruz to steal his guitar and is somehow transported to the Land of the Dead. He must now locate his dead ancestors to help him get back to the Land of the Living before sunrise or he will remain on "the other side" forever. 

Now, for anyone who has actually seen the movie, I've totally bastardized the plot summary here. Yes, I realize this. However, I did do intentionally because the less someone knows about the movie going into it-- the better. I'd only seen one preview for the movie and I assumed, like many others, it was about a kid who died, was dealing with this fact in the Land of the Dead alongside his quirky, yet also dead, dog pal. This was thankfully not the case (my significant other cannot handle dog death in films... as many of you DECENT HUMAN BEINGS can't either-- am I using the caps lock too often in this review? Also, no dogs die in this movie. I feel like this is a necessary disclaimer). What emerges from the film, however, is a perfect and poignant look at life, death, family and tradition. It's told very maturely (like most Pixar films) that magically ostracizes neither child nor adult. What we get is the Pixar staple - an adventure involving some dark-ish themes through the eyes of an innocent. 

I loved every second of Coco. I loved the vibrant colors. I loved the characters. I loved the animation and the music and the exploration into a culture different from my own. The movie doesn't just use Mexico and Mexican culture as a backdrop to a story in order to fit the whole Day-of-the-Dead narrative, it's a love letter to Mexico and its people and its traditions and its art and its music and its culture. And, holy crap you guys, they didn't cast a bunch of white actors doing their best Mexican accents! What I also loved too is that Coco doesn't stick to the typical story structure of film. There isn't a big main antagonist. Everything isn't going wrong one minute after the next. Good things happen to our hero. Supporting characters do want to help him get back. Through most of the film, Miguel's worst enemy is himself. Yes, there is a lot of conflict and moments of tension, but it's weaved through a fun story that gives us more moments of joy than fear. And the case of this film, it really works. 

The other thing you're probably wondering (or just assume if you're well versed in Pixar) is just how much ugly crying is going to happen to you-- my guess is a decent amount. But, like most Pixar fare, it's not a sad cry. It's a happy cry. It's an endearing cry. Pixar has this unique and magical quality of being able to tell a fun and unique storyline, but one that every viewer can relate to themselves and their own lives somehow. You're not crying at the story, you're crying with the story. And they're not tears of sadness, they're tears of everything. Coco is the movie you should be watching with your entire family. It's legitimately the perfect film to see on or around Thanksgiving (that actually has nothing to do with the holiday of Thanksgiving -- that honor goes to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) because Coco, at its core, is about family. As much as I seriously urge all of you out there to go seek out Three Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri... if you want to catch a quick film with your entire family who has begrudgingly come out to eat massive quantities of food with you, then Coco is the perfect choice. I have no complaints about this movie one bit. 

I do however, have a bone to pick with Pixar. One of the best things about catching a Pixar flick in theaters is that you're also going to get the animated short before the movie. Pixar is notorious, not just for the high quality of their feature films, but for the phenomenal shorts they tack on in front of the films. This time, though... don't expect this. What you get this time is a heinously long (21 minutes) Frozen short called Olaf's Frozen Adventure. It's annoyingly bad. I liked Frozen, but by minute two of this short film I was painfully waiting for it to be over. It sticks to Coco like a sore thumb. Here's a movie, that rare movie that explores the traditions of Mexican culture and art... and you got a bunch of white people from a very white-people movie singing for 21 minutes before the film you've paid to see starts. When the film premiered in Mexico, moviegoers were so upset (and rightfully so) at the short, that a lot of major theater chains had to stop showing it. Pixar shat the bed hard with that one. Coco wasn't the movie to attach this episode of Frozen: Elsa's Emo-ness Continues to. They had to have tried to fit at least ten different songs into this "short" (as it felt feature film length by the end). Kids familiar with Forozen will probably love it... you'll drift off trying to imagine all of the ways you could kill yourself using only your Buncha Crunch box. Coco was fantastic... Frozen 2.0 was garbage.

A

Monday, November 20, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Brilliant, Hopeful, Cynicism


My rule for being able to declare a director as one of my all-time "favorites" is-- three films. Three is the perfect number to decide whether or not a director has the chops or not. Three brilliant films is no easy feat either. Steven Spielberg is widely known as one of the greatest directors of all time, but look at his filmography for the last thirteen years (The BFG, Bridge of Spies, Lincoln, War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Munich, War of the Worlds, The Terminal). There aren't even three great movies among them. But he IS one of the greatest of all time because he's made at least three iconic, brilliant films in his career. One of my favorite directors is Edgar Wright. I could tell you that this is based solely on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but two movies isn't a big enough sample size. After these two films came Scott Pilgrim, which was decent... not great. However, after The World's End, and this year's Baby Driver, I am able to say that Wright has made three great movies and can fit nicely on my list. A director I'm sure most of you aren't familiar with by name, Martin McDonagh, has been encroaching that "favorite director" label of mine for awhile now, but only had two movies to his name: In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. I was just waiting for that third movie so that I can share with the world the brilliance of this man. Thankfully, not only is his latest film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a great film, it's probably his best film to date.

McDonagh, who also writes all of his own original films, is like the long-lost British Coen brother. He's bending genres as well as, if not better than Joel and Ethan do. All three of his films have been the perfect balance of drama/action and comedy. His movies feature in depth looks at some very uncomfortable and serious themes, yet he's able to keep us laughing all the way through. In Bruges was about a hitman struggling to deal with the fact that his first hit went wrong because he accidentally killed a kid. He's depressed, even to the point of suicidal-- and yet, it's one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Seven Psychopaths deals with actual psychotic killers, race issues, over-the-top bloody violence, and yet... had a hilarious charm to it as well. Three Billboards is no different. It may be McDonagh's most "serious" movie to date, but it's still very funny (and smart, and poignant, and heartfelt, etc.) all the way through to the end.

The brilliant, wonderful, and incredibly talented Frances McDormand plays Mildred. She lives in a house just outside of Ebbing, Missouri, next to three worn-down billboards that haven't been used for advertising in decades. She decides to purchase the three billboards in order to call out the local law enforcement for the standstill of solving her daughter's rape and murder. She names Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) personally on the billboard, which causes a stir within the community, the local news outlet, and Willoughby's deputy- Dixon (Sam Rockwell). While the entire town begins to wage war against Mildred (even though they "understand what she's going through"), she remains steadfast and unyielding, accepting the fact that any press is good press. Amid her story, we get insight into the rest of the very flawed characters of Ebbing. Mildred's abusive ex-husband (John Hawkes) who is shacked up with his new 19-year-old girlfriend. Mildred's son (Manchester By The Sea's Lucas Hedges) still dealing with the loss of his sister, and now his newfound (unwanted) attention gained from his mother's billboards. Dixon's sad existence of inner anguish that comes out as moments of irrational violence-- stemming from the fact that's he's a drunk who still lives with his mother. And finally, Chief Willoughby's attempts to calm down Mildred, track down her daughter's killer, and maintain a normal life in the midst of his own battle with cancer.

Now, I realize that none of this sounds all that humorous. The situations themselves are quite heartbreaking, but the depth and quirkiness of the characters bring out the humor amid the dark. McDonagh is such an ingenious writer that he's able to give us these unhappy, flawed characters and showcase their humanity. Mildred, especially, is a broken woman who's only holding it together through sheer anger and hard-headedness. She doesn't let anyone give her any shit, and acts out of pure instinct, but that doesn't mean her instinct isn't calculated. He random outbursts of violent revenge (like drilling a small hole in the thumb of an ornery dentist, or kicking a couple of dickhead high schoolers in the crotch) are never acted upon without full awareness of the consequences she may face. Willoughby is just as hard-nosed as Mildred, which is why they butt heads so often, but have respect for one another. Dixon is an irritable simpleton who is essentially the opposite of Mildred. He's racist, sexist, homophobic, and his acts of violence are instinctual as well, though there isn't much else brainwave-wise rumbling around his head. Yet, deep down there is a hint of good in him-- that only Willoughby can see. These are very complexly written characters that we don't get to see in most movies these days.

However, it doesn't matter how exceptional the writing and the directing is... without this cast it wouldn't hit nearly as hard as it does. To be able to find actors like McDormand, Harrelson, and Rockwell who are skilled in balancing dramatic acting with humor, inner turmoil with outward sarcasm and wit-- it's just not an easy thing to do. Everyone in the movie holds their own, but even beyond that, bring an original script with a tragic story to life and really make you, the viewer, FEEL THINGS. You'll feel just as angry as Mildred, but you'll laugh along with her and cheer her on as she puts nearly everyone in their place. It takes a special kind of movie to kick you in the gut several times, and make you cry real tears of both pain and laughter. And Three Billboards is that movie. It's as close to a perfect movie as you can get.

Really, the only complaint I had about the movie is the casting of Abbie Cornish as Harrelson's wife. In a midwest town full of colorful and dysfunctional characters, she kinda sticks out like a sore thumb. She's very obviously younger than him. Her acting is very blah. And her British accent amid the twang of everyone else's dialect is jarring. She's been in McDonagh films before, so he must be impressed by something she gives to a performance... I've just never seen it. Other than that, you'll be hard-pressed to find a film, that's wholly original, not based on any previous source material, that gives you this great of a time at the theater. Three Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri deals with some serious dark themes, and it's vulgar as hell, but it's a movie that will stay with you for a good, long while. There's so much more I can say about this movie (like how Hollywood should take a good, hard look at the brilliance of this film and take more risks with original works), but it's best I just let you see the film in all its glory for yourself. It's been a long time since I've seen a black comedy this gut-wrenchingly emotional, this exultantly funny, this deeply moving and so very, very smart.

A

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League: Learned Lessons And Bastardizing Batman


--Written by Guest Reviewer Matthew Martin-Hall

I’m tempted to simply give Justice League an A+ and say, “It was the best film I’ve seen since Pulp Fiction!” Since, in agreeing to do this review (read: begging a somewhat apathetically appreciative Ryan to let me do it.), Ryan said that if I come at you all with my typical “Batman can do no wrong”/must defend the superior DC Universe bravado, he’d have to go see it himself and provide a balance to my bias. A bias so strong that I actually and whole-heartedly defended the Batman V. Superman film, which predicates the much needed successful recovery of the entire franchise with this film. And I think it is such a recovery despite what that broken Rotten Tomatoes system you all worship like scripture, says. So, Ryan, stop reading right here and go see Justice League.

On that same note: if it’s at all quelling (in regards to the intensity of my aforementioned bias) I will say this directly; if for no other reason than to give those I may know the courage to continue this review, those whom are very aware of my religious belief in Batman’s infallibility, Batman was the Absolute. Worst. Part. Of. This. Film. This Batfleck/Snyder bastardization and perversion of a poorly executed homage to one of the most iconic renderings of the Dark Knight should retire their mantle and find a way to get someone else into it quick. This isn’t Miller’s Batman. This isn’t the cat herding leader (and three time destroyer) of the Justice League. This is another case of trying to be too much with much too little (see: Batman V. Superman).  

I digress.

Please take the time now to return your jaws to the upright and locked position and settle your eyes back into their sockets. Structurally, the film is sound. They hit all of the necessary beats whilst juggling all of the complex narratives and arcs (Only two of which have been told in solo films) rather elegantly, with only a few moderate and passable clunks. Clunks, might I add, that are hard to catch because so much of what’s going on onscreen is the 100% pure fruit juice of badassery (not from concentrate). I’ll admit, the reviews I'd heard coming into this film painted for me a dismal return to form in terms of this slow burn formula that has marred this franchise-- a franchise that tends to risk too much cinematically for it’s consistently lackluster return. If what this film gives us is indicative of the direction they’ve decided to take, DC truly has learned their lesson when it comes to lengthy and elaborate expositions and near surrealistic story structure (see: Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman). This was comforting to witness. 

In Whedon’s name, we say thank you.

Now, one doesn’t cut a full hour out of a film and not make some strategic sacrifices. Suffice it to say some of the dialogue was a bit “on-the-nose”, but those lines came and went relatively unnoticeably. Jokes landed flush, breaking up the brooding darkness of the tone expertly, all typically being followed by moments of intense and well choreographed action. Each scene left me feeling satisfied as if this film were a plate of desired elements that satiated my cravings as both a filmmaker and consumer with every nicely proportioned bite.

The villain, Steppenwolf, was vague and cliché most of the time. This didn’t bother me much either as Steppenwolf is a pretty vague and cliché villain anyhow. The way I see it, if you didn’t have a problem with the villains in the original Independence Day, you shouldn’t have a problem with him. Let’s be honest here, this film is less about struggling against an overwhelming power and more about getting the band together. An easily explained villain allows this to be accomplished seamlessly without succumbing to the latter stated travesty of over-explaining things to the detriment of the film's flow. He didn’t bother me. I believed in the existential threat he provided that catalyzed the necessity and subsequent formation of The Justice League. I believed the Justice League (with a furious exception to Batman.). All boxes were checked. 

All-in-all, I was impressed with this film in the way that one is impressed with an Olympic gymnast whom recovers well on the balance beam. I also believe that this “judging on recovery” approach is the best lens through which we should view this film.  Batman V. Superman was a messy piece of cinematic risk that all but flattened this entire franchise's chance in the market. Batman V. Superman created the scope of justifiably dismal expectation that predicated this film. Honestly, it inspired me to have a drink beforehand and buy two more at the theater. But I had a moment with Justice League about half an hour in. See this well: 

My hand shaking with cautious optimism as I raise a second saison to my lips.

We’re on Themiscyra. Hippolyta and the Amazons confront our freshly revealed villain in an epic display of resistance and courage. At the very moment that Hippolyta releases a signal arrow, my eyes well up and I nearly shed a tear. My cautious optimism receded into a kind of faithful knowing. For the first time in this DC Universe, I was able to let go, lean in, and enjoy the film. I didn’t have to worry about the excuses I would surely have to make later to sorely misguided Marvel fans; nor did I have to concern myself with justifying the choices made by some fucker named Snyder. Though I’ve said so much already, I don’t think this one really needs my words. It stands on it’s own.  

What I wanted more of: A Batman I could care about that I could believe would lead The Justice League. Better dialogue choices (or no dialogue at all). The notorious flirtmance between Diana and Bruce. Commissioner Gordon. Aquaman and Amazonians (in their armor circa Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman)… Yes, I honestly wanted more Aquaman. And Patty Jenkins.

What I wanted less of: A Batman I couldn’t care about nor believe could lead The Justice League. Batman using a fucking gun. Batman forgetting he’s a ninja and the greatest detective in the universe. Batman… If you’re going to fuck up Batman, make it quick. Some of us need to believe that his persona is salvageable from the mired depths of your grotesquely obvious lack of canonical knowledge concerning such a legendary hero. Affleck. Snyder. 


Finally, three things to note:

1. DO NOT EVER fucking give Batman a gun and have him say that his super power is “being rich”… EVER!
2. If you are going to clap and cheer for Lanterns, but not do the same for Wizards, y’all need to brush up on your comic knowledge. 
3. Stay after the credits. All my 70's Super Friends Cartoon loving friends are going to nerdgasm all over that theater. Yes, it is that good. 

B- 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Murder On The Orient Express: A Literary Whodunnit


I love me a good murder mystery. What can I say? I'm a sucker for them. They're probably one of my top guilty pleasure movies along with courtroom movies (*cough* John Grisham adaptations) and prison movies. Nice thing is, the genre produces a lot of decent movies (Zodiac, Seven, Memento, Mystic River, Silence of the Lambs, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and, of course, a few piles of trash (Um... yeah... The Snowman). So, naturally, when I saw Kenneth Branagh was adapting Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, as well as portraying literary lead detective Hercule Poirot, I was more than in. Well, that, and the fact that shitty Hollywood has only released Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MI in limited theaters... this was the film of the week. And while it was definitely a pretty good whodunnit... I'm not sure if it was that exceptional of a movie.

MotOE tells the story of, well... a murder that occurs... on the Orient Express. Self-proclaimed "greatest detective in the world" Hercule Poirot is catching a ride on the train, trying to escape a life of detecting for just a few days. He'd prefer to relax, close his mind, and read a good book in solitude. However, a man, Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is murdered in his cabin and everyone on the train becomes a suspect. What follows is Poirot using his keen detective skills and very astute attention to detail to narrow down suspects until he finds the killer. The characters on the train are led by an all star cast who include, but are not limited to Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, and Willem Dafoe (all of whom Branagh was able to procure for the movie as they have all worked with him in the past).

The problem with the adaptation of the novel (which, admittedly I have not read) is we have such a diverse cast of characters, each with their own integral story to the plot, that we hardly get enough time with each of them. The only character we get plenty of is Poirot, and needless to say, he's a very fun character. Poirot is like the French step-cousin to Sherlock Holmes. He's got his quirks and eccentricities (like brutal honesty and a sharp wit), but when it comes to solving cases, there's no one better. A simple smudge of a footprint can tell him a story no one else sees. He's a fun character to follow and stay with... but that's about it. The rest of the characters don't really get a chance to shine. And because we don't get in depth discoveries of each one, it's a piece of the film that is seriously lacking.

Here's the other thing about the film-- it's not very exciting. I don't mean that I didn't enjoy it because there weren't action sequences and chases and dismembered limbs. That's not the kind of "exciting" I'm referring to. The train gets trapped in snow and the case unfolds while they wait for help to dig them out. It's the only real set piece of the film and because we're trapped in the small train compartment, the excitement is left up to Poirot questioning the patrons one-by-one. The tension doesn't exactly get amped up... really until the end. It's the part of the novel (I assume) that just doesn't translate into film. I can see this book being a very exciting book because not only do we get to spend more time with each character and Poirot delving into their inner psyche, but the interrogations are going to be much more in depth and extended. Watching a man sit at a table twelve different times with twelve different people asking them questions turns a decent whodunnit into a morbid job interview. Reading it is different than watching someone do it. I think some of the excitement of the book (and I could be wrong) is lost in the translation to film.

Now, the actors are great. With what little screen time they're all presented, they do handle their jobs well. Each one appears to be innocent as well as guilty. Every time Poirot interviews them you're nearly sure that they're the murderer or completely innocent... and then your guess filpflops. Branagh shines as Poirot, delivering his French-accented acerbic wit with the precision of a seasoned actor. And I can tell you this, dear reader, the end reveal is very satisfying. When it comes to whodunnits, we've already seen nearly all of them. First, it was the character who seemed to be the most innocent. Then it turned into characters who are put almost in the background. Then it's the character who was "killed" early on, but is revealed to have been alive the whole time. It takes a lot to "get you" with the reveal these days, and MotOE does not fail to deliver. Not only is the reveal somewhat surprising, the motive actually makes sense and (forgive the pun) cuts deep.

So, while I don't think MotOE succeeds as well as a movie, I do believe that (if a lot hasn't been changed-- and knowing Branagh's history as a director who loves to adapt Shakespeare, he stays true to source material) it has got to be a much more exciting book. The actors made me enjoy the characters so much that I craved more from each one and in a movie with twelve stars, a couple of minutes with each one just doesn't cut it. It looks like I may have to add just one more book to my reading list.

C+

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok: Thor And Hulk Really Suck, Just Not Right Now


I think if you were to go back and read every review I've done since I started this thing over five years ago, the phrase you'd find most often coming from me would be: "I'm so tired of superhero movies." This hasn't changed. Keeping up with Marvel and DC is exhausting... and I don't even like them that much. I see them because most of them get positive reviews and there is a through storyline. But I don't really buy them. I don't re-watch all of them when the next one arrives. I just see them and wait a couple months for the next inevitable movie. And while I'm still very VERY tired of of the Marvel Extended Universe... one thing that has also remained consistent is how much Thor and Hulk suck. They're the two worst superheros that Marvel has offered us so far and their standalone movies have been terrible. Yes, it was a great idea to make Hulk Mark Ruffalo and cease and desist all Hulk movies. Yes, Chris Hemsworth brings some much needed charisma to the character of Thor and he works well within the group... but his solo movies have been terribly underwhelming. I mentioned earlier that I see positively rated Marvel films... I didn't see Thor: The Dark World and I don't care to. However, Thor: Ragnarok, with its impressive 93% on Rotten Tomaotes, stands as not just the best Thor movie (obviously), but one of the best Marvel movies to date.

Here's how I knew Thor: Ragnarok was going to be a good movie: a man by the name of Taiki Waititi. Unfamiliar with this guy? You shouldn't be. He's an actor/director with a sense of humor akin to Flight of the Conchords (in fact, he's most often worked with Jemaine Clement and even directed four episodes of the Flight of the Conchords TV show). He's also directed one of the funniest underrated comedies in the last five years-- What We Do in the Shadows (he also stars). If you haven't seen this movie, then I suggest you seek it out as soon as possible because it's brilliant. His last film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I haven't actually seen yet, but was also met with critical success. It's this history of touching films mixed with a unique sense of humor that landed him the job directing the third solo Thor film. And boy, did Marvel make the right decision. His brand of humor, mixed with his innovative and relaxed style of directing has produced one of the most fun Marvel movies ever made, next to Guardians of the Galaxy.

In fact, the tone of Thor: Ragnarok is more similar to an 80s classic film Big Trouble in Little China, mixed with GotG (Waititi even admits that Big Trouble in Little China was the main inspiration for this film). Thor is back in Asgard when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returns, as well as Hela (Cate Blanchett), Thor and Loki's long lost evil sister who just so happens to be the Goddess of Death. She returns to rule Asgard... as well as the rest of the universe. She destroys Thor's hammer and banishes Thor and Loki to a remote garbage planet run by The Grandmaster (a very welcome Jeff Goldblum). Thor is enslaved and forced to fight gladiator-style for entertainment when he runs into an old Avenger buddy of his-- Hulk (Ruffalo). Together the two of them, and an Asgard refugee, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), have to escape from the planet, get to Asgard to save the land and the people. There's a lot happening in the film, but it always seems very relaxed and willing to go with the flow. There are rarely any serious moments and when there are, they're always broken up by a bit of humorous levity. Waititi even voices the character of Korg, who is like having a Conchords comic relief character, who looks like a rock monster, along for the ride.

Waititi claims that nearly 80% of the dialogue was improvised in order to create a "loose and collaborative mood" among the cast as well as showcase Hemsworth's comedic skills, which is something we rarely get to see with him. This plays to the strengths of the film as it appears everyone is having a great time-- which translates over to the audience. Even when there's imminent danger on the horizon, there is still a quip or a visual gag to accompany it so we don't forget the type of movie we're here to see. This doesn't mean that there aren't stellar performances. Hemsworth, finally free from the chains of a script is hilarious. He channels his inner Starlord and has a lot more fun with the character, almost reinventing who we've come to know as Thor. Hiddleston as Loki is also a welcome return, especially as an ally (somewhat) because he's able to keep the story always on its toes. He is, after all, the God of Mischief. Blanchett is superb as the villain Hela. She's pure evil, but she doesn't ham it up and over play it as it would've been very easy to do. But, clearly, the winner here for favorite character has to go to Goldblum. He hasn't lost his comedic touch and even though he's a slime, he's still a Goldblum-esque slime.

The standout of the movie, I'm sure most would agree, is Thomson's Valkyrie. She's a strong female character, and flawed in a way that doesn't showcase weakness for the sake of weakness. If anyone working for Marvel is smart (and they've already proven they can be...), they'll incorporate her character into every MEU film from here until she's ready to walk away from the role. Hell, she should get her own damn movie. Her storyline, while pretty fleshed out, is so good it still made me want more. Then again, Marvel is refusing to give Black Widow her own movie, so who the hell knows.

The rest of the movie is just fun. I think it would behoove the studio to take more risks with comedic directors. We've seen that these guys know how to tell a story and they know how to bring a freshness to an already tiring genre. They keep it light and fun and provide a living comic book (emphasis on comic). James Gunn has already proven this is a good idea with GotG. Waititi's strengths don't only lie with comedy, however. You can tell from just watching the film that he's very detail oriented. There are shots in the film that are awe-inspiring. There's a flashback battle of a hoard of Valkyries riding flying horses (I say flying horses because I'm not sure what the plural of Pegasus would be. Pegasai?) toward Hela in an epic battle sequence that's one of the coolest shots in a Marvel movie to date. He also didn't appear to accept cheap CGI. Hulk has always looked fake. Massive battle sequences involving alien-ish characters can get muddled with CGI and take the realism out of the situation. Waititi's film has maybe one or two blemishes that are so slight, they're damn near blink-and-you'll-miss-it. And hell, the dude got to use a Led Zeppelin song (the very apt "Immigrant Song"). Try and think of the last movie who got the rights to use one of their songs. Don't worry I'll wait.

Look, no Marvel movie is ever going to convert me into a superfan. I didn't grow up reading comic books and it's just not my thing. But, I do appreciate a good film. I can appreciate when Marvel is trying to up their game with each additional entry into the MEU. And I will continue seeing these positively reviewed films (and subsequently bitching incessantly about them) until they either stop (won't happen) or I go insane. Thor: Ragnarok may not be the very best film Marvel has released, but it's certainly in the top five and it's miles and miles better than any standalone Hulk or Thor entry we've recieved thus far. What else is nice, is the film is also in the top five most entertaining movies I've seen this entire year. Whether you're a superhero nut, a casual fan, or just a person who appreciates a fun film... Thor: Ragnarok definitely has something for everyone. Put your preconceived notions about Thor (and Hulk) away for about two hours and you'll be just as impressed as I was.

B+

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Jigsaw: All Work And No Play Make Jigsaw A Dull Boy


The first Saw movie did a lot of good for the horror world. It was a brand new type of horror film, one that was part mystery, part psychological thriller, and part cringe-worthy gore fest (even though the first Saw actually has hardly any gore at all). It also is the last movie I can remember to totally GET everyone who saw it. No one saw the twist coming in that movie. It was so impressive, I remember seeing the movie three times in theaters. It also launched the career of James Wan, who has honed his horror skills and given us great terrifying movies like The Conjuring and Insidious. Hell, the guy even got to do Fast and Furious 7 as well as the upcoming Aquaman film. The first Saw film still holds up today and is genuinely one of the best and most original horror movies ever made.

However... it also created a lot of bad. Since the first film, there have been seven sequels. There used to be a new Saw movie once every Halloween, until we got tired of seeing the same old thing. The sequels lost the acting quality, the script quality, and the intelligence of the first movie and it literally just became a bunch of random directors seeing how many different ways they could torture other human beings. The torture devices got more inventive and the carnage got gorier. There were little twists here and there throughout the series, but none that even remotely came close to the shock of the first film. Now, were any of the sequels good? Sure. I'd say one of them was good. But because they all blend together, I couldn't even tell you which one I'm thinking of. The sixth one? Maybe? Either way, most of the sequels were hot garbage that didn't require acting or a story. Fans of the Saw franchise saw these movies for the kills. That's it.

So, in order to bring back the franchise after a seven year hiatus, I thought maybe there was an idea so brilliant that it couldn't have been left alone. They came up with such good torture devices, such a good plot, such a good twist... that they HAD to bring the franchise back for one more, hoping once again to start anew.

Nope. Not the case. Seriously, if it hadn't been seven years since the last film, this movie would lump itself in with the rest of the series. Except this time, it's even more forgettable. I didn't go into the film thinking it would be good. Don't worry. Didn't make that mistake. But I did have high hopes for something within the film to impress me because, again... why bother bringing it back if you didn't have something new to offer? This question and more are unanswered in the film.

It's been ten years since anyone has heard from the Jigsaw killer, until bodies start turning up with jigsaw pieces cut out of them. A Detective and his partner have teamed up to figure out who is trying to pull a copycat of a long-dead serial killer (remember... Jigsaw actually DIED in the third movie despite this being the eighth). While the detective is searching for where the new "game" is being played, we are following a new group of reprobates being punished by Jigsaw - or a Jigsaw copycat - for their crimes against humanity. They are subjected to new torture devices and wind up getting killed by them one by one until the standard Saw big reveal at the end.

The acting is terrible, the dialogue sounds like it's straight from an episode of NCIS, the character motivations are laughable and the means of torture aren't even that clever. But it's actually a really fun movie to watch-- IF you enjoy watching the other terrible Saw films. Fans of the franchise don't see the movie to get scared. You go to laugh at the poor acting/dialogue/story and cringe at the gore. Critics of the franchise will not be converted. It's more of the same. It's more of the same even to a fault. Two consistencies in the Saw films really stood out to me and I was hoping we'd get a change of pace- first of all, everyone dies in every movie. Every person in every movie subjected to Jigsaw's games die. The only ones who don't wind up turning into Jigsaw helpers. No one ever gets to hack off a limb, escape and live happily ever after. Second, every Jigsaw victim, when put into a group (hell, even solo) is an idiot. No one listens to reason. No one tries to actually figure out the game. Everyone acts out of moronic instinct and all wind up getting killed because of it. A nice change of pace would've been to see a smart victim or a group of victims actually trying not to fall into the same trap over and over and over again. But, alas, we are given much of the same.

The other thing about the movie that hindered the fun a little bit, too, was the new directors (the Spierig Brothers) decided not to go balls out like the previous directors and a lot of the gore is held off screen. The one thing you can certainly rely on in a Saw movie is satiating your inner blood lust, but most of the carnage happens off screen, which is a little disappointing. There's also a couple of Jigsaw "traps" that are very confusing on how they're supposed to work, which makes the tension almost non-existent. There are still bloody moments and a couple of cool traps, but overall it's a weaker entry into the series (something a resurgence of a franchise after several years should never be).

I will give Jigsaw this-- the twist, though not mind-blowing by any standard, is actually pretty clever. I don't know if I should've seen it coming all along, but it was clever enough that it took me by surprise. It's too easy to just put the blame on a copycat Jigsaw killer, so the way they are able to explain the resurgence of Jigsaw after ten years was a bit more clever than I was willing to give the movie credit for. Other than that, it's your standard Saw film (the first movie doesn't count as "standard" btw). If you've enjoyed the insane and grotesque aspects of the each film and are willing to laugh along with the thin stories that accompany the deaths, then you'll have fun watching this one as I did. But, if you're looking for something new and unique and worthwhile in theaters (that's actually going to scare you), then this is certainly not the franchise to pick up this late.

C-

Suburbicon: Best Laid Plans Of Matt and George


George Clooney, as an actor, is very likable and makes pretty good role choices. George Clooney as a director-- eh. I'll admit I haven't yet seen Good Night and Good Luck, which I've heard is stellar, but the rest of his filmography is barred in mediocrity. I really liked The Ides of March, but I think it's because of the strength of the cast and not so much the strength of the script or direction. Leatherheads is the epitome of a forgettable film (thanks a lot Renee Zellweger) and The Monuments Men, even with a brilliant cast, couldn't be saved by anything. Suburbicon falls somewhere in the middle. It helps that the script Clooney wrote with writing partner Grant Heslov was basically an update of an older script written by the Coen Bros. The Coens are still given top writing credit, but the film they wrote is much different than the one we get. There's still some Coen-isms throughout, but the final product feels much like an amateur director trying his hardest to produce something Coen-esque and falling short.

Here's the deal with Suburbicon-- it's fine. Nothing stands out as particularly wrong with the movie, but nothing really makes a huge impact in it either. So, it's fine. It's an entertaining film that serves as a distraction from everyday life. But here's the thing... I left the movie feeling super 'meh' about it. I wasn't leaning toward good or bad with my reaction, but I was stuck dab in the middle of 'meh'. And I'm not sure if I felt this way because, once again, I was seriously misled by the advertisements for the film, or because the movie was actually just very mediocre. Go watch the theatrical trailer. What you're shown is that the film is going to be very dark and quirky. Fans who purchased tickets for the film are expecting a dark-comedy/satire about 50s white people and the "accidental" violence that plagues these do-gooders. There are images of Matt Damon covered in blood and silently eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There's the shot of what looks like an explosion happening in front of Damon's face and he pedals off as fast as he can on a bike that's too small for his body. There's Julianne Moore dressed in pink housewife's attire using a rolling pin to smash down a gaggle of pills. It looks quirky as hell... but it's not. I laughed several times during the trailer. I didn't laugh once during the movie. There are a few chuckles here and there (maybe not even intentionally), but aside from the opening faux commerical for 1950s suburban living... it's a dark movie with almost no likable characters. Yes, there is a looming social commentary hovering over the film, but it is, by no means, presented in a satirical way. It's just dark and somewhat uncomfortable.

Suburbicon tells two stories. The first story is of the Lodge family. Gardner (Damon) lives in Suburbicon with his paraplegic wife Rose (Moore) and his son Nicky. Rose's twin sister Margaret (also Moore) visits them often. One night, two men invade the home, hold the family hostage, and wind up killing Rose. The other story is of the Mayers family. They're the first African-American family to move into Suburbicon-- in a house directly behind the Lodge's. There's Mr. Mayers, his wife, and his young son, Andy, who befriends Nicky very quickly. The all-white town of "pro-integrationists" are very upset by the arrival of a black family, that they wind up protesting their settlement outside the front of their house. What starts as jeers and name-calling, slowly turns into public disturbance and even the threat of violence. While the town is so focused on this family, who is kinder and gentler than ANYONE in the entire town, they're all distracted from the violence happening in the Lodge home. Finally, Oscar Isaac shows up as an insurance agent -- and that's pretty much all I can tell you about his character.

It's a nice little commentary on racism and white privilege, but it just feels... kinda... off. We don't get much of a look into the Mayers home. We get a scene or two of Mrs. Mayers getting verbally shit on by some white people and her staying tough and taking the moral high ground, but the family is used more as a prop than as real, suffering characters. They're there to play the role of "black family" to make white people racism stand out. We get a lot from young Andy and his relationship with Nicky, but not as much as I'm sure audience members would've liked. The rest of the cast is full of just unlikable people with agendas that are sinister instead of darkly humorous. The movie plays out the way someone recreating a Coen brothers movie would try to do it, but it falls short. Fargo is the perfect dark comedy/thriller. Guy has his wife kidnapped in order to get the ransom from her cheap father. He hires two loose cannons to do the job. Almost everyone ends up getting killed and the only characters who survive are the morally redemptive ones. Suburbicon attempts this formula, but without the quirkiness of the characters and the absurdity of the situations, it just doesn't really take any sort of tonally consistent shape. I will say this, though... the ending is very satisfying and both scenes with Oscar Isaac are the most entertaining in the entire movie.

I do feel bad that the film is royally flopping and Paramount is having a pretty dull year (see: Mother!), but Coen brothers movies aren't exactly huge money-makers. They rely on their indie movie style of filmmaking to take hold of a few thousand theaters and recoup their money based on positive word of mouth. Unfortunately, due to some seriously shoddy advertising and trailer building... the word of mouth isn't going to come and this movie is going to be just as forgotten as Leatherheads. It's not awful. If you wind up catching it On Demand or Netflix, you will find yourself invested, but not enough to pay it forward and recommend it to anyone else.

C

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Snowman: A Fascinating Exploration Into The Shit-Show That Is Filmmaking


Recently there has been a debate about whether or not Rotten Tomatoes has been good or bad for the film industry. As this has been a surprisingly down year for movies, a lot of filmmakers have pointed the finger at rottentomatoes giving poor ratings to movies which influence viewer decisions and have kept them away from their films. I mean, I guess this is a fair assessment on the surface. Before RT, all we had to go by were reading lengthy reviews in magazines or newspapers and most of us didn't take the time to do so. Then there was also Siskel and Ebert and their thumbs up thumbs down reviews... which, if you think about it, is basically the same good/bad assessment that RT gives, except instead of collecting an aggregate of all critics' reviews, it's two old, cynical dudes. On one hand, I can see where filmmakers, who spend countless hours and energy and money on films want a fair chance at people seeing their movies (at least enough to recoup expenses). But, on the other hand, don't be upset when a remake of The Mummy with Tom Cruise gets a 16% on RT, doesn't make even half the money it was expecting... when the movie was shit to begin with. I've always been a fan of RT because I don't take it at face value. When a movie gets a rating, I'll do my own investigation and read the reviews that follow said rating, especially a movie with an abnormally high or low percentage. My issue with RT is that it is too polarizing. Yes, we get the say of all critics allowed to cast their opinion on the site which is calculated into a percentage... but what fails to translate is the good/bad ratio of films. It's not fair to assess that your rating means either the film is fresh or rotten and there is no other middle ground. This means, if a movie is "just okay", in the C-average range, it's automatically labeled as rotten, which can bring a movie's percentage way down, even if the movie doesn't reflect such a low score. On the other hand, a movie with only two and a half stars and above can be certified fresh (60% and above is technically fresh), so I mean it does balance itself out in the end. Unfortunately, some films can get screwed by this balance. The Snowman is one of these films.

Earlier this week I saw Geostorm, which currently sits at a putrid 13% on RT. It's accurate, it's well-deserved, and there's really no arguing with it, especially if you've seen the film. However, The Snowman sits even further below with an amazingly low score of 9%. Is The Snowman a good movie? No, not exactly. But is it worthy of getting a lower score than Grown Ups? Absolutely not. And I think this is where filmmakers actually have a concern about their movies. People on the fence about seeing The Snowman are certainly not going to see the film now that it has a 9% attached to it. Hell, even people who probably wanted to see the movie have turned their backs to it. The film, no matter what the projections were for it, is going to suffer financially. Is it entirely Rotten Tomatoes' fault? Absolutely not... but it doesn't help. Accurately, I'd say The Snowman should sit around the 45-50% range. Even with a score like that, it's not going to change everyone's minds about the film, but there are many people out there willing to give a movie with a 50% a better chance than a 9%.

So, what's actually wrong with the film? How did a movie with such a skilled director, a fantastic cast, and a competent crew actually make a movie deemed worthy by critics as being worse than most Adam Sandler films? Well, from everything I've read about the movie, it sounds like it was a shit-show from the very beginning. Filmmaking itself, with everything that goes into making a movie, sounds like an absolute nightmare. There are so many small parts working together to make something large, it seems to me like a straight up impossibility to make an actual film good. But, it's been done. Several times. Obviously. I'm just surprised it hasn't failed more often. The Snowman is based off a book. The rights were purchased by Martin Scorsese and he was actually, at one time, attached to direct. When his schedule filled up, he handed the movie off to Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Let the Right One In), a very skillful director and totally competent to handle this movie. But, everything just went haywire. Shooting in Norway took longer than expected, and production was shut down. They had to do extensive re-shoots over a year later. By the end of the production, about "10-15% of the script didn't even get shot." Unfortunately, this is very apparent when you actually see the film.

Advertising for the film didn't help much either. There's a poster for the film at a bus stop just down from my place. The poster looks like one of the notes written to Michael Fassbender's character from the killer. It says: "Mister Police. You could have saved her I gave you all the clues."
This poster, coupled with the trailer for the film, suggests there's a killer on the loose, particularly targeting women, and building ominous snowmen outside where their bodies lie. The killer then sends notes to Fassbender, written as if they were penned by a child, toying with said detective until Fassbender can discover who the killer is. This is what first intrigued me about the film. A detective thriller, investigating a series of murders, trying to stop a killer before he gets his next victim (a la Zodiac). This isn't exactly the case with this film. Yes, there is a note. It's at the very beginning of the film It's quite vague and it's the only note of the entire movie sent to Fassbender's character Harry. The rest of the movie is a mess of a murder mystery, with so many questions and sub-plots left unanswered,  it was evident that there was a lot left unfilmed.

What's even more upsetting is the movie is pretty enthralling. It's gorgeously shot and the actors do a fine job, especially Fassbender. I found myself wrapped up in the mystery, trying to guess what was going to happen along the way. Yes, you do find out who the killer is. Yes, you do get some semblance of a motive. And yes, said motive does make decent sense. But that's about it. The identity of the killer, left until the very end, isn't exactly difficult to figure out. I carelessly thought the movie was going to be much more intelligent than it was, so when I had my first suspect in mind-- I quickly threw it away because I felt it was too obvious, and this film wouldn't go the obvious route... and it did. I also was paying way too close attention to the subplots, hoping for some semblance of resolution to all of them. Yet, all but maybe one or two are wrapped up nicely. I keep going over and over in my head trying to connect all the dots of the film to make sense out of everything, and there are clearly chunks of plot just left entirely out of the film. And it's not an awful movie by any means, just frustratingly incomplete.

There's an entire subplot featuring J.K. Simmons that diverts from the murders, but is supposed to somehow connect-- and it doesn't. There's the opening sequence with a mother driving purposely into a frozen lake and drowning herself in front of her son's eyes that straight up connects to the killer-- but I'm still not sure how. There's flashbacks featuring Val Kilmer as a detective chasing a similar killer who may or may not be the same one today-- and it offers no closure whatsoever. In fact, the entire Kilmer subplot poses questions beyond what's even supposed to be asked within the scope of the plot of the film. He looks terrible (though this is most likely attributed to his recent cancer surgeries), but his dialogue is poorly dubbed over by someone who sounds NOTHING like Val Kilmer and doesn't even match the way his mouth is moving, making it distracting as well as sad.

I really didn't hate the movie. I don't like that there are large pieces missing from the puzzle and the fact that the killer's identity was so easy to figure out, but everything else worked just enough to keep me interested the entire time, even if this interest was often interrupted by head scratching. I believe we will get the full story of just what exactly happened behind the scenes of The Snowman because I'm genuinely curious as to how it all fell apart. And, yes, it has been branded with a repulsive 9%, when it certainly hasn't earned a score that low. I can't tell you to go out and help this movie earn some of the money it's losing because that would make me not very good at this whole "reviewing movies" thing... but if, for some reason, you do find yourself in the theater watching The Snowman, it's not going to be the worst thing to happen to you that day. It's just going to make you wish you had the full story.

C

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Geostorm: Maybe Add A Little More Geostorming, And A Little Less... Everything Else


I love disaster movies. Something about watching nature take its vengeance on humanity is very appealing to me. Then, there's also the fact that I'm never going to be able to witness the act of nature in real life. If I'm seeing a huge tidal wave... I'm dead. So, it's nice to get to see the comet hit the Earth and cause the tidal wave. It's nice to get to see the ice tornadoes hit New York city. It's nice to see the earthquake rip apart AT&T Park. I love it. Most of the time, disaster movies are pretty junky with most of the effort spent on the CGI effects of the film, than anything else. There are a couple of exceptions, but generally, you don't go to see the disaster movie for the story or the acting. However, lately, the disaster film has been populated by some pretty big names. Jake Gyllenhaal did The Day After Tomorrow. John Cusack did 2012. The Rock did San Andreas. So, at least, when the movie has to fill story around the chaos, we get capable actors who are able to handle the schlock. Oh... but then there's Geostorm. Again, your capable actors are Gerard Butler, Ed Harris, and Andy Garcia, so you'd THINK that the story surrounding the terrible weather would at least be decent enough because of these guys. I'm here to tell you... NO.

The one thing Geostorm has going for it that most disaster movies don't is the plot is actually pretty clever. In 2019, due to global warming, the planet starts going to shit. The weather is wiping out entire sections of the globe. So the world comes together to formulate a plan-- they're going to construct a massive series of weather-control satellites and launch them into space to control the weather. After three years of peace, someone has hacked into it and is now using it as a weapon, setting off storms in different countries until unleashing the worst global storm there is... a geostorm. I mean, that's a pretty decent plot concept. It's better than "the Mayan calendar ran out". However, despite this clever concept, the execution is straight up garbage.

Roland Emmerich is the master of disaster. His filmography as a director includes Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and White House Down. That's a pretty impressive resume of disaster movies. Attached to each of these films is Emmerich's long time producer Dean Devlin. Well... old Devlin finally thought he'd learned all there was to learn from the master and set out to do his first ever directorial effort. The end result... Geostorm. Let's just say ol' Devlin should've stayed in the producer's chair and given the directing to someone who could handle it. Geostorm, folks, is bad. It's really, really bad. Like, I know I said that when watching a disaster movie there is always going to be some schlock... this shouldn't be the basis of your script. The acting is ham-fisted (which is acceptable in a disaster film). The dialogue is so putrid, it's like they wrote a first draft and then decided never to edit it (which is generally acceptable in a disaster film). The CGI fluctuates from great to poor (which can happen in a disaster film). And the on-screen disasters maybe take up two or three minutes of the entire movie's runtime (this is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE in a disaster movie).

If Deviln learned anything from Emmerich it's that you need to make your disasters the central focus of your movie. You need to have one main character having to (somehow) meet up with four or five different types of terrible weather and outrun them. This isn't the case in Geostorm. Our main character is Jake, Gerard Butler. He's the one who designed the weather controller. He's up in space trying to find out what's wrong as it attacks foreign countries. Our other lead is his brother Max (Jim Sturgess) who works for the President (Andy Garcia), and is trying to figure out who has hacked it with his secret service girlfriend (Abbie Cornish). None of these people actually get into much danger when it comes to weather (minus a little lightning storm). Scroll up and look at the picture. It's Butler holding his daughter facing a massive tidal wave. THIS NEVER HAPPENS. He's in space the whole time. He doesn't have to outrun a tidal wave. Hell, no one does. There's one that happens, somehow, on a beach in India and it just wipes everyone out in like fifteen seconds. Look, Devlin, we can handle terrible writing, bad acting, and a shit script as long as you deliver the goods of mother nature pounding the piss out of Earth. But it's when you don't that people get upset, and you get slapped with a lousy 13% on rottentomatoes. I mean, the critic has never been friend to the disaster movie, but this is a new low, Geostorm.

Okay, I've complained enough. Because even though Geostorm is at the bottom of the disaster movie barrel-- I loved it. It's one of the funniest movies I've seen this year. I'm a huge Butler fan (much like I'm a huge Jason Statham fan), but even he couldn't make the dialogue any better. Example: Butler and his brother are having a three year long fight. He shows up at Butler's house and starts talking to Butler's daughter, his niece, when Butler walks out, notices this and literally says: "Honey, I thought I told you never to talk to strangers." YEAH! The dialogue isn't the worst thing-- I mean, it's pretty awful (hearing Andy Garcia basically shout "I am the President of the United States" when asked a question is so upsetting it's downright hilarious), but Geostorm doesn't do it's job to be properly labeled a disaster movie. On the other hand,  it does fit perfectly into the so-bad-it's-good category. It's a terrible film that somehow illicits more laughs than this year's Baywatch movie.

That's not all. There's way more. I'm not kidding you guys... the computers in the movie... have a geostorm clock. What does this mean, you say? I'm glad you asked. When the natural disasters start occuring around the globe, the computer understands that if these continue it will trigger a global storm-- also known as a Geostorm-- so, when She (the computer) figures this out... a large clock counting down pops up on the screen and She (the computer) says "Geostorm warning. One hour twenty-three minutes until Geostorm." They have a clock for this! There is an algorithm within the computer than knows when a global storm will occur down to the very second and it can COUNT YOU DOWN, FOLKS!!!

But that's not all, either! It's not just the computers and the ticking clocks. It's also how the filmmakers decide to handle all of the "space action". There's so much that happens in the space station where Butler is working that goes wrong, too, you guys. It's like half Earth-disaster, half space-disaster. Except, 90% of what happens up in the space station made me want to stand up and yell at the screen, "THAT'S NOT HOW SPACE WORKS!"

It truly is one of the worst movies of the entire year, but it might actually be worth the price of admission if you know exactly what you're getting into. If you're going in trying to satiate your disaster movie thirst, then you're going to be sorely disappointed. There's not enough disaster happening around the shit show that is the rest of the movie. But, if you're going in to see just how bad a movie can be and still manage to take itself seriously... then you're going to love Geostorm like I did. I haven't had a laugh like that in quite some time. Best comedy of 2017. Worst disaster movie... well... since Left Behind.

D+

Monday, October 16, 2017

Upcoming Best and Worst of Fall 2017


After a lackluster Fall movie season from last year, it looks like we're back on board this year to some great Fall movies. Usually, just after October is when we jump into "Awards Season Movies". This year appears like we got some great movies on the docket. The WORST movie section is a lot smaller than last year, and we have a new Star Wars movie along with what appears to be Daniel Day-Lewis's final film (and eventual fourth Oscar for Best Actor). I, for one, am excited for most of the movies this Fall and with my Movie Pass... I will get to see nearly all of them. Let's take a look.


BEST UPCOMING:


10/20
The Snowman













Early reviews haven't exactly been kind to The Snowman, but it's hard to argue with how great/disturbing the trailer for this film is. It's also hard to argue with the cast and everyone surrounding the movie. It's certainly going to have to miss the mark by a lot for us to consider this movie nothing but stellar. I, for one, am hoping for something dark, gritty, and terrifying. Hopefully these early reviews aren't an actual preview of what's to come.

11/3
Thor: Ragnarok













I am completely OFF the bandwagon of Marvel. And if I were to list the superheroes from the Avengers that I just can't stand (especially their standalone films), number one would be Hulk and number two would be Thor. However, director Taika Waititi (who directed and starred in the hilarious and underrated What We Do In The Shadows) is the perfect person to take the helm. The movie looks like it's going to have a lot more personality to it and not take itself so seriously. Plus, there's the fact that Cate Blanchett looks like a badass and Chris Hemsworth even said in an interview that he was starting to get seriously over playing Thor... until this film. I don't want it to be good... but it's going to be great and you know it.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.













Here is Daniel Day-Lewis's only real competition for that Best Actor Oscar. It's Denzel. It's a smart legal-thriller. And it's written and directed by the guy who did the very underrated Nightcrawler. I mean... I've only seen one preview for the film, and alone it looks good. But with the added bonus of being a Denzel film during Awards time-- this movie is going to certainly be one of the best.

11/10
Murder On The Orient Express













Kenneth Branagh (who stars and directs), Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfieffer, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe... look at that cast! Yes, it's yet another remake, but Branagh hasn't starred in a movie in forever, and he's proven himself as a capable director (as well as one who chooses the right projects). It's a murder-mystery party on a train. It's going to be subtle, it's going to be tense, and it's going to be fantastic.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri














There is literally not a movie for the rest of the year that I am more excited for. Yes, even Star Wars. This film, if you haven't already watched the trailer (which I suggest you do right NOW), is going to be the perfect mix of drama, thriller and comedy. Director Martin McDonaugh (who helmed two of my favorite movies--In Bruges & Seven Psychopaths) is making his third film this year and it looks to be just as wonderful as his previous two. He's the long lost Coen Brother and it will be difficult, I believe, to find a film that I will enjoy more than this movie. Seriously, go watch the trailer right now. I'll wait.

11/24
Coco

  











Well, Pixar is back. And it looks like their new film, Coco, is going the route of Inside Out rather than Cars on this one. I don't know much about the movie because I'm intentionally not looking to hard into it. I want to go into it fresh and probably cry my little eyes out. But it deals with death. It deals with dogs. It deals with making us all weep like infants, but leaving feeling great about life. I can't wait.

Darkest Hour













This film doesn't exactly look like my cup o' tea. But, the physical transformation Gary Oldman has undergone to portray Winston Churchill is beyond amazing. It looks to be a little bit dry, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to be critically heralded. Even if it's not going to be one of the best of the year, still look for Oldman to get that Oscar nod. Unfortunately, he probably doesn't have a shot next to Denzel and DDL.

Molly's Game













When it comes to Academy Award worthy films in the Fall, I try my best to stay detached and not look too deeply into every movie, for fear of finding out too much and ruining the movie. I don't know much about this film either, but I do know it has a stellar cast, but more importantly, dialogue master Aaron Sorkin is making his directorial debut. If that's not enough to make the Best list... I don't know what is.

12/1
The Disaster Artist

 











Those of you unfamiliar with the hilariously awful film The Room may have you wondering what the hell The Disaster Artist even is. But it's the story of one of the worst (if not THE worst) movies ever made. It's not going to be your typical James Franco/Seth Rogen movie, but if anyone is capable enough of mocking a film while still respecting its creator... it's these guys. This is going to be a very strange film, unlike any you've seen, but it's going to be very good.

12/8
I, Tonya













No poster and no trailer have been released for the Tonya Harding biopic, but everything coming out of the respected film festivals say it's fantastic. Mostly, they're saying Margot Robbie's portrayal is out of this world. The movie is supposed to be a beautiful mix of drama and dark comedy. If you don't know the story about Harding's life-- jump on over to Wikipedia. It's amazing this movie hasn't already been made until now. It's going to be a weird, and wonderful, ride.

The Shape of Water

 











The Shape of Water is Guillermo Del Toro's next directorial feature film. His last effort, Crimson Peak was somewhat of a misfire. If it seems like Del Toro hasn't really given us much over the last few years, you can't deny that he's still one of the most visionary directors of all time. I don't even know how to feel about this movie based on the trailer-- it doesn't look like anything I'd even care about if Del Toro wasn't attached-- but because he is... I'm willing to give it the serious benefit of the doubt.

12/15
Star Wars: The Last Jedi













You were worried about this movie until you saw the trailer last Monday. Whatever your opinion was of the movie JJ Abrams gave us, you can't deny that what Rian Johnson has done with the sequel looks nothing short of astonishing. The trailer gave me chills. For those of you who believed The Force Awakens was a carbon copy of A New Hope, we can safely put that fear to bed about The Last Jedi. I'm worried we've already seen too much, but not only is this going to be one of the best movies of the year, it's probably going to be one of the best of the entire franchise.

12/22
Downsizing













Often overlooked writer/director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska) is coming out with a new film, Downsizing. It's about a man (Matt Damon) who, in a world where human shrinking is the new fad, decides his life would be better if he shrunk himself. It's a comedically talented cast and a quirky little plot. It's going to be a very quiet movie, but it's going to be funny and poignant as hell.

12/25
Phantom Thread

 











Again, no poster or trailer for this movie, but it's Daniel Day-Lewis. According to him, this will be his last film. It is a movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and it deals with the fashion industry. That's literally all we know about the film. However, with all of these elements combined, and due to the fact that DDL is literally the most picky actor in Hollywood when it comes to what movies he will come out of his cave to act in... this will be something great for us to witness. Watch out Denzel, DDL is going for his fourth Oscar before he takes his talent away from us forever (hopefully not forever).


WORST UPCOMING:


10/20
Tyler Perry's Boo 2: A Madea Halloween

 











HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. How?! How have we given Madea over ten years of movies??? How is this even still a thing? How did the first movie make enough money to garner a sequel? How?!?!?!?!?!

10/27
Jigsaw













I've seen all the Saw movies and the only good one is the first one... and maybe one of the middle ones. They're terrible movies, but for those of us who, for some morbid reason, love watching idiot people get creatively tortured... we're going to like this movie a lot. This doesn't mean it's going to be good by any means... but there will be people who like this movie. I'm just curious if people care enough again to make it any money. If it does... look for a lot more.

Thank You For Your Service













Can we all just admit that Miles Teller sucks and needs to go? Please? I mean, I know Whiplash was a fantastic movie and he didn't annoy the shit out of us, but everything else he's been in has been just pointless. Can we also stop making these shitty military movies that are Republican masturbation fodder. This movie is going to be a mess that makes no money. And it will all be well deserved.

11/17
Justice League













Wonder Woman was really good. I didn't hate Suicide Squad as much as everyone else did. But you couldn't pay me to see Justice League. Zack Snyder is the wrong choice to keep moving the DC world further. He's bastardizing most of these heroes and there's just nothing appealing about any part of this movie. Superfans unite... and enjoy this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad film.

12/1
Polaroid

 











Remember the movie Friend Request? No. Me either. Okay, remember The Ring? Well, this is kinda like both of them. Irrelevant and the same story. If you look at this Polaroid picture... or get your picture taken with it... or see this movie... you will die. It will be forgotten. It will make a lot of money from 14 year olds. And it will probably get three sequels. Yay Hollywood.

12/20
Pitch Perfect 3













I didn't particularly enjoy the first Pitch Perfect, but I understand why some people did. It just wasn't my personal taste. But, the filmmakers (who were certainly capitalizing on the popularity of Glee) made a small, funny movie that people could enjoy. Then they made the mistake of making a sequel that even huge fans of the first movie recognized as garbage. The third entry doesn't look like it's going to be much better. That's all I have to say about that.

12/25
The Greatest Showman

 











It's the story of PT Barnum's life and creation of his circus. It stars Hugh Jackman. It's also a musical. It could be great. But based on the preview it looks like it's trying MUCH too hard. And do we still care about musicals? And more specifically, does anyone actually care about this movie? It comes out on Christmas, so it's probably going to make a ton of money.


UPCOMING WILDCARDS:

10/20
Geostorm













Most people with a movie review blog... or most blogs that want you to take them seriously... would probably put this film on the Worst list. But damn it I love Gerard Butler and I love disaster movies. There have actually been good disaster films... and despite popular belief, good Gerard Butler movies as well. I'm hoping it's the perfect combination instead of the shit show it probably will be. I'm still very much looking forward to it.

10/27
Suburbicon













I came very close to throwing this film up on the Best list because, after all, it's one of those ultra-violent, quirky Coen Bros. movie that we all look forward to. But George Clooney is directing it. And as much as I respect him as an actor, and even a director, he hasn't really ever made a GREAT film and the reviews are split. It's getting praise and it's getting wailed on. So, my guess is that it will be 'just okay'. Not enough to put on the Best, nor the Worst.

11/1
A Bad Moms Christmas













The first Bad Moms was just alright. There were some very funny moments (especially those involving Katherine Hahn and Kristen Bell), but it was mostly forgettable. The trailer for this movie looks like much of the same, if not a bit of a downgrade in quality. It's going to be much of the same-- mostly forgettable throwaway jokes that try too hard, but look for a few scenes that actually make it worth the price of admission.

11/3
Last Flag Flying













Again, very close to throwing this one up on the Best list, especially because of its director, Richard Linklater who is one of my favorites. Then there's the cast of Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. But there's just something about it that makes it look kinda... I don't know... schlocky? It looks like emotional manipulation at its best, but it could be great. I think this is the perfect movie to astutely define 'wildcard'.

11/10
Daddy's Home 2













If you saw the first Daddy's Home then you know it was supremely underwhelming. It was a lazy family effort by Will Ferrell that certainly didn't need a sequel. Normally, it would go straight into the Worst category, but the additions of Mel Gibson and John Lithgow raise the bar a little bit. Ferrell is always going to deliver funny moments, but it doesn't always translate into a funny movie. Hopefully, they realize what was lacking in the first film and use that to elevate the second film to something a little bit better.

11/17
Wonder













This is the epitome of emotional manipulation. You've got a physically deformed child who gets picked on but just wants to feel "normal"... yeah, it's gonna make you cry. It's the writing around the movie that is really going to determine if the movie is good or not. The actors, Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson already make the movie noticeable, but does the script warrant such talent? We'll have to wait and see for that one.

12/22
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle













Okay, here's what I'm excited about-- I love The Rock. I love Jack Black. And I love Jumanji. This should all translate to a fun Christmas movie. However, I dislike Kevin Hart. And the movie does not look like Jumanji. Jumanji is a lot of fun, but it's also got a dark grit to it as well. This movie looks much too silly to be a sequel. The plot itself, on its own, sounds like a really good time. But as a Jumanji sequel, I'm more than worried.


I'm very much looking forward to this Fall movie season. There are a lot of great movies heading our way. Some definite stinkers, but the good will certainly (and hopefully) outweigh the bad. And I'm still doing shameless plugs for a company I have zero stake in... but if you want to see a majority of these movies without paying the exorbitant prices movie theaters charge... get the Movie Pass card. Unlimited movies for only ten bucks a month. I'll see you guys... at the theater.