Friday, September 13, 2019

Hustlers - Review

Everyone is hustling in Hustlers. Based on the title, that may seem fairly obvious, but the film is about far more than just these women turned criminals and what they do to survive. From the strippers to the club managers to the bankers, everyone treats money and commodities as the ultimate prize. The premise of the whole film is summed up best by a line near the end of the film: this whole country is a strip club, some people are throwing the money and others are doing the dance. A Fitting conclusion to a fascinating and fantastic film.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Brittany Runs a Marathon - Review

More and more, roles keeping finding people that have deserved a showcase for their talents long before they actually get to. For Jillian Bell, that role is Brittany Forgler, a late 20-something who desperately needs to get her life together, a relatable character if there ever was one. Of course if you know anything about Bell’s sensibilities, then you should also know that the film just so happens to be one of the funniest of the year as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tigers Are Not Afraid - Review

In 2019, the number of female directors making their mark on filmmaking from the director’s chair is still far too low. But it’s far from a lack of talent or ability, and nothing proves that more than the one genre that seems to afford these women an opportunity: horror. Much like The Babadook introduced the world to Jennifer Kent or Raw introduced us all to Julia Ducournau, Tigers Are Not Afraid brings us Issa López, another exciting new voice for horror and filmmaking alike.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

It: Chapter Two - Review

Sequels often fall into the trap of supersizing the elements of the original to make the follow up bigger and better. Being a Part 2, or in this case Chapter Two, doesn’t make that general rule any different. Where the first Chapter in 2017 was a fantastically crafted and atmospheric horror film with a sizable budget, the follow up, It: Chapter Two, misses the mark and bloats to a near three hour runtime that it just cannot justify in the slightest.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Luce - Review

With enough nuance and mystery to keep even the most observant viewer in the dark, Luce may just be the most fascinating film of 2019. The world is full of problems, social issues that are subjects of endless debate, and this is a film that’s interested in exploring as many as it can.  It plays with these themes in a very compelling and thought provoking manner, and examines how far a person would go to confirm a narrative they already believe.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ready or Not - Review

Horror and comedy always wind up meeting from time to time, more so than any other two major genres at least. To be fair, they do share some similar characteristics. They rely almost entirely on timing and build up to effectively get a reaction from the audience, the premises or setups are often key to the entire affair working, and they remain pigeon-holed by people constantly trapped in what the genre should be rather than what it actually can do. That’s not even mentioning the complete lack of respect they receive from awards bodies either. The two genres are intertwined so often because they work so well together, and Ready or Not is the newest example of what can happen when horror and comedy are perfectly utilized.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Good Boys - Review

The titular good boys of this raunchy, coming of age comedy are trying, with all their might, to be cool, bad, or popular, any of the three could fit at any given point. The film itself, unfortunately, falls into the same pattern, trying so hard to be like similar films that have come before that made this inappropriate sub-genre of comedy a financial opportunity for Hollywood. It matches some comedic beats that are wholly necessary when creating a 90-minute comedy, delivering on a lot of laughs, or at the very least light chuckles.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Farewell - Review

To love, laugh, and cry with family is nearly a universal experience. The familial dynamics that can be equal parts complex, infuriating, and wonderful all at the same are recognizable qualities that so many can relate to, regardless of the setting or language they’re portrayed in. In Lulu Wang’s beautifully realized, semi-autobiographical film The Farewell, the writer-director captures the realities of a family that remains family no matter the circumstances or distance in their lives, and it all comes together for one of the year’s best films.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Review

A horror anthology comprised of campfire style scary stories is ripe with potential if done properly. It can live in this interesting place where the atmosphere and creepy designs of each new ghastly creature can carry the load of a film tied together only be a loose narrative string. However, where the source material harms Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is its inherent status as slightly too scary for the tweens, but far too tame for the horror aficionados all at the same time.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold - Review

In a world full of baffling news and choices made on multiple fronts in the movie business, a live action Dora the Explorer the movie that involves her as a teenager, forced to move to the city just might make a top ten list. However, the results are not nearly as bad as the premise might suggest on the surface. The filmmakers behind this odd project actually produced something that’s sort of….fun?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - Review

The Fast and the Furious franchise increasingly ups the ante from entry to entry, revving its metaphorical engine louder and louder in hopes of exciting an audience that yearns for more. Since a rather lowly beginning back in 2001 and the few lackluster entries that followed, the former street racing series has been a decent to great franchise, both critically and financially, due in large part to the introduction of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Fast Five. Eight years later, and a spat with the other franchise front man, and Johnson finally gets a spin-off film.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Once Upon a Hollywood - Review

The idea of making movies that lovingly gaze at the movies is not a new concept. Quentin Tarantino hasn’t quite dipped into the well in an overt way, but the influence of film’s past on his work has always been evident. With Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, however, Tarantino gets to showcase his seemingly endless knowledge of film history for a fairy tale unlike any other.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Lion King - Review

What happens when Disney runs out of renaissance era animated films to adapt into the “live-action” remakes? Is Pixar next? Are we looking at small ants taking on a grasshopper in 2022’s remake of a A Bug’s Life? How about the perilous journey of Marlin as he searches for his son in Finding Nemo? While the prospects of this actually seem far-fetched, to a degree, The Lion King feels like a demonstration of how realistic they can make these classics without changing an ounce of the story.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Crawl - Review

A house full of Alligators. A category five hurricane. Both are equally terrifying in their own right, but a combo of the two would is dreadful and gruesome in all the worst (or best) ways. Putting characters in the path of  disasters or various natural predators is not a new idea, but the perils of sloshing through a Florida swamp comes with its own bits of outlandish entertainment.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home - Review (NO SPOILERS)

Just barely two months have passed since the release of Avengers: Endgame, the culmination of everything that had come before and set up for things to come after. If Endgame was the final chapter, Spider-Man: Far From Home is the epilogue, a look at a world after Thanos and the Avengers, and a glimpse of what’s to come for everyone’s favorite web-head.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Midsommar - Review

It’s official: Ari Aster would be the world’s worst grief counselor. The director once again takes the inherent melodrama of a human event and mixes it into his own brand of horror: an exquisitely crafted and atmospheric affair unlike anything else in 2019. It may not be as nightmarish of an endeavor as Hereditary was, but Midsommar is an experience that’s sure to leave most people at an absolute loss for words.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Yesterday - Review

A recent uptick in nostalgia for the music of yesteryear can probably be traced to two potential sources. One: Hollywood had one big success and immediately saw the potential in more. Two: Living in a world of wonderful music that reminds everyone of a different time may be the simplest form of escapism in movies today. Either way, Yesterday capitalizes on that nostalgia, but in a surprisingly different manner.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Annabelle Comes Home - Review

An introduction scene for the Warrens back in 2013’s The Conjuring has now spawned three different films, all with different settings and characters, but still centered on the hauntings of the creepiest doll in existence: Annabelle. After a less than ideal first entry in 2014, the sequel, Annabelle: Creation was a major improvement, but where exactly does the third entry in this franchise within a franchise fall? Somewhere right in the middle.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Child's Play (2019) - Review

How in the world is this the eighth Chucky film in existence? Starting over three decades ago now with the original Child’s Play in 1988, the chronicles of the creepy, possessed doll with a knack for stabbing hapless humans have continued largely due to the work of creator Don Mancini. Yet his name is nowhere to be found in the creation of this modern adaptation, a film that breaks from endless sequels to actually try and present new ideas.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Toy Story 4 - Review

After a near perfect conclusion to a near perfect trilogy, it seemed greedy of Pixar to even contemplate a Toy Story 4. The studio’s identity as a hotbed for originality has been fading over the years, seven of the last eleven films from the animation giant have been either a sequel or prequel, and bringing back characters that had such an emotional sendoff is very ill-advised on paper. But Pixar is Pixar, and somehow, someway, they manage to knock it out of the park once again.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Men in Black: International - Review

Another day, another belated sequel. And though Men in Black International only comes seven years after the last entry, it makes the disastrous mistake of not including a mainstay that made the original three films work: Will Smith. Without the likable character of Agent J at the forefront, and a severe lack of originality, or any reason to exist for that matter, the summer of mediocre blockbusters continues.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Dark Phoenix - Review

On paper, adapting the Phoenix Saga for the big screen makes sense. However, when attempting to do so, it might be in the studios best interest to build it up a bit more than they have on two separate occasions now. After a half-hearted attempt back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, Simon Kinberg returns to once again rush to an end goal without putting in any effort to get there.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Rocketman - Review

The music biopic has been long labeled as formulaic, basic, and altogether tired. That is until Bohemian Rhapsody somehow won multiple Academy Awards despite fitting each of those descriptors. Now it seems as though the music biopic may never die, and if it wasn’t the case before, Dexter Fletcher insures it with the surprisingly creative and wildly energetic Rocketman.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - Review

Hollywood produced Godzilla films are not exactly a solid bet for quality. Granted there have been only two prior attempts, but the less said about the 1998 version, the better, and the 2014 version, while praised in some regard, is still very divisive amongst audiences. It’s hard to have faith in American adaptations of the Japanese icon when it has never been rewarded, and still hasn’t been with Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Brightburn - Review

With an increasing number of superhero films out with each passing year, experimentation with the sub-genre was bound to happen. Horror seems like the next logical step to attempt to integrate into the superhero world. And what better way to do that than with the inverse of the superhero that started it all, Superman, just with some add gore and violence.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Booksmart - Review

It seems as though lately, every new coming of age film is faced with numerous comparisons to the last great coming of age film, based solely on a single similarity. For Booksmart, outside of being in conversation with Lady Bird or Eighth Grade recently, has been likened to a female Superbad. While the premises share some vaguely familiar beats, they could not be further from the same thing outside of being truly fantastic comedies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Aladdin - Review

Of Disney’s renaissance era animated films, Aladdin might be the most difficult sell as a live action remake. And not due to any complex themes or narrative choices, but the task of replicating the magic of a classic without completely mimicking the delightful performance of Robin Williams in an iconic role. Yet, somehow, the results are not nearly as bad as the trailers would make it seem.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum - Review

As a franchise, John Wick just may be the most improbable success in recent memory. From a practical standpoint, a film directed by a former stuntman about a stoic assassin all set in motion by stealing a car and killing a puppy sounds like an odd B-movie one might find late at night on cable television. And yet, audiences are now being given the third entry in said franchise (with talk of more on the horizon), and the bonkers elements only get bigger, the visuals more striking, and the action more insane.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu - Review

The emergence of Pokémon as a pop culture phenomenon happened a little over twenty years ago, and has gone in and out of popularity as the years have gone by. It is honestly a shock, in any sense, that a live action Pokémon film has not made it to the big screen before 2019. But now it’s here, and Detective Pikachu looks to kick start the franchise once more in new and exciting ways.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Long Shot - Review

On paper, the comedic sensibilities of Seth Rogen should be kept rather far away from a romantic comedy setting, particularly one as layered and sharp as Long Shot. However, the schlubby nature and over the top laugh are gone here, replaced by a strange vulnerability that shows Rogen is more than his stoner persona, and actually plays a pretty convincing romantic lead.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Avengers: Endgame - Review (NO SPOILERS)

Eleven years. Twenty-One films. One Universe.

Stitching together narrative threads of dozens of characters and multiple franchises into one expansive story is not an easy task on paper. And yet, Marvel has produced something that has systematically changed Hollywood and popular culture at every turn. Now, with Avengers: Endgame, it all comes to an end, at least for now.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Curse of La Llorona - Review

Since Marvel has seemingly taken over Hollywood, numerous cinematic universes have come and failed in the wake of their success. The Dark Universe of Universal crashed before it ever began. The DC Extended Universe has rebranded at least three times by now. And a handful of classical King Arthur and Robin Hood attempts were misguided from the start. Yet somehow, the Conjuring Universe, of all things, has become the successful franchise of the bunch, even if the quality has started to decline.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Hellboy - Review

As a premise, rebooting Hellboy because the previous version of the franchise didn’t make a ton of money seems ill-advised. It’s a fairly unknown property, even with the two Guillermo del Toro films gaining some fans, and it’s unlikely you’ll find the same visual creativity that he provided. Turns out the actual result is even worse than you could imagine, and an absolute slog to experience.

Missing Link - Review

Animation is a medium that frequently gets labeled as children’s films despite the expert craftsmanship and design that goes to each release. The limitations of live action and believability can be forgotten in a world of exaggerated features and cartoonish designs, and the beauty of a story can shine through. And slowly but surely, a studio that understands this completely is gaining ground on the dominance of the major studios like PIxar and Disney. Laika continues their streak of hits with their newest release, Missing Link.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Pet Sematary - Review

The horror genre can be equal parts exciting and frustrating all at the same time. It opens the doors to so many creative individuals to tell wacky and weird stories that can chill audiences to the bone, but it also frequently produces remakes and reboots to seemingly no end. Pet Sematary, fortunately, falls somewhere in the middle, a remake of an adaptation no less, but it presents a chance to new something new and unique with the creepy source material.

Shazam! - Review

The DC Extended Universe, or the remnants of it, has seemed to finally get a grasp on the creative potential of superhero films. Gone are the dreary and brooding heroes, replaced with the light-hearted, fun, and entertaining nature of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and now, Shazam!. Add in a little heart and some good old fashion magic, and Shazam! may just be the best the DCeU has to offer.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Dumbo - Review

Disney’s live-action remakes have gone one of two ways: remaking the story from beginning to end and almost frame to frame, or adjusting the story to fix the basic structures of early classics. Dumbo falls into the latter category, eliminating things like racist crows and tossing in some surface level conversations on animal rights. But is it enough to really justify its existence?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Us - Review

The world has no shortage of exciting and fresh directors coming from all corners and backgrounds, and Jordan Peele may just be at the top of that list. His debut film Get Out was a critical and financial hit, earning Peele an Oscar for Original Screenplay and a growing list of unique projects. However, avoiding a sophomore slump is not an easy thing to do, plenty have slipped up on their second go around in the director’s chair, but Jordan Peele is definitely not one of those people. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Captain Marvel - Review

Ten years and twenty films later, Marvel Studios has finally produced their first female led superhero film, with a ton of sexism from angry men on the side. Before the film has so much as released, insecure individuals have made their minds up and made it their mission to tear down Captain Marvel. Suffice to say, they were and will be unsuccessful, and Carol Danvers will soar as the new lead for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Oscar Predictions - Part Two

Tonight is the big night, and so come the final predictions for the biggest awards in Hollywood. The uncertainty follows from the first half, as the question marks become bigger as to who really will take the statue home.

Here are the rest of the predictions for Oscar night:

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Oscar Predictions - Part One

More of an end to the misery of awards season than a celebration of film in 2018, the Oscars are finally here. With more uncertainty in the air than in the past few years combined, predicting the winners becomes more difficult than ever. No longer is it just the short films that can take down your Oscar pool, but all 24 categories (save for a few marginal locks) have the potential to ruin your ballot.

And here are the (likely wrong) predictions for the first 12 categories:

Live Action Short Film
The three categories that are most destined to ruin your Oscar pool remain the short film categories. Live Action Short Film remains difficult as ever to predict, but perhaps as depressing and bleak as ever before. With heaps of death and despair to go around in four of the five nominees, it’s not an easy category to get through. The best bet, if you can even call it one, is to go with one of the two English language nominees, Skin or Detainment. Due to Skin already being adapted into a full length feature, it feels like the most likely, or at least has the most in its favor, among the five nominees. If this logic of an English language short winning doesn’t hold, expect Marguerite to win instead.

Prediction: Skin – Vincent Lambe & Darren Mahon
Possible Spoiler: Marguerite – Marianne Farley & Marie-Hélène Panisset

Documentary – Short Subject
Once again, the task of predicting a winner here is not easy, however the nominees are much easier to get through than the nominees in the Live Action Short category. Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to short films, for myself, that happens to be A Night at The Garden. The shortest nominee in the category, A Night at The Garden has a lot to say with very little time, and might just be the most terrifying amongst all five for the implications it carries. However, the question of access is a big factor in these hard to predict categories, and the few that are available on Netflix almost automatically get a leg up. This year, those films are Endgame and Period. End of Sentence., and with that in mind, Period. End of Sentence. will most likely be the winner come Sunday.

Prediction: Period. End of Sentence. – Rayka Zehtabchi & Melissa Berton
Possible Spoiler: End Game – Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

Animated Short Film
By far the easiest of the three short races to call, and by far the most entertaining as well, Animated Short Film will likely go Pixar’s way as it has so many times before. Though Bao seems like an easy favorite, the rest of the field should absolutely be seen by everyone. From the oddities of Animal Behaviour to the beautiful animation of One Small Step, each film presents an interesting style and story in a short and sweet format.

Prediction: Bao – Domee Shi & Becky Neiman-Cobb
Possible Spoiler: One Small Step – Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas

Visual Effects
In a rare instance where not a single nominee is a Best Picture contender, Best Visual Effects becomes instantly more of a question mark. Three films have a solid case to win (Avengers: Infinity War, First Man, & Ready Player One) and if any of them did, it would not be even remotely shocking. However, one has to believe that voters would recognize a $2 billion-dollar success in the only slot it has to honor it, and it helps that the film itself has some stellar visual effects. Avengers: Infinity War should take the trophy home here, but it’s not a complete lock either.

Prediction: Avengers: Infinity War – Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl & Dan Sudick
Possible Spoiler: Ready Player One – Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler & David Shirk

Makeup & Hairstyling
By having only three nominees (despite having plenty of potential nominees for five slots), the odds of predicting a winner in Best Makeup & Hairstyling improves greatly. All three films here have tremendous work on display, and again, it’s possible that any of them could take the win. In the end though, it’s much easier to see a world where the Academy recognizes the Best Picture nominee Vice and the transformative work done with Christian Bale as Dick Cheney.

Prediction: Vice – Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, Patricia Dehaney
Possible Spoiler: Border – Göran Lundström & Pamela Goldammer

Film Editing
On nomination morning, no category was quite as baffling as Best Film Editing. In lieu of some presumed frontrunners and major contenders, the world was gifted nominations for Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book instead. And yet somehow, despite a heap of backlash and viral clips of bad editing, Bohemian Rhapsody somehow has a solid shot at winning, while the best editing of the bunch in BlacKkKlansman likely doesn’t have a prayer. When all is said and done however, the notion of more editing rather than best editing will probably take hold, and Vice will pick up its second win here.

(Anything but Bohemian Rhapsody or Green Book is acceptable though.)

Prediction: Vice – Hank Corwin
Possible Spoiler: Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman

Costume Design
The category of Best Costume Design has a fairly solid lineup of nominees from top to bottom, even if The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was a surprising mention on nomination morning. As it stands, it seems the Oscar will go to one of two films, Black Panther or The Favourite. On one hand, you have an Academy staple, a period drama with elegant designs from Sandy Powell that has so much in the way of tradition going for it. On the other side, is an excellent display of world building and creativity from Ruth E. Carter that takes inspiration from reality to form something brand new. From an odds perspective, the race might as well be neck and neck, and either would be a deserving win in every sense of the word.

Prediction: Black Panther – Ruth E. Carter
Possible Spoiler: The Favourite – Sandy Powell

Production Design
Again, another race that likely comes down to two films, Black Panther and The Favourite. There is slight, outside chance that a film like Roma could sneak through for a win here, but it really feels like a two-horse race. Much like Best Costume Design, it’s a race featuring two very different sides of excellent production design. The tradition side of elegance and palaces resides with The Favourite (despite much of film’s sets not actually being built) while the bolder world design lies with Black Panther. Either would be a fair winner, but the world of Wakanda is such a huge piece of the cultural milestone that Black Panther is, it would be hard to ignore for any voter.

Prediction: Black Panther – Hannah Beachler & Jay Hart
Possible Spoiler: The Favourite – Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton

Sound Mixing
In a perfect world, First Man would take home this Oscar, as the sound in that film is so vital to the high intensity moments littered throughout the film. However, Best Sound Mixing so often goes to the musical or war film that receives the nomination in any given year. There are no war films in 2018’s lineup, but there are two musical films, of varying quality. For the longest time, this seemed like a solid win for A Star Is Born, which utilizes many live performances actually utilized in the film. And then Bohemian Rhapsody happened. With more than a few precursor wins under its belt, this unfortunately seems like Rhapsody’s award to lose.

Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody – Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin & John Casali
Possible Spoiler: A Star Is Born – Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder & Steve A. Morrow

Sound Editing
In a perfect world, First Man would take home this Oscar, as the sound in that film is so vital to the high intensity moments littered throughout the film. It bears repeating because the film has completely mistreated this awards season. Thankfully, it does have a shot in Best Sound Editing. It all hinges on how receptive the entire Academy is to Black Panther. If the love for the film continues, this would be an easy award to hand a critically and financially successful film another award (and play the score they’ve used for all the promos again). If First Man had received the Best Picture nomination it deserved, this would be an easy win. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and this looks like another win for Black Panther.

Prediction: Black Panther – Benjamin A. Burtt & Steve Boeddeker
Possible Spoiler: First Man – Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou Morgan

Original Song
Let’s not waste anyone’s time.

There is no easier race to call than “Shallow” winning Best Original Song.

Prediction: “Shallow” – A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt
Possible Spoiler: Nothing

Original Score
There are so many narratives to look at when attempting to predict Best Original Score. Two veterans of the industry in Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) and Marc Shaiman (Mary Poppins Returns) that many would love to reward for solid work in their 2018 films. There is an Academy favorite in Alexandre Desplat (Isle of Dogs) that put out another tremendous score. Yet in the end, two composers stand above the rest. The mesmerizing work of Nicholas Britell in If Beale Street Could Talk is astounding in every way imaginable, and the unique music of Ludwig Göransson behind Black Panther sets the tone for the entire film. However, the rumors of Academy members adoring the work from Göransson are hard to ignore, and might just be enough to push it across the finish line.

Prediction: Black Panther – Ludwig Göransson
Possible Spoiler: If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell

Part Two of the Oscar Predictions will come tomorrow and The Oscars air on ABC at 8 ET tomorrow night.