In Theaters: Relic, First Cow, The Old Guard, Hamilton, My Spy, Irresistible, The King of Staten Island, Da 5 Bloods, Artemis Fowl, The Last Days of American Crime, The Lovebirds, Scoob!, Capone, The Willoughbys, Extraction
Coming Soon: Something Eventually!
★★★½: Very Good
★★½ : Eh
★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better
★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?
★: Hope You Have A Good Date
½: Little To No Redeeming Value
No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices
Image: The happy family.
So, I thought horror movies were supposed to scare me? I didn't know they were also meant to make me incredibly depressed and upset?
"Relic" follows "Kay" (Emily Mortimer), who returns with her daughter, "Sam" (Bella Heathcote), to their family home after Kay's elderly an solitary mother, "Edna" (Robyn Nevin), has randomly vanished. While the search for Edna begins, Kay and Sam feel a sinister, mold filled presence is inhabiting the house. After Edna returns home as if nothing happened, not remembering much of anything, more strange things start to happen around them. Contemplating what to do with her, the mother and daughter come realize that whatever is going on has to do with Edna, as well as her deteriorating mind. (If you haven't realized by this point, the film is a grim metaphor for dementia)
I wouldn't consider "Relic" to really be a horror film in the traditional sense. I would rather consider it to be a slow paced, melancholic drama, that also just so happens to contain horrifying imagery, nightmarish themes, and a constant sense of existential dread. Directed by first timer, Natalie Erika James, the film is gorgeously filmed, taking its time to allow the atmosphere to take shape. Now that may not be everyone's preference for a scary movie (Or to some, any movie at all actually), and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the movie certainly not something I would normally recommend. However, the eerie nature of the film, as well as the more serious, heavy, and admirably realistic approach to the subject matter, the movie hits you where it hurts in a subtle fashion.
Emily Mortimer is terrific, playing someone who knows that a loved one is slowly slipping away and the desperation that follows. It's a heartbreaking, underplayed performance that I hope people don't overlook. Bella Heathcote, who I never really ever took the time to notice as an actress, is also very impressive here. Robyn Nevin, in a role that could go wrong so quickly, plays it in a respectful, harshly lifelike manner, that might feel a little too real for some. Anyone who has ever had a family member go through a similar situation will connect, such as the memory loss, the random mood swings, and the feeling that while things seem right in a moment, they can just as easily change seconds later. There is also a theme of how we tend to treat and forget our elderly in their time of need which I think we're all a little guilty of in some way.
"Relic" will either leave hardcore horror fans confused and wondering where all the jump scares are at, while others will be left with feeling the need to call their grandparents. With this whole pandemic further separating us from our loved ones, it just might be a good idea anyway. It's a sinister movie in places, frightening in a hushed way, and thoroughly upsetting. It's another one of those movies that you more appreciate the intelligence and attempts at something deeper, rather not straight up enjoy in the customary sense. Then again, new voices and original, smart filmmaking deserves to shine while the blockbusters are all put on hold at the moment. Give it a chance. Odds are regardless if you connect with it or not, you'll walk away with something to say. 3 ½ Stars. Rated R For Grotesque Mold, Body Horror, And The Revelation That One Day We Might All Find Ourselves In A Similar Situation.
Image: "Milk...I wonder if it really does do a body good."
The current pandemic is the best thing to happen......to "A24". This is the perfect time to give recognition to the much critically acclaimed independent studio, who have given us instant favorites such as "Room", "The Witch", "Green Room", "Moonlight", "20th Century Women", "It Comes at Night", "The Florida Project", "Lady Bird", "The Disaster Artist", "First Reformed", "Hereditary", "Eighth Grade" (I could stop now, yet I feel the need to keep going), "Mid90s", "Midsommar", "The Farewell", "The Lighthouse", "Uncut Gems", and many, many more movies your hipster friend has begged you to watch instead of a "Marvel" movie. (Can't we have both?) Whether or not the movie ends up great, you're going to get something very much unlike anything else to come out of current mainstream cinema.
Taking place sometime during the 19th century, "First Cow" follows a quiet, sensitive cook, named "Cookie Figowitz" (John Magaro), who is currently traveling with a group of fur trappers, coming across a Chinese immigrant, "King-Lu" (Orion Lee), with the two quickly becoming friends. Cookie and King-Lu, having settled together in a cabin outside a trappers settlement, they find use for a Jersey Cow (The first cow brought into the territory) that just so happens to belong to a wealthy landowner, "Chief Factor" (Toby Jones), and steal the milk to make some cakes, which become instantly popular with the settlers. Their business flourishes, also attracting the attention of Factor, who hasn't the slightest idea that they're stealing from right under his nose. The plot is basically just a subtle character driven escalation of events.
Directed by Kelly Reichardt (Known for smaller budget, personal films), "First Cow" is as A24 as you can possibly get, and if that's what you want, you're sure as Hell going to get it. Based off of the book "The Half Life" (By Jonathan Raymond, who also co-wrote the script), the film is presented with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is an A24 favorite. It's refreshingly old fashioned (Though that can be an occasional detractor), telling the story through visual presentation and with little dialogue. There is something quite engrossing abut simply watching everything unfold before us, though the intentionally slow pace might leave a viewer checking their watch after a while. It's not really a flaw, though it makes the film not necessarily one I would see myself giving repeat viewing.
The film ever really gets into what exactly the relationship is between both John Magaro and Orion Lee's characters, with most of it being left to interpretation. However, there is something so gentle and sincere about it, that you find yourself caring for what becomes of them. It's also very fascinating to see two more sensitive male characters, trapped in an overly in your face masculine world. (Lots of penis measuring contests in this movie) Toby Jones is also enjoyably buffoonish, while some familiar faces that I'd rather not spoil, pop up for small parts.
"First Cow" is a moving and muted drama, filled with delicate character development, and culminates in a bittersweet climax. You do sort of question if the creative decisions are just as much distractions, and if lesser filmmakers utilized similar tactics (Intentionally or otherwise), it would be seen as well, bad. I can't say it's something to recommend to everyone, though I can't see how anyone interested in the art of film wouldn't be able to appreciate what it's trying to accomplish. While not exactly great art, it's still good art, and it deserves an audience to analyze it. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Hardcore Onscreen Milking.
Image: Charlize Theron decides to finally take out her revenge on Tom Hardy...Look it up.
With nothing to offer from the major comic book turned film franchise moguls like "Marvel" or "DC Comics", it seems like it's the perfect time for someone less well known to get their moment in the spotlight.
Based on the comic of the same name (From "Image Comics") by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, "The Old Guard" follows a group of secretive mercenaries, consisting of "Andy" (Charlize Theron), "Booker" (Matthias Schoenaerts), "Joe" (Marwan Kenzari), and "Nicky" (Luca Marinelli), who all just so happen to be centuries-old immortal beings who can heal themselves after any injury. After being hired by a former CIA operative, "Copley" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the team discovers that they have been set up. Copley, having recorded footage of the team recovering from being riddled with bullets, is actually working for a scumbag businessman, "Merrick" (Harry Melling), who wants to capture them and use their abilities for profit (Mostly by extracting their blood out of them by force). Now on the run, Andy learns of a newly discovered fellow immortal, a soldier named "Nile Freeman" (KiKi Layne), who was recently thought to be dead. Andy and the rest of the team find Nile, and bring her along as they attempt to escape Merrick's forces, hoping to keep their gift of never ending life out of the wrong hands.
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood ("The Secret Life of Bees", "Beyond the Lights") and released through "Netflix", "The Old Guard" has to work a little harder to set itself apart from both the mainstream superhero movies and the lesser, more generic ones attempting to imitate the more successful ones. While the start appears slow, once the film finds its footing and more importantly, discovers its identity, we end up getting a pretty solid, well directed, and often compelling action thriller, that at least tries to take a little time to have a little extra depth. Written by Greg Rucka (His "Wonder Woman" run was one of my introductions to mainstream comics), the film's slow paced prologue is mostly due to the film wanting to avoid a reliance on exposition (Since there is clearly some intricate backstory to the film, a lesser movie would get caught up in it), but thankfully the film eventually finds a way of explaining itself without losing focus. It's also a very fascinating story that even finds a way to shine despite the clear limitations by the film's budget. The filmmakers provide some well choreographed, and well, very violent, action sequences, which unlike a lot of action films seem to do, don't rely on a shaky camera to elevate itself. Everything is so clear and detailed, and most importantly, very unique. The film has a lot of fun with the concept of the main characters taking an excessive amount of damage, and even though the movie addresses that they can't die, the action is still intense and clever enough to make it work. (Though there is a reveal involving how long their immortality lasts, which is a little confusing and could possibly be seen as contrived in a hope for adding more suspense later on)
Charlize Theron (Also receiving a producing credit), who we have already seen plenty of times before play a total basass without any sort of theatrical manipulation. (See "Atomic Blonde" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" for examples) She makes the character her own, while also having a nice mentoring relationship with KiKi Layne (Wonderful in "If Beale Street Could Talk"), whose talent and range as an actress needs more recognition. Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli all do good work, playing slightly more developed characters than you would expect (It's nothing too deep, but it's just enough to make you give a crap). Meanwhile, Chiwetel Eijofor is almost needlessly terrific as usual (His brings his A game and delivers strong emotionally dramatic moments that a movie like this doesn't even really need, yet feels very welcome nonetheless) and Harry Melling plays the ninny douchebag role rather perfectly. (He's "Dudley Dursley" from the "Harry Potter" movies, so he's easy to hate.)
"The Old Guard" builds to a thrilling finale, and while I'm not sure about the literally last second set up for a sequel, the film does offer some absorbing concepts and I can see people becoming invested enough to see what else could be done with it. It's nothing all too new considering how many comic book movies Hollywood pops out these days, but it sets itself apart just enough to make things interesting. For something that could of just winged it, it's nice to see a movie go a bit more out of its way to distinguish itself from the usual by the book genre conventions. 3 Stars. Rated R For Strong, Intense Violence, And Video Game-Like Respawning.
Image: Just like I read in the history books.
Well if we're being honest, this was probably the closest I was ever going to get to ever seeing "Hamilton" on Broadway, with or without the current pandemic. Also, "Disney+" needs to make up for "Artemis Fowl".
A recording of the immensely popular, very revered Broadway musical production, "Hamilton" follows the life and career (All in a musical format) of immigrant turned one of Founding Fathers of America, "Alexander Hamilton" (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Following two acts, we see Hamilton's marriage to his wife, "Eliza Schuyler" (Phillpa Soo), his relationship with his sister, "Angelica" (Renée Elise Goldsberry), working with "George Washington" (Christopher Jackson) during the American Revolution, the at odds relationship with "Thomas Jefferson" (Daveed Diggs), and of course, the fateful duel with longtime frenemy, "Aaron Burr" (Leslie Odom Jr.).
It feels weird reviewing a Broadway play as if I were reviewing a movie, but we're still in weird times, and since this Fourth of July came around during the worst year in recent memory (I've done the math. It's the worst year ever!), I can't think of anything else to possibly put me in a more joyful spirit. Also, it's probably one of the best movies I've seen this year, by technicality. I'm being completely serious about that. This version of "Hamilton", which you've either seen and praised to everyone about or have just heard other people constantly praising it, could of been just something of simple enjoyment, but nothing really more. However, it's either because of how well made and tremendously acted it already is, or a credit to the skillful direction by Thomas Kail (Who also brought us the original show), It's definitely the epic experience that's been advertised.
The songs, which have become so iconic that they've been engraved into the memories of both those who have or haven't seen the actual play, are presented in a suitably spectacular and showstopping fashion. The don't so much get stuck into your head, but instead plant themselves like a flag onto your brain. From "My Shot", "Helpless", "Satisfied", and many more (Including "You'll Be Back", which gives us the precious gift of a delightfully hammy Jonathan Groff as "King George III", up close and personal as he chews the scenery), there's a reason these songs have become so iconic. Not to mention, the vast variety of musical styles is something I think more musicals need to look into. (Also, if all political debates were rap battles, the world would be a much less depressing place.) It's the intelligent and clever writing, mixed with the inedible music surrounding them, and of course, the diverse, undeniably talented cast.
Due to the inclusions of more close up camerawork, you will get to experience a much more in depth look into the performances of the cast members. The cast includes the terrific Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, Phillipa Soo, Anthony Ramos (as both "John Laurens", and Hamilton's son, "Phillip"), Okieriete Onaodowan (as both "Hercules Mulligan" and "James Madison"), and Jonathan Groff's handful of hilarious moments. (The entire ensemble really deserves commendation for the commitment to the artistry on display.) For me, the standouts would be Renée Elise Goldsberry and her mesmerizing singing voice, along with Daveed Diggs (Who also plays "Marquis de Lafayette"), who plays Thomas Jefferson the way I from this point on choose to view him as.
You can probably pick apart historical inaccuracies (Though I've heard how there is surprising amount of detail and truth to a lot of it) and some possible historical manipulation that may or may not be what's exactly needed at the moment (We still have political and social divide at the moment, or have you forgotten?). While I can see where some people would be coming from, I believe "Hamilton" might be doing more good than harm. I see it more as a representation of what we want America to aspire to be, with people of color in historically white roles (An obvious reference to both how they've been negated to the side in both history and media), topics of social change that will always be relevant, and the overall concept of the perceived "American Dream" (Something that I believe to be more of an idea to always want to adhere to, rather than something one can ever truly achieve). It may not be a true movie in the traditional sense, but with 2020's constant need to punish us, its existence feels most needed. It's still inspiring stuff, and while I may never get to experience it the way it was originally intended, this is still the next best thing. It's a brilliant concept, brought to life by incredibly gifted people, and followed through beautifully. So yeah, I'd consider it one of the best movies to come out of 2020. It at least put me more in a patriotic mood than anything else to happen this year. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, Historical Content, And The "Lost Art" Of Dueling.
Image: "Now pinkie swear you won;t ear me after you finish your ice cream."
With every movie I've been looking forward to this year ("Black Widow", "Tenet", "Wonder Woman 1984", etc.), at least "Amazon Prime" found the time to finally release a movie that I had been getting advertisements for over a year ago. Thanks guys.
After many, many, MANY delays, "My Spy" follows former Special Forces soldier, turned CIA operative, "JJ" (Dave Bautista), who as it turns out really isn't cut out for the job, due to his tendency to attempt to play the hero, resulting in explosions, bad guys getting killed, and nobody taking him seriously as a spy. (He's also mastered the ability of standing so incredibly still that he's become invisible to the eye. Had to thrown in a "Guardians" reference somewhere.) So CIA Director, "Kim" (Ken Jeong) decides to give JJ a less exciting mission. Teamed up with his biggest fan, "Bobbi" (Kristen Schaal), JJ is tasked to watch over widowed mother, "Kate" (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her precious daughter, "Sophie" (Chloe Coleman), who are the in-law family to a ruthless illegal arms dealer, "Victor Marquez" (Greg Bryk). When JJ and Bobbi are discovered by Sophie, she takes an instant liking to JJ, blackmailing him into keep her company, later convincing him to give her some spy training. Eventually JJ and Sophie bond, become besties, and take down some bad guys together. You know the drill, kids.
Directed Peter Segal ("Get Smart" "50 First Dates"), "My Spy" has been pushed back from several release dates (The current pandemic not helping) before settling on being released as an Amazon Prime exclusive, and what for what we get, it's not exactly a bad time. The film is perfectly enjoyable, thoroughly silly, and only really works at all thanks to the stars. It's not a very original, or even all that well thought out, of a story, and due to the surprising edge the film has (Language, violence, and even a little death), it's a little hard to figure out who the movie is actually made for. The comedy can be a little too goofy, giving off some standard family movie vibes, but then someone will get randomly stabbed or blown up. Not to mention the level of gunplay, while admittedly (And even amusingly) absurd, doesn't really feel right in what seems to aimed at a young audience.
Dave Bautista has already shown to have some great comedic timing in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies, and once again pulls it off here, while injecting his own natural charm to liven up the script. He also has a pretty delightful relationship with Chloe Coleman, who is quite the young scene-stealer. Kristen Schaal also gets some hilarious moments just by being Kristen Schaal and Ken Jeong shows he actually excels at toning himself down. Meanwhile, Parisa Fitz-Henley gets stuck with a generic love interest role and Greg Bryk leaves no impact as our villain. There are also some maybe somewhat questionable, though also admittedly fairly funny supporting roles for Devere Rogers (as "Carlos", the typical, nosy gay neighbor) and Noah Danby (as "Todd", Carlos' partner, who for some reason only speaks in grunts.)
"My Spy" is nothing special, memorable, or even that well made. It does offer some solid distraction for the seemingly never ending pandemic, thanks almost entirely to the likability of Bautista and Coleman. The uneven sense of identity doesn't exactly make this something I'd recommend to the family, though we could all do so much worse. Some decent laughs make up for all those spy turned babysitter clichés we've seen before, especially when you at least enjoy the company of the people involved. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Not So Family Friendly Language And Not So Family Friendly Violence.
Image: Rose Byrne literally chewing the scenery.
God, I am not looking to the Presidential election at the end of the year. While we are still experiencing this seemingly never ending pandemic (For what I've been told is all a hoax, this has gone on for quite a while), the current state of our country, our current Presidential candidates (One who most likely goes to bed at 6 P.M. and uses the bathroom several times at night, and the other being a grotesque human being and, you know, consistently making things worse for four years straight), and 2020 itself just not taking a damn moment to chill, this is the worst possible time to be going through the election process.
"Irresistible" follows cynical Democratic political strategist, "Gary Zimmer" (Steve Carell), who after the now infamous Donald Trump victory, is looking for a chance to change the course of the current political climate. Gary sees an opportunity after seeing a video featuring a a retired Marine colonel, "Jack Hastings" (Chris Cooper), giving a passionate speech about undocumented workers in his small, mostly conservative Wisconsin town. Gary convinces Jack to run for mayor, with himself running the campaign, bringing along everything within his politically driven arsenal in the process. The mayoral race becomes a total sh*tshow as you would expect, with Gary's longtime Republican rival, "Faith Brewster" (Rose Byrne), arrives to support the current right wing mayor, "Braun" (Brent Sexton), causing Gary more grief as he struggles to create his big political success story.
Written and directed by former host of "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart, "Irresistible" has the makings of some good satire, and in a time of divisive politics, we really need something like that right now. Sadly, it only really works if it's well, actually funny. The film lacks much bite or any real edge to it, and it feels like Stewart decided to go for something a bit more in the middle. That's fine, and all. The message of how political parties, the media, and money seem to motivate and manipulate the system to suit their own narrative, and are just as responsible for how crappy things eventually become, is one that deserves addressing. However, it's nothing all that original, and when the laughs are so few and far between, it feels more like a dull, yet oddly cartoonish lecture. There's an uneven tone throughout the film, where things feel grounded one moment, then get strangely silly almost randomly. I know it's supposed to be satirical, but you can't have it both ways.
Steve Carell is very Steve Carell, and even while the script is a letdown, he's always really good at playing that. The film has a solid cast, getting good work out of Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis (as "Diana", Jack's daughter), Topher Grace (as "Kurt", Gary's pollster), and a very funny Natasha Lyonne (as "Janet", Gary's more technical analyst). However, the real scene stealer would be Rose Byrne, who only appears frequently, but gets easily some of the funniest lines and most outrageous moments, playing up the most mean spirited and needlessly sarcastic of people. (Not to mention, I got a thing for the blonde hair. Just feel like I need to point that out.)
"Irresistible" has nothing but the best of intentions, with the message, while nothing that new, is still something of value for people to remember (Especially those in the media and in positions of political power). While there is a last minute twist that adds a little extra layer or depth and I'll admit I didn't quite expect, the movie is not near as clever as it seems to think it is. The inconsistent tone and sporadic laughs keep the film from leaving an impact, and it feels like a wasted opportunity. It's 2020. We need to just sit back and laugh at the absurdity of our divisive state of things. However, it just needs to be a bit more original than this. 2 Stars. Rated R For Lots Of Language, Fox & Friends, And Steve Carell's Pleasurable Enjoyment Of A Pastry.
Image: 2020. A year where Pete Davidson might get an Oscar nomination. That's how weird this sh*t has gotten.
Sometimes the best way to cope with a serious, and very personal subject matter, is to have a good sense of humor about it. It's something that I've noticed SNL comedian, Pete Davidson, is quite good at. It can get uncomfortable, and maybe it's not exactly everyone's thing, yet when you find that right balance, you have the potential to both make people laugh and leave some impact while you do it.
Loosely based on the life of Pete Davidson, "The King of Staten Island" follows "Scott Carlin" (Pete Davidson), a high school dropout/aspiring tattoo artist, who has never quite recovered from the death of his firefighter father years prior. While his sister, "Claire" (Maude Apatow), leaves for college, Scott remains home with his mother, "Margie" (Marisa Tomei), with no signs of his life going anywhere. Scott becomes at odds with another firefighter, "Ray" (Bill Burr), after almost giving his nine year old son a tattoo, leading to Ray starting to hit it off with Margie. Fearing change, Scott becomes determined to find a way to prevent Ray and Margie's relationship from continuing, while attempting his own personal problems.
Directed by Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up", "Funny People", "The 40-Year-Old-Virgin"), with a screenplay also written by Apatow, along with comedy writer David Sirus, and Pete Davidson, "The King of Staten Island" finds comedy in heartbreak. It's a fine balance that the film is able to get right, offering some great back and forth between characters, with some of it being hilarious and at times, kind of depressing. It's something that Apatow has always had a talent for, even though as usual, the film can get a little sidetracked because of it. Little moments that don't really impact the film make it a bit longer than it needs to be. (The film clocks in at two hours and sixteen minutes) However, the laughs are consistent, and the film certainly isn't without some smart insight.
Pete Davidson shows some surprising acting chops here. It's obvious he can be funny, but his dramatic moments are very subtle, and I appreciate that there wasn't a need to overplay his performance. (Not to mention, he is an expert fast talker, going a mile a minute.) Marisa Tomei is lovable, while Steve Buscemi (as "Papa", one of Ray's fellow firefighters) and Maude Apatow all get funny lines and moments of emotion. The film also gets some impressive work from Bill Burr, and especially Bel Powley (as "Kelsey", Scott's female friend/lover/love interest), who brings more to what could of just been a sideplot without much purpose.
"The King of Staten Island" might seem to overstay itself at times, though there are consistent laughs and a deeper, heartfelt story at the center, making the moments of filler feel minor. There is something very smart about the film, and it has a more unique way of approaching its subject matter, as well as explaining it. Using a sense of humor to cope with a certain trauma is a very human thing to do, and this movie gets that better than most. Not to mention, it gave me a new found appreciation for tattoos. 3 Stars. Rated R For Lots Of Language And Adult Content.
Image: "Maybe we should dig our way out of 2020."
I'll admit that I'm not the most professional film critic out there. Aside from you know, not being paid at all, I'm still really far behind when it comes to the fimographies of some of cinema's most prolific directors. It's also pretty pathetic that my introduction to acclaimed director and activist, Spike Lee was that forgettable "Oldboy" remake. With that said, along with "BlacKkKlansman" (Which was one of 2018's best films), I have started to really see what makes him such a unique voice in film. It's commendable to see how one can entertain, inspire, compel, and leave you thinking at the same time. It's also the kind of movie, considering the current climate in America at the moment, that is more necessary than ever.
Released through "Netflix" (And most likely making up for last week's "The Last Days of American Crime"), "Da 5 Bloods" follows the story of aged, American Vietnam War veterans, "Paul" (Delroy Lindo), "Otis" (Clarke Peters), "Eddie" (Norm Lewis), and "Melvin" (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), returning to Vietnam, saying that they are there to retrieve the remains of a beloved fallen fellow soldier, "Norman Earl Holloway" (Chadwick Boseman), also known as "Stormin' Earl". However, it turns out there is more to this expedition than they're admitting. They're also on the hunt for some buried gold bars that they previously uncovered with Norm before he was killed in action.
The crew also ends up bringing along Paul's son, "David" (Jonathan Majors), who is attempting to mend their damaged relationship. The quest is being funded by Otis' old flame, "Tiên" (Lê Y Lan), as well as a French businessman, "Desroche" (Jean Reno), who may or may not be particularly trustworthy. With some help from their Vietnamese guide, "Vinh" (Johnny Trí Nguyễn), the veterans journey deep into the jungle to find their deceased friend as well as their treasure. Seems simple enough, but it doesn't take long for things to unravel, and it's best that you don't know too much going into this.
The definition of a "Spike Lee Joint", "Da 5 Bloods" is based on a script by Danny Bilson and Paul De Mero that previously had been sitting on the shelf for seven years before Spike Lee and his frequent collaborator, Kevin Willmott ("Chi-Raq". "BlacKkKlansman"), giving the film a more socially relevant rewrite. It's a grand, old fashioned epic, that also just so happens to be one of the best movies I've seen this year (By far), and also smartest movies I've seen in quite a while. The film reaches past the two and a half hour mark, yet you never notice, due to how well paced and compacted the story is. It has the makings of something you've seen before (The old friends/veterans going on a treasure hunt has become somewhat of a classic tale), but how it all plays out doesn't feel remotely by the numbers. It also helps that the screenplay is chock full of well defined, fascinating characters (Each with their own motivations), and the strong dialogue they're given. Lee expertly delivers on the interactions between them, while also incorporating moments of well placed (And much appreciated) humor and incredibly powerful and intense drama. It takes good writing to have time for characters to describe how their PTSD has affected their lives, yet also have time for some good banter and how some of the main characters react to how of their own is somehow a "Trump" supporter. However, the film also even finds a way to humanize that in a way that I really hope more people can at least understand.
In a year that hasn't had the time to grace us with too many Oscar caliber performances (It's flippin June, and I haven't even seen fifty movies yet. I don't think I'm going to get past a hundred this year, am I?), we get a truly memorable one that's going to leave on Hell of an impression. Delroy Lindo hits it out of the ball park with an amazingly complex, emotionally fierce, and passionate performance. He gets one especially captivating monologue, shot while focusing almost completely on his face and never breaking contact with the viewer, that I can defines what I would consider flawless acting. While Lindo gets the biggest showcase, the comradery between him, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr., gives the film heart, along with an equally fantastic Jonathon Majors. The film just has a great cast of characters, all contributing in some fashion, from a suitably snooty Jean Reno, a really likable Johnny Trí Nguyễn, and a small, absorbing part for Veronica Ngo (as real life Vietnamese radio personality, "Hanoi Hannah"). Chadwick Boseman also shines in his small role, only appearing in flashbacks that are presented in an aspect ratio and style reminiscent of Vietnam War stock footage. The changing tones add an extra layer of depth to the film, keeping you constantly engaged.
"Da 5 Bloods" is a movie that's made for the big screen, but still doesn't lose any of its grit and cinematic quality. From Spike Lee's brilliant direction, the Oscar worthy screenplay, and enthralling performances, the film also brings everything that we see throughout the film (Whether it be seemingly unimportant or simply something meant to be on the sidelines) all together in one gutpunch of a finale, resulting in this year's most poignant and culturally significant endings. Current events continue to spiral, avoidable deaths continue to happen, almost half of the country still refuses to see there's even an issue, and there is for some reason still a debate about why people are trying to draw awareness to a serious societal problem involving race. 2020 still sucks so far, but the impact that we can still feel from the best of cinema certainly hasn't taken a hit. 4 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Violence, And Dramatic Weight.
Image: Man, "Men in Black" sure took a weird turn.
As kids, we may have been taught not to judge a book by its cover, but with the eight installment book series, "Artemis Fowl", I did exactly that. The book had an awesome cover (It had a sparkling, locked gold, old fashioned fantasy tome-like design), and while I only read the first book (I was like seven or eight!), I remember it being pretty cool actually. Sort of like an anti-Harry Potter, with a young sort of villain protagonist, eventually becoming more of an anti-hero, that also had fantasy elements thrown in there. It was a long time ago, but even I know something is not right here!
Based on the young adult book series of the same name by Eoin Colfer, "Artemis Fowl II.", of course, follows the titular twelve year old protagonist, "Artemis Fowl" (Ferdia Shaw). Artemis is the super intelligent son of his wealthy businessman father, "Artemis Fowl I" (Colin Farrell), who has always told his son stories of fairies and an unimaginable world that no other human has ever seen. After his father mysteriously vanishes, Artemis also learns that he is also suspected to of been responsible for the theft of many priceless artifacts before receiving a call from a mysterious, raspy voiced, hooded villainess, "Opal Koboi" (Listed as being voiced by an uncredited Hong Chau, but something feels off about that). Koboi has kidnapped Artemis' father and demands that he bring her a dangerous artifact, called the "Aculos", or else he'll never see him again. Artemis, along with his faithful bodyguard/butler, unfortunately named "Domovoi Butler" (Nonso Anozie), devise a very elaborate, and very confusing scheme to find out where the Aculos has been hidden. The plan involves kidnapping a fairy officer, "Holly Short" (Lara McDonnell), manipulating a giant dwarf, "Mulch Diggums" (Josh Gad), and avoiding the "Lower Elements Police" (LEP), led by "Commander Julius Root" (Judi Dench), with Artemis Fowl becoming a renowned criminal mastermind in the process of saving his kidnapped papa.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh (With the last Disney movie he did being easily one of their best live action remakes, "Cinderella"), "Artemis Fowl" had been in development hell for years, with the big screen adaptation getting pushed around before becoming another casualty of the country shutting down, settling for a release on Disney+. It has the makings of something cool, but boy, does it just get everything so wrong. It's an adaptation where more than a few important aspects appear to have been lost in translation, and those aspects are what just so happen of been what would of held it all together. The screenplay by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl ("Johnny English Reborn", and something much better, "Paddington"), has so much to get done in an hour and a half, with underdevloped characters, and loads of exposition filled with mythology and lore, just being tossed in at random.
None of the characters truly stand out, and the plot itself takes away too much time to get going, to the point where the main focus doesn't even become an issue until the last twenty minutes. There are some nice looking visuals, such as the underground fairy city or the goblin prisons, but we don't see much of that. Most of the film takes place at the generic looking "Fowl Manor", with that part of the story taking up the entire second act, and even a little into the third. Because of this, most of the effects we're left with are shockingly crappy, looking like the admittedly dated effects fro the original "Harry Potter" movie. (However, that movie gets a pass for not only being much better, but also being you know, almost nineteen years old.)
Ferdia Shaw, grandson of Robert Shaw, really doesn't quite have the onscreen charisma to carry what is meant to be a character with such a presence and sense of confidence. It's especially noticeable during scenes with Lara McDonnell, who while also doesn't really have the role completely down, does seem to be more of a natural than Shaw is. Nonso Anozie doesn't end up having much of a role to contribute by the end, along with Tamara Smart (as "Juliet", Butler's niece), who I have no idea what her purpose was actually supposed to be. The more enjoyable performances come from Josh Gad, getting a couple amusing lines despite essentially being Hagrid if Hagrid sucked, and Judi Dench, who I get the idea is just here simply to see what kinds of bizarre things they can get her to say and do. (We do get the sight of her saying "Top of the morning to ya!", so there's that.) Colin Farrell is also frustratingly limited to a handful of scenes.
Then we get to one of the stranger flaws in the film, the villain. We never actually see her, with her face hidden in shadows and by a hood, with the voice being completely distorted, and while her name is mentioned onscreen many times, she's still listed as "Shadowy Female Figure" in the credits. The character feels out of place, doesn't actually do anything of real menace, and Hong Chau, despite being listed as playing the character in all promotional material, is nowhere to be found in the actual movie. Is this a reshoot issue? Or maybe something to do with the actress realizing the movie was trash? It makes for a really hard to follow plot device that both takes up a lot time, and yet, feels completely disconnected at the same time. Not to mention, with the main threat being mostly inconsequential, there isn't any sense of urgency to whatever is actually happening.
Nearly impossible to follow in some places, resulting in an almost conflict-free climax, and clearly edited into oblivion, "Artemis Fowl" just falls apart in the most baffling of ways. It's Kenneth Branagh's "The Last Airbender". The movie feels wrong, and it certainly is made worse by the lack of any real sense of wonder or magic. (It's a Disney film in name only.) Maybe it's best that your kids just spend some their quarantine time reading instead. They'll get more joy out of that instead. 1 Star. Rated PG For Scary Images, Such As Josh Gad Unnaturally Opening His Jaw Like A Cartoon Shark. That's Gonna Haunt Me For A While.
Image: "Put down the gun...And the script...And the camera....You know what, just throw all of it away!"
Not much having come out the last couple weeks, and not to mention the political and social uproar that's been impossible not to get involved in. (The racial ramifications have been ignored for far too long!) So with the debate between the power that our law enforcement has abused in the past (And whether you choose to believe it or not, continues to abuse from time to time), why the absolute Hell did anyone think to themselves "Yyyeah. Perfect time to release this one!".
"The Last Days of American Crime" takes place in the future-ish somewhat, where after years of rampant crime, the government decides to send out a countrywide broadcast signal (Known as the "American Peace Initiative" or "API") that will cause a painful, piercing sound into the heads of anyone daring to even think of committing a crime of any kind. Our hero, a ruthless and violent bank robber, "Graham Bricke" (Édgar Ramírez) is depressed, having recently heard that his brother committed suicide in prison, he's had no logical choice (Apparently), but to kill all of those responsible for selling him out, and with the API about to go into effect, it means his criminal career is about to be over. However, Bricke meets the wacky son of a gangster, "Kevin Cash" (Michael Pitt) and his shady fiancée, "Shelby Dupree" (Anna Brewster), come to Bricke with an offer. Kevin, who was in prison with Bricke's deceased brother, knows that his death wasn't a suicide, convincing Bricke to join them in a last second heist before the API begins. Seems simple enough, right? Bricke is always serious, he has a thing with Shelby, Kevin is crazy, and there are bad guys. So why does this movie clock in at about two hours and twenty nine minutes? Its because someone went out of their way to make the absolute worst thing imaginable this year.
Timing is the least of the problems that plague "The Last Days of American Crime", but it's the most obviously offensive aspect of it. I get not accounting for real life events getting in the way of the point you're trying to make. However, when there is no point you're trying to make, and instead you just want to pile up excessive violence, sex, swears, and an onslaught of bullets piercing blood splattering flesh, you really deserve nothing but the ridicule of the American moviegoers. Not to mention you make a pretty damn terrible movie at the same time. Directed by the most likely villainous Oliver Megaton ("Transporter 3", Taken 2", and "Taken 3" or as we call it, "Tak3n"), the film is a narrative disaster of nearly epic proportions, failing in nearly every filmmaking department.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini (Though I haven't the slightest clue what this has to do with it), the film is a ruthless tribute to dirty, sleazy excess, but not the good kind. I mean dirty as in grimey and ugly, with near exploitative levels of gory violence, hilariously limp sexual content, and some of the worst dialogue you'll ever hear courtesy of the in your face macho screenplay by Karl Gajdusek ("Oblivion", "The November Man"). The movie seems to get the idea that it's so edgy and cool, feeling increasingly lame the longer it goes. Horrendous dialogue and grotesquely unlikable characters don't exactly make for a so bad it's good experience when your movie doesn't seem to know when to get to the damn point. Though even with that said, the point itself seems to be lost. In fact, it's almost an hour and a half until the actual plot kicks in, with the film taking several detours before getting to the heist that the film has been building up to. I don't even know what half of these little distractions are supposed to contribute, and I'm having more trouble trying to remember the order in which these scenes happen. It absolutely has to be the worst edited film I've seen in a long time. A good hour or so could of been shaved off of this movie, and that hour wouldn't of been missed.
Édgar Ramírez is someone I've seen be a good actor, but in this, he gives an award worthy (Razzie award worthy that is) performance. It's an outstanding achievement in dull, remaining stone face throughout the entire movie, never emoting once, and failing to generate any kind of sympathy whatsoever. His chemistry with Anna Brewster, who gets some of the worst dialogue out of the entire cast, is nonexistent, and their romance feels grossly shallow. While Ramirez overly tones it down, Michael Pitt overly turns it up, nearly exploding off the screen in how over the top he is. Screaming every other line like a maniac, mugging as if he's having trouble chewing his food, and just plain being a plague on your eyes and ear in every scene, Michael Pitt's shtick gets old before it even begins. Other supporting characters come and go, with some overdoing it, most adding little, and as for Sharlto Copley (as "William Sawyer", a cop who gets a random mini-subplot for about ten minutes), he's criminally wasted. (How dare you do a nonsensical, cartoonish action movie and not let him chew the scenery. He's actually a pro at that!)
Reveling in decadence, always trying to show off how "cool" it is, and never cutting the tough guy crap, "The Last Days of American Crime" is a movie trying its best to compensate for a tiny penis. The timing of its release is certainly unwarranted, yet it's nothing compared to the visual ugliness that the film seems to drape itself in. In terms of direction, writing, acting, editing, and basic coherence, it deserves all of the panning it's been getting. It coming out while the country is going through a very heated, but much needed social debate, just makes it worse. I really can't think of a single good reason to give it any stars, because that would mean something positive would of come out of this almost two and a half hour orgy of cinematic foulness. So yeah, No Stars. When nothing good comes out of a movie, it deserves nothing back. Rated R For All Kinds Of Sex, Violence, Language, And Police Brutality That It's Best Movies (Let Alone Bad Ones) Shouldn't Probably Show For A While.
Image: Good Cop, Bad Unicorn.
We are officially hitting the point where all of this is starting to become normal, and while the premise behind watching movies on my phone and computer will always feel odd to me (You really do miss the whole movie going experience.), I'm getting a little too used to it and I don't like it!
"The Lovebirds" opens with the almost sickening lovey dovey relationship between "Leilani" (Issa Rae) and "Jibran" (Kumail Nanjiani). The two are inseparable and destined to be together......at first. Some time later, the couple has grown distant, are always arguing, and are left questioning where their relationship goes from here. While on their way to a friend's party, Leilani and Jibran decide to call it quits, only for their breakup to be interrupted when Jibran hits a guy on a bicycle with his car. Then seconds later, a random guy with a mustache, who they nickname "Moustache" (Paul Sparks), claiming to be a cop (And that the cyclist is also a criminal) hi-jacks their car, and proceeds to run over the guy twice, killing him. It becomes obvious that Moustache isn't a cop, especially when he flees the scene, leaving Leilani and Jibran looking pretty guilty of murder. Now on the run, the couple has to work together to find the killer and clear their names in the process, while also stumbling upon a strange conspiracy involving a congressman and his wife, "Edie" (Anna Camp), a bunch of frat boys, and a mask wearing sex cult. The day escalates really fast.
Directed by Michael Showalter ("The Big Sick"), "The Lovebirds" is the kind of short and sweet, and often pretty damn funny diversion that feels just what the doctor ordered while we're waiting for the world to finally normalize once again. The movie is over the top and revolves around some forced situations, which are made thankfully quite funny due to good timing, smart writing, and a pair of wonderful leads. The movie is certainly unpredictable in its oddness, with the plot moving along briskly and almost randomly. Most of the best comedy comes from how far things get in such a short amount of time. Its all kinds of goofy, but you can forgive the film for that, especially when you're getting a consistent amount of laughs.
Most of this works because of the pitch perfect chemistry between Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani. They work well off each other with their constant comebacks and throwaway jokes, and while in terms of comedy, it's not hard to see how good their chemistry would be. Romantically, they are dynamite as well. Sure they argue a lot, yet you can see the clear love that these two characters have, even when they forget. It actually ends up being really sweet and thoughtful, and even with all of the over the top wackiness going on, it feels like one of the more realistic movie relationships I've seen in a while. Other characters don't get much screentime, though they really aren't meant to be the focus, the only exception being an enjoyably weird appearance from Anna Camp.
"The Lovebirds" doesn't overstay its welcome (It's not even an hour and a half), and comes to a predictable, though crowdpleasing conclusion at the right moment. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani make the film, and are a delight all the way through. With a hidden sweetness, unexpectedly good laughs, and an entertaining amount of absurdity, 2020 may be continuing to remain stuck, but at least the movies remain a nice way to escape and making us laugh. Still, is there a chance we can get back to living our lives in time for "Tenet" to come out? C'mon! It looks awesome. 3 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Bickering Couples, And What We All Know Masked Rich People Do On The Weekends.
Image: ""It says here that Scooby and the gang were quarantined for 14 days, and the bad guys got away. The end."
As depressing as this situation continues to be (Wear a mask! It's not that hard! It doesn't hurt you in any way!), I will admit, I am so happy that I've been able to see this movie. Not that I was ever particularly excited for it, or even thinking about it much (Looked cute and all, and hey, I like "Scooby-Doo". Who doesn't?), but it was actually a movie I had planned on seeing for this site back when movie theaters were still a thing. It gives me a sense of closure and normalcy. It makes me feel safe, and safe is good.
Another theatrical film released instead via Video on Demand, "Scoob!" opens with the origins of those meddling kids and their talking dog, "Mystery Inc.", with "Shaggy Rogers" (Will Forte) and "Scooby-Doo" (Frank Welker), having been the best of friends since childhood. Complete with the rest of the gang, including "Daphne Blake" (Amanda Seyried), "Fred Jones" (Zac Efron), and "Velma Dinkley" (Gina Rodriguez), they have been going around the world, solving mysteries which generally end with someone being unmasked. Now the gang wants to expand and move up in the world, with this movie's celebrity guest star, "Simon Cowell" (Himself, obviously), offering to invest into the company. However, he sees Shaggy and Scooby as the weak links and says he will only invest if they're gone.
Feeling unwanted, Shaggy and Scooby go off on their own, where they're attacked by killer, transforming robots sent by the dastardly "Dick Dastardly" (Jason Isaacs). They are rescued by the "Falcon Fury", which is piloted by the famous superhero, "The Blue Falcon", or more specifically, his much dumber, less capable son, "Brian" (Mark Wahlberg). Brian, along with the rest of his team, including "Dee Dee Sykes" (Kiersey Clemons) and robotic dog, "Dynomutt" (Ken Jeong), bring Shaggy and Scooby along with them to find the skulls of the "Great Cerberus" before Dastardly does, preventing the end of the world as we know it.
Seemingly setting up a shared universe of sorts made up of classic "Hannah-Barbera" characters, "Scoob!" seems to be more about a clever premise than anything all that unique when it comes to storytelling. Directed by animation director Tony Cervone (Known for "Looney Tunes", "Tom & Jerry", and "Scooby-Doo" related work), the movie itself is a cool idea, but the plot is way too convoluted and all over the place for a kids movie, giving the sense that most of the story was worked around the concept, which clearly came first. It's not a very well directed movie in that sense, with the pacing being off, especially early on, and lots of the story elements feeling underdeveloped, much like some of the characters. The movie just jumps right into it all immediately after the opening (And fairly cute) origin story, not giving much time to establish much. Granted, we all know who the main characters are since they've been around for over fifty years, but it would of been nice to get more of an emotional attachment to what's going on.
Narrative woes aside, Cervone does at least offer a delightful visual feast. From the "Warner Bros." animation department, "Warner Animation Group" (or "WAG"), known for the "LEGO" movies, the film has a great look to it. It's CGI, but every expressive CGI, resembling a more fluid, detailed traditionally animated, hand-drawn cartoon. It also makes the characters themselves more fun, even when the script really doesn't fully flesh them out. Not to mention all of the great sight gags and Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout. Even while the movie doesn't give much in terms of a cohesive plotline, it's not without some decent sized laughs. Whether it be some solid self-aware gags (Something this movie does better than the old "Live-Action" ones. They're not as good as you remember. Trust me.), and some good one liners that get an occasional belly laugh. (It may be a kids movie, but there some stuff here for the adults, which is very much welcome.)
Where "Scoob!" really shines is with its fantastic voice cast (Though it is strange hearing a mostly celebrity ensemble replacing well known voice actors). Will Forte does a great Shaggy, with Frank Welker being the only returning voice actor to bring his much loved character to life. (The speech pattern is a little more inconsistent here, but it's still the Scooby we all know and love.) Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, and Gina Rodgriguez make up for being reduced to a subplot, adding their own spin to their characters. Mark Wahlberg is a ton of fun, along with an enjoyably sarcastic Ken Jeong, though Kiersey Clemons gets the least amount to work with here. The biggest scene stealers would be Jason Isaacs, relishing in the hysterical villainy, and a sadly brief, but brilliant appearance from Tracy Morgan (as "Captain Caveman", who I am sure plenty of you probably remember), being one of those perfect casting choices for a well known character.
While the story has a sweet message, with a great cast and some big laughs from time to time, "Scoob!" is also kind of distracted by itself. The kids probably won't give much focus to how thin the story is and how needlessly complicated it gets, but it keeps the film from being anything special. It's almost as if it could of been about anything, yet just so happens to have Scooby-Doo in it. (It's also got nothing on "Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island". Now that's the best Scooby-Doo movie. Fact!) For your kids (And for your curiosity, especially if your a big fan of that Scooby Snack loving pooch), it's fun enough. However, we've got "Onward" on "Disney+" right now, or the much better "The Willoughbys" (Which deserves your family's attention), on "Netflix", for a much cheaper price. 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG For Some Humor For The Adults, The Double Entendre Involving Dick Dastardly's Name, And Fred's Questioning Of His Sexuality.
Image: "Wise guy, eh?"
What was once a non paying job that required one or two shifts a week, has turned into maybe something every two weeks. Sure some people are insisting it's all over, the virus has been neutralized, and that it's perfectly safe to go out, pile up, and party! It doesn't work like that people, and even if the whole pandemic had reached its end, that doesn't mean we should all start gathering in collective groups once again. We're not out of the woods yet, so all we can do is sit back and watch Tom Hardy slowly munch down on some delicious scenery, spit it out, and chew on it some more because, well, he's crazy. Fun, right?
"Capone" follows the final, miserable days of feared gangster and bootlegger, "Al Capone" (Tom Hardy), after his release from prison. Having retired in Florida, Capone lives with his wife, "Mae" (Linda Cardellini), and the rest of his family, while his mind is slowly and painfully rotting away from syphilis and dementia. While the feds keep Capone under surveillance, hoping that he will reveal where he supposedly hid $10 million, Capone also starts to face visions of all the death and misery he's caused, as well with how it has effected him as the once former dreaded crime boss nears death's door. All of this happening in a not so glamorous fashion.
Directed, written, and edited by Josh Trank (Who also directed 2011's "Chronicle" and supposedly directed some of the 2015 "Fantastic Four" aka "Fant4stic"), "Capone" has been declared by some critics to be the most gonzo, baffling, and on the cusp of "So Bad, It's Good" movie of 2020. While I can admit that the film is certainly bizarre and at times, fairly wacko, I'm a little disappointed because once you get down to it, all we really get is a mostly safe, generic, and pretty unnecessary crime biopic without much substance. Something preventing it from really being any worse, is that Trank really isn't a bad director. The movie looks fine, and the stylistic choices, while weird and out there, aren't badly staged at all. The writing on the other hand doesn't quite reach any spectacular heights, and the strange tone does not gel in the slightest. There are out of place sequences of outlandish imagery, and over the top violence, becoming needlessly gory for no reason. There are head shots, brutal neck stabbings, and a guy gouging out his eyes, all executed in an almost cartoonish fashion. I can enjoy some good, goofy bloody violence, but its really not something that a movie like this should really have.
The film also doesn't any room for character development, offering little insight on much of the true crime story, with much of it feeling undercooked. Tom Hardy however, is kind of a unique form of spectacular here. Purely committed in the decent enough prosthetics, with the caricature-like raspy voice, Hardy looks as if he's portraying a demented version of "Baby Herman" from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?". It's all kinds of peculiar, but it's also something that livens up what could of just been a forgettable biopic. Others such as Linda Cardellini (Once again giving much more than her thankless role requires), Matt Dillon (as "Johnny", an old mobster friend), and Jack Lowden (as an FBI agent), aren't given good enough material to work with. Granted, the focus is purely on Tom Hardy, and he's oddly captivating to watch, whether it be his constant chewing on a cigar, the almost hilarious outbursts, and the constant crap he's spewing. (Literal crap. There's a lot of crap in this movie.)
Not near unintentionally (Or intentionally? There are moments where it's hard to tell) funny enough to be fun, "Capone" is like stale bread. It's so bland once you really get into it, drags on in the middle (Especially during an especially driven out dream sequence), and doesn't feel necessary for any other reason than to just have Tom Hardy offer some amusing new gifs for Twitter to play with. For that novelty, there's some enjoyment to be had. It's just not enough to earn a place on any end of the year lists. Good or bad. 2 Stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Moments Of Violence, And Capone Crap.
Image: "But I need to know where Baby Yoda came from too."
So this is it people! What began as something people were dreading (A "Star Wars" cartoon? For children? Set in the prequel era? With a female lead? Not their cup of tea at the time.), became one of the greatest animated shows of all time, which contributed more to the "Star Wars" saga than most of the movies. (They pretty much fixed most issues I ever had with the prequel trilogy.) Now we reach the endgame of all those years of character development, epic battles, and loads of heartbreak, with the best Star Wars movie since "The Last Jedi" (Its great! One day you will all admit it like you did with "Revenge of the Sith"!) Spoilers, obviously!
Part 1: "Old Friends Not Forgotten" opens with what was going on just moments before the opening crawl of Revenge of the Sith. While "General Grievous" attacks Coruscant, the no-longer Jedi padawan, "Ahsoka Tano" (Ashley Eckstein), along with Mandalorian warrior, "Bo-Katan" (Katee Sackoff), turn to Ahsoka's old master, "Anakin Skywalker" (Matt Lanter) and "Obi-Wan Kenobi" (James Arnold Taylor) for help in finally liberating Mandalore from the evil Sith turned crime lord, "Maul" (Sam Witwer). Sadly, Anakin and Obi-Wan are called in when Grievous kidnaps "Chancellor Palpatine" (Ian McDiarmind), but they leave Clone Captain, "Rex" (Dee Bradley Baker), and his Clone squadron (All also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) to assist them.
The first episode in the arc takes on a completely different style from every other episode in the seven season long (And twelve years old) series. It opens like a a traditional Star Wars movie, with only this episode having a news reel (Narrated by Tom Kane's awesome voice). Everything about the episode is very cinematic, focusing on the deep character interactions rather than the action (Though the action itself is still stunning), showing how far everyone has come since the 2008 released "Clone Wars" movie. The relationship between Ahsoka and Anakin has become increasingly bittersweet, especially since we all know how it eventually ends in "Star Wars: Rebels". The episode also includes a massive tearjerker with Rex introducing Ahsoka to the clones she will be commanding, with all of them having painted their masks to match her as a sign of respect. This entire arc has a strong focus on loyalty, and how it can become tested during wartime. God, does it make what happens later even more heartbreaking. The only complain I could possibly have is that we never actually get to see the battle of Coruscant, or the capture of Palpatine. Though granted, the episode's heavy ties to what happens in the opening act of Revenge of the Sith, and when it comes down it, that isn't the point of the story. This is Ahsoka's tale through and through, showing us where she came from when the show started, providing us a look into her development as the show progressed, and coming down to these last four episodes, giving us insight into who she later becomes. Rating: 10/10
Image: Attached at the hip.
Part 2: "The Phantom Apprentice" opens with Maul's surprise and disappointment to find Ahsoka having come to put a stop to his iron-fisted rule instead of Obi-Wan and Anakin. With a group of Mandalorians under his command, such as the prime minister, "Almec" (Julian Holloway) and a future servant of the Empire, "Gar Saxon" (Ray Stevenson), Maul has no intention of going down without a fight, though it quickly becomes apparent to Ahsoka that there is more to this story than it seems. Maul is filled with fear, knowing what is to come, and who will bring upon it, resulting in an epic duel of the fates between the former sith and the former padawan.
The second episode in the arc is very Maul-centric, and it continues to amaze me as to what the show has done with the character. What began as a cool, but quiet and somewhat underutulized villain back in "The Phantom Menace", survived his slicing in half (Long story. He's just too damn angry to die), and become a Shakespearean villain. With a monologuing, soft speaking voice, but on the verge of pure insanity, Sam Witwer gave the character a new sense of life. The episode especially showcases how brilliant and intense of an actor he can be. Not to mention, the incredible lightsaber duel that ranks up with the best for numerous reasons. One being that the battle was livened through motion capture, with Ahsoka being portrayed by stunt woman, Lauren Mary Kim, and Maul being portrayed by his original actor, Ray Park. The visuals, mixed in with the captivating score, and the emotional power behind the sequence, end this part in the arc on a high note. Ranking: 10/10.
Image: Yeah, I can see Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka.
Part 3: "Shattered" opens with the battle of Mandalore seemingly coming to a close, with Maul under arrest, and his followers having been defeated. Ahsoka leaves with the clone to return the captured crime lord to the Jedi Council, though there is still plenty of tension between her and her former teachers. Anyone who knows Star Wars should know that she never makes it to Coruscant, as the long awaited and much feared "Order 66" is enacted by the newly "Elected" Emperor Palpatine, resulting in all clones (Including Rex) turning on all of their Jedi generals across the galaxy. Ahsoka fights to survive the onslaught from her now bloodthirsty friends, having no other choice but to make a deal with the devil, teaming up with Maul in hopes of escaping the attack of the clones. (See what I did there?)
The third part slows things down, almost to a halt, but that is where the arc really begins to shine. This is where it makes its mark, becoming one of the series' best. (If not the best.) First the poignant conversation between Ashoka and Rex at the episode's beginning really drives home how this war has developed these characters, in ways for the better or possibly the worse. Its a beautiful moment, with Ashley Eckstein and Dee Bradley Baker giving terrific performances. (Voice acting is real acting, and people need to realize it.) When the sh*t hits the fan, and Order 66 rears its ugly head, and the clones open fire on poor Ahsoka, it hurts. You really do feel a connection to these characters, and despite you know how this is all going to end, you love them enough to hope for something else to happen. Toss in Maul reenacting Vader's hallway massacre scene in "Rogue One, and you got yourself another perfect episode. Ranking: 10/10.
Image: This is getting way too painful.
Part 4: "Victory and Death", the final episode in the series, opens with Ahsoka having removed Rex's inhibitor chip (The thing that made the clones turn on the Jedi in the first place. What? You thought they were just always planning on killing them all for Palpatine from the beginning? That would be stupid.), with the two of them having to find a way off of the ship to safety. However, due to Maul's involvement, the ship is on a collision course, and all evacuation ships are now blocked by the still trigger happy clones. This leaves Ahsoka and Rex with a moral dilemma, with all decisions leading to tragic outcomes
It all comes down to this, and I gotta say, it's not at all what expected. Yet, that's where the strength of the episode comes from. The final confrontation of the series, with Ahsoka and Rex being forced to take on their brainwashed brothers in arms, while trying to survive a deadly crash, and Maul showing up as the wild card, the entire series doesn't go out with an explosive bang. Instead, it focuses on the aftermath, quietly letting all of the tragedy sink in. Everyone has lost something, and their lives will never be the same again. We may know where Ahsoka and Rex's journey later leads, but this is what truly began that journey. In a way, this entire show could be seen as their origin stories. Then to top it all off, it concludes with the appearance of the man himself, "Darth Vader", with Anakin gone (At least for now), and what was left of the friendships he shared, shattered to pieces. Roll credits without the usual Clone Wars fanfare. Ranking: 10/10.
Final Score: 40/40. Which would normally mean 4 stars out of 4. If we were ranking this as a movie.
The "Siege of Mandalore" is an incredible, deep, and emotional final story in the Clone Wars, serving as an epilogue to the prequel trilogy, and leading up to what would later come. This is what Star Wars should be, and to watch it on "May the 4th" (Star Wars Day, for those who don't know), I couldn't think of anything more perfect. Its a flawless finale that none of us knew we needed, and whatever the future holds for the saga, it's going to have to do something really game changing to top this. For something near and dear to my heart (And one that can at times be frustrating to love due to those surrounding it), it serves as a reminder that greatest that can be achieved is powerful enough to persist any obstacle, even when hope is lost, possibly for good. (It's all a metaphor isn't it?)
Image: "Our Netflix account was suspended....NOOOOO!!!!"
Last year's Oscar nominated "Klaus" was a welcome surprise from Netflix, and showed that this could be the place for more unique forms of animation that other studios would never be brave enough to attempt. It's also the only place where a family movie as crazy and refreshingly unsentimental as this could exist. While 2020 continues to bring us down, this is the pick me up I needed.
Based on the book by Lois Lowry, "The Willoughbys" follows the titular "Willoughbys", a family descended from ingenious inventors and adventurers, all known for their glorious mustaches (The women have them too!). However, the current generation is less than admirable, with young, mustache-less "Tim" (Will Forte), his sing-songy sister, "Jane" (Alessia Cara), and their creepy twin brothers, both named "Barnaby" (Seán Cullen), living with selfish, neglectful "Father" (Martin Short) and "Mother" (Jane Krakowski). With their parents having suggested that they find love elsewhere since the day they were born, Tim attempts to be the voice of reason to the family, though usually ends up taking the fall for everything instead. When Jane finds a baby (That they later name "Ruth") in a box outside their house, the parents demand that the children get rid of her. The kids leave the orphaned Ruth at a colorful candy factory, which is owned by the goofy Wonka-esque, "Commander Melanoff" (Terry Crews).
Seeing Ruth in a new happy home, this gives the children the idea that they would be better off as orphans. The kids devise a scheme to create an elaborate, death filled vacation, sending their parents off to possibly die (They're terrible people after all. So it's okay), which would result in the children becoming orphans. However, before they leave, the parents just so happen to hire the cheapest nanny they could find, "Linda" (Maya Ruldolph), whose happy, loving nature comes as a shock to the kids. With their new nanny, the Willoughbys find themselves in a series of mis-adventures, which become more complicated as the parents continue to survive their deadly vacation. All of this being overseen and narrated by a talking blue cat (Ricky Gervais).
Directed by Kris Pearn ("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2"), with a co-directing credit to Rob Lodermeier, "The Willoughbys" is one of the more unconventional animated films you can find, which still finds a way to offer plenty for the whole family to enjoy. The film is given a colorful picture book-like feeling, from each character's sporadic movements, the animated chaos in the background and foreground, and the fact that everyone's hair looks a lot like balls of yarn. The animation clearly is designed to look close to stop motion, and every frame is given a certain eccentricity. It's incredible work from the animators, with character designer Craig Kellmen ("Madagascar", "Hotel Transylvania", "The Addams Family"), really allowing the kooky cast to each have their time to shine. All of it is brought to whimsical and bizarre life by the strong screenplay by Pearn and Mark Stanleigh, which avoids anything remotely close to cloying (And even seems to poke fun at that idea) in favor of a sarcastic and even pretty dark sense of humor. (I mean, there are literally cars always crashing in the background. I don't even know why.) The film embraces that kind of humor, and even knowing the kids are watching, doesn't hold back in an occasional probably not so family friendly joke. (Everything involving the parents sickeningly lovey relationship is chock full of inappropriateness, and while the kids may be confused, the adults watching will get a kick out of it.)
The delightful cast of characters consists of the voices involved clearly enjoying the chance to let loose and have a blast. The completely unrecognizable Will Forte is suitably great as the nervous, though likable lead, along with a fantastically quirky Alessia Cara. Seán Cullen gets to steal a lot of scenes with the twins' off kilter throwaway lines, while Maya Rudolph and Terry Crews fit well into the weird world the movie sets up. Martin Short and Jane Krakowski are both hilariously vile, deliciously embracing their roles as the worst kinds of people imaginable. Meanwhile, the perfect casting of Ricky Gervais really should give the right idea as to what kind of movie this intends to be.
While at times "The Willoughbys" might be too weird for its own good, and on occasion gets a little distracted while trying to tell its story, the film makes up for it with a tight pace, great laughs, and an incredible animation style that's always a joy to watch. Even with the lack of in your face sentimentality, there is still a sweet story in there, and a warm message of the different forms that family can come in. So many of the movies we've been given this year have had this feeling of forgettability (Even the good ones), and it's very cathartic to have one truly stand out as something special. It's not Disney or Pixar, but it's a great choice for a quarantined family movie night. Especially if you actually like your family. 3 ½ Stars. Rated PG For Questionable Childlike Antics, Abused Tour Guides, And Mother's Balls.
Image: "Stop calling me Fat Thor!"
It has been day thirty-nine since both of my livelihoods were physically destroyed in one fell swoop, and all things fun have been cancelled. While I do hear that ingesting Lysol might be the miracle cure we've all been hoping for (Thank God nobody in a position of power appeared to suggest that), I'm starting to assume that this will be the way of the world for most, if not the rest, of the year, and I should just get used to it. So to make up for the lack of an upcoming "Marvel" movie, the Russo Brothers have given us......another rainy day/quarantine movie. There are so many of those right now.
"Extraction" opens in Mumbai, India, with the kidnapping of "Ovi Mahajan" (Rudraksh Jaiswal), the son of the biggest drug lord India (Pankaj Tripathi). The kidnapping was orchestrated by a rival, Bangladeshi crime lord, "Amir Asif" (Priyanshu Painyuli), forcing Ovi's fathers henchman, "Saju" (Randeep Hooda), in hopes of protecting his own family, to seek help in tracking poor Ovi down. This leads to the hiring of death seeking black market mercenary, "Tyler Rake" (Chris Hemsworth), and his team, to help find out where Amir is holding Ovi hostage, revealed to be Dhaka, Bangladesh. When Tyler finds Ovi however, it turns out that being paid was never part of the plan, and now Tyler must protect Ovi from getting killed in the crossfire of a gang war, and get him home, whole hopefully sparing him from the vile nature of this kind of world.
Directed by stunt coordinator, Sam Hargrave (Who performed work in "Captain America: Civil War" and "Avengers: Endgame"), with producers Anthony and Joe Russo (Who also wrote the screenplay), "Extraction" is a mostly generic action thriller, made by capable and talented people, but doesn't result in anything of true substance. It's really just a less than mediocre film, made slightly better by occasional moments of inspiration and potential for the filmmakers to go on to something better in the future. The story is something you've seen before, and the screenplay does not offer near enough personality of its own to make it memorable. It's not without some solid actions sequences though. An especially terrific nearly thirty minute setpiece, filmed to simulate a single take, involves a car chase into a crowded street, with the chase going through an apartment complex, and culminating in a knife fight in the street. Most of the action is fairly solid, and the movie does give us the rather amazing sight of Chris Hemsworth beating up (After taking a slight beating himself) a bunch of teenagers armed with machine guns, knives, and machetes. (It also results in a hilarious line where Tyler refers to them as "The Goonies from Hell")
Chris Hemsworth easily makes up for his character's lack of depth (Though the film does try to add more as it goes) with his own natural charisma, and newcomer Rudraksh Jaiswal does a fine job, especially when he's paired with him. (Their occasional banter adds some much needed humor, and even their dramatic scenes feel natural) Some of the supporting cast have their moments, such as an excellent Randeep Hooda and Golshifteh Farahani (as "Nik Khan", Tyler's Partner), though the villains are as basic and forgettable as they come. Also, thank God for the brief appearance from David Harbour (as "Gaspar", an old mercenary buddy for Tyler's), who adds a little extra life to the film. The movie does make a point to give the Indian actors roles, making up for a supposed typical white savior mentality, and it's very much appreciated.
"Extraction" is a bit too violent for its own good at times (People splatter and squish), and wouldn't normally be the kind of movie that you should rush out to see. This does make its placement on Netflix at this very moment kind of perfect. Better than average, but that's only thanks to the people involved, and while entertaining enough in the moment, I can't recommend it as something legitimately good. There isn't enough characterization, in depth drama, or anything that requires it. You get some good action and some good performances to keep things elevated. That's enough for something to put on in the background while we're all constantly checking our E-Mails for word on stimulus checks. 2 ½ Stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence And Teen Rage.
Image: They're going off the rails....On a crazy train.
With most movies being delayed till later this year, sometime next year, or are just until further notice pulled from the schedule entirely, the last month has been more than interesting. I've had to mix up my reviewing style, and even had to check out a couple unconventional choices. ("Coffee & Kareem" was not worth it!) "DreamWorks Animation" has luckily provided me with a means of reviewing something that was already on my schedule in the first place. Sure it cost $20, but hey, the things we do for what we love. Someone has to think of the children here.
Based off of those "Troll" dolls with the weird hair, "Tolls World Tour" returns to follow the new queen of the "Pop Trolls", "Poppy" (Anna Kendrick), who learns of the existence of other Troll kingdoms and music when the queen of the "Rock Trolls", "Barb" (Rachel Bloom), sends a letter announcing a world tour to all the kingdoms. However, Poppy's father, "Peppy" (Walt Dohrn), explains to Poppy that all music among Trolls was once united by six music strings (Pop, Rock, Funk, Techno, Classical, and Country), before their inability to coexist resulted in the kingdoms deciding to remain separated. But Poppy is determined to bring everyone back together, much to the chagrin of her best friend, "Branch" (Justin Timberlake).
So Poppy, Branch, along with their chubby friend, "Biggie" (James Corden) and his little squishy worm buddy, "Mr. Dinkles", head off on a journey to unite the kingdoms. Sadly, it turns out Barb is using her tour to attack all of the other Troll kingdoms, and steal their strings to forcibly unite all music under Rock. Now on the run for Barb and her bounty hunters, Poppy and Branch are left to save the world from Barb's intense Rock hardness. Meanwhile, lovable horse troll, "Cooper" (Ron Funches), sets off on his own little quest to find more Trolls like him, leading to a discovery that might actually be the true way to bring peace to the kingdoms.
With returning Co-Director, Walt Dohrn, "Trolls World Tour" takes what worked about its surprise success 2016 predecessor, and with something this simple, if it's not broke, there's no need to do much fixing. Now that keeps it from being anything special, but considering the current times and all the families currently quarantined in their homes, something light and fluffy is just the thing to brighten up the day. The film's blindingly colorful and bouncy nature is constantly moving at a relentless pace, and even while the film feels frenetic, you gotta give a lot of praise to the animators. It's one of those movies where you can tell that they are just having the time of their lives, throwing all kinds of crazy images, splashes of vibrancy, and sight gags into each frame. There are also a delightful variety of song covers, getting a lot of mileage out of what could normally be seen as an overdone concept.
"Trolls World Tour" benefits from some good humor and zany antics that will amuse the kids, while the adults, much like myself, might find themselves thoroughly entertained by how weird and surreal the film gets. Some of the most memorable moments include strange imagery, that get a big laugh mostly because of how random and bizarre they are.(An overly epic "Pinkie Promise" got a pretty big laugh out of me) It's certainly a creative film, making up for the unremarkable storyline. It feels like the plot is just something easy enough so that will keep the kids attention, and hoping the songs and sparkling colors make up for the story's simplicity. (It's basically "Infinity War", except with squishier characters)
Another one of the film's strongest aspects is the excellent ensemble voice cast, which is chock full of recognizable faces, letting loose and just plain having a good time. The reliably adorable and charming Anna Kendrick and the underratedly funny Justin Timberlake, are great together. Ron Funches is given a larger role this time, and gets some of the funniest moments, along with an absolutely hilarious Rachel Bloom. Other great voices include Sam Rockwell (as "Hickory", a Country Troll who offers to help Poppy and Branch), George Clinton and Mary J. Blige (as the leaders of the Funk Trolls), Kelly Clarkson (as "Delta Dawn", the leader of the Country Trolls), Ozzy Osbourne (as Barb's ancient Rock Troll father), and a surprisingly funny appearance from Jamie Dornan (as "Chaz", a Smooth Jazz Troll). The least interesting of the cast would be James Corden, but that's generally because of how uneeded he is to the rest of the story. (Plus, I'm still mad at him for both "Cats" and that Oscar joke. You must answer for that!)
The story does feel secondary and the film's sugary, candy coated level of cuteness might make this more something for the younger audience. So I don't see anyone over twelve wanting to rent this for themselves specifically. (Aside from me, but that was because I had to review this. It's still my job!) "Trolls World Tour" at least includes very well explained message of living in peace and harmony not in spite of differences, but by willingly embracing those differences as a good thing. It's good for the family, and right now, that's all that really matters. (Nothing wrong with childlike optimism) Cute, undemanding, and though a little more disposable than some of the better animated movies, it offers the kind of in your face sweetness that will force a smile out of your face whether you want it or not. 3 Stars. Rated PG For Some Crude Humor, And The Animated Equivalent Of LSD For Kids.
Image: Easy rider.
Ah, "Star Wars", where would I be without you? (Probably somewhat wealthier, considering all the stuff I've bought over the years.) I'm keeping my promise to review the other remaining arcs in the final season of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" as they air on Disney+. Like the last arc, this one also started out as an unfinished story reel (Though this one was never fully shown and has been heavily tweaked over time), and gives us the return of a now beloved character, who much like another strong female lead, "Rey", was once hated by the fanbase for existing. It's like poetry. It rhymes.
Part 1. "Gone With a Trace" catches us up with "Ahsoka Tano" (Ashley Eckstein), the now former padawan to "Anakin Skywalker" (Matt Lanter). After leaving the Jedi Order a couple seasons ago (Due to be falsely accused of terrorism and admittedly poorly put together conviction), Ahsoka travels down below the ever busy planet of "Coruscant" (The planet that's nothing but a big city. Never knew why anyone would live there.), where she befriends two sisters, "Trace and Rafa Martez" (Brigitte Kali and Eliabeth Rodriguez). However, Ahsoka finds herself having to hide her Jedi past from the sisters. The first aspect that demands mentioning is how wonderful it is to see Ahsoka again. Having been introduced in the "Clone Wars" movie back in 2008, Ahsoka has gone from the spunky padawan learned and developed into a wise, caring, and capable Jedi on her own (Despite having never acquired the actual title). The Martez sisters add a new layer to the Coruscant underworld. They're are flawed, though likable. The strongest part of the episode would be the attention to introducing and reintroducing these characters, and I always did love that despite the under half hour runtime, the show always stopped to allow intricate character interactions. It's not meant to be a big, action packed episode, but instead something to allow the characters to feel lively and real. Score: 8/10. Image: A face you can trust.
Part 2. "Deal No Deal" opens with Rafa taking Ahsoka and Trace along as she transports "Spice" (Drugs! In a kids show!) from the planet, "Kessel" (Where a certain someone made a run in twelve parsecs. Maybe.). But when Ahsoka learns that Rafa intends to trade it over to the dangerous "Pyke Syndicate", she tries to get the sisters to reconsider the deal.......And then a bad decision leads to things getting much, much worse. An episode with a great setup, a slightly forced main conflict, but is at least plenty of fun to make up for it. The inclusion of Kessel is of course a great bit of fanservice, as are the return of the villainous Pykes. (Though we will get to more of them a bit later.) The whole situation going out of control is predictable, along with the cliffhanger ending. So the setup to this arc's main plot isn't groundbreaking, but it does make for the only natural progression of Ahsoka's storyline. Extra points to the touching moment where Anakin temporarily senses Ahsoka through the Force, despite being located on separate ships. Nice "Return of the Jedi" reference! Score: 7/10. Image: "Don't you agree I should have been written into The Last Jedi?"
Part 3. "Dangerous Debt" starts with Ashoka, Trace, and Rafa being captured by Pyke Syndicate leader, "Marg Krim" (Stephen Stanton), and despite all three being at odds with each other, must devise a plan to escape. Pretty standard filler episode stuff. The episode basically ends where it begins, and the reveal behind Trace and Rafa's distrust of the Jedi, while poignant and cleverly connected to an earlier episode in the series, is not the most original of plotlines. Also, while the Pykes are certain imposing, they don't really have much identifiable personalities of their own, and Marg Krim doesn't really do much aside from threaten. There is some good humor, and you do enjoy the main trio, it's one of those episodes that could of been condensed somewhere in the second or even fourth part of the arc. The unexpected cameos at the end (Which I will explain in the next part), do add a little surprise thankfully. Score: 6/10. Image: The Coronavirus is making everyone extra careful.
Part 4. "Together Again" starts with Ahsoka needing to act on her own, and help the Martez sisters escape at the expense of herself. After tricking Marg Krim into allowing the sisters to make an escape, Ahsoka is free to use her Jedi abilities once before to find her own means of getting away. Things end up getting a bit more complicated as Ashoka discovers the true mastermind behind the Pykes, "Maul" (Sam Witwer). Not to mention the arrival of Mandalorian warriors, "Bo-Katan" (Katee Sackhoff) and the mother of a familiar future rebel, "Ursa Wren" (Sharmila Devar), which shall lead up to what will be this season's final arc. (As well as for the entire series as a whole.) This arc doesn't quite have the best consistency when compared to others, but it does result in a pretty strong finish. It becomes easier to let the Pykes' lack of a presence slide when you learn of Maul's involvement. (For those unfamiliar, the horned formed Sith Lord has had an interesting life after losing his lower half.) It adds an extra sense of menace to the conflict, and I really appreciate how Ahsoka being outed as a Jedi to Rafa and Trace is treated. (Realistically, I do feel it would be natural for them to be very understanding despite their issues with the Order.) Not to mention the "Mandalore" connection feels like the best way for this series to prepare for an epic ending. This is also the best directed episode in the arc, with the cool looking animation allowing for amazing imagery. Score: 8/10. Image: The eye of the Jedi.
Final Score: 29/40
This doesn't end up being as exciting or as compelling as the previous collection of episodes, and especially when compared to how brilliant the series can be, it feels second tier. (Also, am I the only one who notices something off about some of the clearly newly written material? You can tell some minor aspects were added late to fit into some of the more recent revelations in the overall continuity.) Still, it's a compliment to "Lucasfilm" that even lesser episodes are very much well made and well written. There is a good heart to it all, and the smaller scale, while giving off the sense of being mostly unimportant, does play well into the overarching theme of Ahsoka's story. The padawan we met years ago is still there, but she's become more powerful and has matured greatly. In a way, it kind of feels like a lot of us did too with her. (Well, except for most of the "Star Wars" fanbase. By this point, it's not even fun to talk about anymore.)
Image: Hey, this is how guys bond.
After having to deal with ongoing boredom, a lack of purpose, and the dark, unsettling thoughts that come with these heavy times and the fear of the unknown at the moment, I would normally thank Netflix for providing me something to review right now. Less than an hour and a half later, I kind of wish I had been left to my dark thoughts.
"Coffee & Kareem" follows lame, super safe police officer, "James Coffee" (Ed Helms), who is at odds with the aggressively cruel, foul mouthed "Kareem" (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), because Coffee is currently dating his mother, "Vanessa" (Taraji P. Henson). Kareem, being the endearing young man that he is, decides to hire an escaped drug dealer, "Orlando Johnson" (RonReaco Lee), to take Coffee out of the picture. Things obviously go wrong, resulting in Kareem seeing the death of a corrupt cop, and both he and Coffee being chased down by the killers. With everyone now convinced that Coffee has been framed for the murder, and believed to have kidnapped Kareem because he's a pedophile, Coffee and Kareem must set aside their differences and form an uneasy alliance to find the real villains responsible.
Directed by Michael Dowse ("Stuber"), "Coffee & Kareem" really would not of had a place in theaters, and probably wold of been even more frustrating if I would of had to of taken time before or after work to go see this. (At least I saw it on my own terms.) The very uninspired story would be more forgivable (Or at least more forgettable), if not for how the script completely falls apart, relying on the worst kind of rauchy, offensive humor. Not just the kind that isn't funny, but the kind that you can easily predict coming a mile away, and just plain feels so immature. It's lazy stuff here, and it's not just limited to the screenplay. (And the title too. Granted, it did admittedly take me a little too long to get the pun.) It also shows in the Dowse's direction, which feels bland and cheap. It's more likely that everything happening is just an excuse for the jokes to be set up and maybe time for the actors to ad-lib. Sadly, the movie not being funny enough makes those failings even more noticeable.
Ed Helms (And his silly mustache) plays the dumb, nice screw-up character he's played plenty times before, and Taraji P. Henson is shamefully given nothing but stereotypical "Yelling Black Mom" material. Both are trying their best, but are weighed down by bad comedy. Terence Little Gardenhigh, who might have potential elsewhere, is unbearably annoying and is impossibly vile and mean-spirited. Nothing about the character resembles any form of likability, and it only hurts the film's poor attempt at heart. (I get that Coffee is essentially the living embodiment of white bread, but he does absolutely nothing to warrant Kareem's cruelty.) Some of the supporting cast is more fun, such as the enjoyable RonReaco Lee and the much needed Betty Gilpin (as "Detective Watts", Coffee's bullying superior), who is really way too great for this.
"Coffee & Kareem" may rarely get an amusing line (Thank you Betty Gilpin!), but the movie far too often falls back on homophobia and to an unsettling amount of jokes based around child rape. (Why are there so many?) I get a comedy wanting to go for some shock value and intentionally offensive humor. The problem is that, aside from being misguided and in poor taste, the lack of laughs makes the continuous crassness come across as an all around unpleasant experience. With everything else going on in the world, unpleasantness is definitely not something we all need right now. 1 Star. Rated R For Constant Swears, Crude And Dated Jokes, And A Lot More Bloody Violence Than Needed.
Image: At least they have enough trunk space for the trip.
So how's the quarantine life treating everyone? Tired of sitting around, being stuck in the same place, and binge watching the same shows over and over? I can only imagine it must be worse for the little ones, who are just begging to get out of the house. Now would be the perfect time for a trip to the zoo. Luckily, Disney+ has us covered. (Not to mention, they're once again giving me something to do. Step it up Netflix!) The Coronavirus might be a saving grace for Disney's nature documentary label ("Disneynature"), since now you're all forced to watch these movies. Good! These movies needed more of an audience.
Narrated by Meghan Markle, aka the Duchess of Sussex (Even being listed as the "Royal Duchess of Sussex" in the Disney+ subtitles, because it's too awesome a name not to say), "Elephant" follows a herd of elephants, led by the elderly matriarch, "Gaia", as she leads them across the treacherous Kalahari desert. The film also follows a mother elephant, "Shani" and her adorable and playful son, "Jomo", as they follow their leader, avoiding dangerous predators, and the desert's harsh environment, as they search for their new home, experiencing important changes along the way.
"Elephant" provides us a different look into the lives of these beautiful animals, and even shows us a side of them I don't think many of us have ever even considered before. These are very intelligent, social creatures, who live for each other, acting as a group to survive. They're also on occasion fun-loving (They make a pit stop to splash around in the mud), and brave, risking their lives to protect the younger or weaker members of the herd. There are some incredible footage (A staple of the DisneyNature films), such as the sweeping landscapes, and the dangers that they encounter along the way. (A sequence involving some lions could of been manipulated, but it's so hard to tell and is still pretty terrifying regardless.) The film is also full of heart and doesn't steer clear of the darker aspects of the animal kingdom, especially when it comes to a heartbreaking death late in the film that proves that Elephants, like many animals, are so much closer to us than we realize. Bolstered by Markle's refined narration, this makes for one of Disneynature's most majestic, yet quiet entries. 3 ½ Stars. Rated G. Image: The Porpoise driven life.
Narrated by Natalie Portman, "Dolphin Reef" is a coming of age for a young Pacific bottlenose dolphin named "Echo" and his mother, "Kumu". The film follows Echo as we experience life on the ocean reef through his eyes, showcasing tons of other, sometimes literally, colorful creatures, such as a neat freak peacock mantis shrimp named "Mr. Mantis", graceful humpback whale mother, "Mo'orea" protecting her young child, "Fluke", and all kinds of other strange, exotic undersea life. We also see how society works under the sea, and how everything must be in perfect balance between predators, prey, and even the underwater plant life, so that life for all of these creatures can continue.
"Dolphin Tale" could be listed as the "Fun" one of the Double Feature, since it's shorter, lighter, softer, and mostly more interested in showing off the quirkiness of the ocean than anything else. Not that the film isn't without heavy moments, such as the dangers that the animals have to face and a sequence where Echo finds himself lost deep under the ocean floor (It's almost nightmarish at what could be down there, and how little chance there is of escaping). The movie doesn't get too deep into it all though, and lightens the mood with both humor and weirdness. (Mr. Mantis is quite the scene-stealer). It does still astound me at how the filmmakers are able to acquire footage of this level, and the images that we're shown only make you more curious about what else could be left unexplored down there. While the focus is at times off, Echo is an endearing creature, and Natalie Portman's narration is full of her natural charm. 3 Stars. Rated G.
Both "Elephant" and "Dolphin Reef" make for excellent ways to educate kids, while entertaining them in the process. I'd say "Elephant" is easily the superior film, due to the deeper story, higher ambitions, and stronger educational value, but "Dolphin Reef" does still offer a sweet, funny, and gorgeously filmed. While you and your kids are yearning to go back outside again, both films are a great way to get a new sense of appreciation for it all, and might even make you want to check out the other Disneynature films, that very much deserve your attention. That and you know, binging "The Simpsons" in between movies.
Image: The world's medical professionals prepare to kick Coronavirus ass.
I'm currently still locked at the moment, without a job to pay me, anywhere open to actually go to, and worst of all, no movies to review. Which is why I want to pay tribute to our diabolical Disney overlords, who gifted us last month with the return of one of the greatest animated shows of all time on Disney+. (I say this as a "Star Wars" fan, and as a fact.It's legitimately one of the greatest.) So with nothing else going on, I have decided to mix up my usual reviewing formula, and talk about the first arc in the series' final season. SPOILERS!
Part 1: "The Bad Batch". The arc opens with the devastating Clone Wars nearing its final year, as the Clone Troopers and Jedi Generals of the Republic face off against the droid army of the Separatists. Having trouble dealing with the cyborg spider, "Admiral Trench" (Dee Bradley Baker), Clone Captain "Rex" (Also Dee Bradley Baker), along with "Cody" (Mr. Bradley Baker, again), search for an alternative tactic. This brings in the much genetically defective and completely uncontrollable "Clone Force 99" aka "Bad Batch" (All voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. The guy is just that talented!). What was originally presented as unfinished story reels after the series was cancelled, the first episode mostly spends time giving us a look at our main characters now, while introducing us to the new ones, such as the titular Bad Batch (Which consists of "Sergeant Hunter", "Crosshair", "Tech", and "Wrecker"). They're all a fun collection of clones, with enough personality on their own to warrant future appearances despite this being the final season. One major instant takeaway from the show returning is the animation, which is beautiful and feels more fluid now than ever. (The expressions and the movements give off a live-action-esque feel). It's a great setup for the rest of the first arc of the season. Score: 8/10
Image: "You WILL greenlight more Clone Wars episodes."
Part 2: "A Distant Echo". The arc progresses with Rex, still under the belief that fan favorite clone, "Echo" (Its the same guy still!), is still alive despite being presumed dead back in Season 3. The clones discover a signal belonging to the seemingly deceased clone, and the Bad Batch is sent to investigate. A great character moment would be Anakin's brief conversation with secret wife, "Padmé Amidala" (Catherine Taber), which shows a quick look at her baby bump. (This does bring up a question though. Since this takes place before "Revenge of the Sith", does Anakin just think his wife is gaining weight?) This bit leads to a hilarious revelation that confirms once and for all that Anakin's old master, "Obi-Wan" (James Arnold Taylor, whose Ewan McGregor impression is still spot on), knows about their little secret. (His remark that he hopes Anakin at least told Padmé he said "Hello" is one of those quick jaw dropping moments, especially after years of only implication.) The action has also become more well drawn out since the series began, with the clones each demonstrating their own skills. It also leads up to an emotional reveal, showcasing how brilliant Dee Bradley Baker really is. He's playing dozens upon dozens of characters, all with the same voice, and sometimes all at once, and yet, each one has very subtle quirks that help you tell them apart and feel for them. Score: 9/10
Image: I think we're all seeing this image in our current nightmares.
Part 3: "On the Wings of Keeradaks". After finding the now cybernetic Echo in the hands of the evil "Wat Tambor" (Matthew Wood), the clones, along with Anakin, are forced to flee on top of giant bat-like creatures called "Keeradaks". I would consider this to be the weakest episode in the arc for no other reason than it just being somewhat of a filler episode. It progresses things, though mostly just to lead up to the next (And concluding) episode. It's also barely even twenty minutes long, and feels much shorter than any other episode before it. Still, the action is fast paced and fun, with time given for good character beats, and a few clever movie references while thrown in. On a side note, how is Tambor even here? He was arrested back in the first season, and just sort of pops up here, back in power. It's great to see him and all, some context wouldn't of hurt. Score: 7/10
Image: Call "Terminex!"
Part 4: "Unfinished Business". The arc concludes with Anakin and the Clones striking back against Admiral Trench, to make way for Obi-Wan and "Mace Windu" (TC Carson), to finally put an end to the droid army's occupation. Now this right here is "Clone Wars" at its finest. With lots of attention to the little details, some injected humor and strong character work (Mace Windu's attempt to logically reason with the droids is one of the most memorable moments), and an explosive finale that wraps up everything nice and neat, while of course, leaving some things open. From Wrecker's obsessive need to blow things up, and Echo's contribution to the rest of the team, along with Trench's brutal fate at Anakin's hands (Which hints at what he will become not too much longer from now), this was pure "Star Wars". Score: 10/10.
Image: "Reporting for duty....Until General Skywalker completely loses his sh*t and gives in to the darkside."
Final Score: 34/40
You know, this entire storyline could of been a movie and we would of been satisfied. (It would of even worked more on a cinematic level than the actual "Clone Wars" movie) From great characters, a controlled tone, intense action, and gorgeous animation, the final season is off to one Hell of a start. What's disappointing is that we once again have to wait week to week for more episodes. (Don't worry, since this whole quarantine thing won't be ending anytime soon, I'll be sure to review the rest of the season as the story arcs are made available.) The "Skywalker Saga" may of ended last year, but this shows that there is still more than enough story to tell in a galaxy far far away.
Image: "I'm going to rush into that crowd of people, using clean health practices, and giving at least six feet of personal space....Cover me, with hand sanitizer."
The days have been closed off, secluded, and I'm still without both of my jobs. Well, I gotta review something, or else I might go absolutely mad. ("The Grudge" is currently the 25th Best Movie I've seen this year.....25th!) Thank God for Netflix and good ol' reliable Mark Wahlberg.
"Spenser Confidential" follows rough around the edges Boston police officer, referred to only as "Spenser" (Mark Wahlberg), who is sentenced to five years in prison after beating the crap out of his corrupt captain, "Boylan" (Michael Gaston). Once he's finally released, Spenser goes to live with his old boxing mentor, "Henry" (Alan Arkin), though has to share a room with the equally brash, "Hawk" (Winston Duke). The next day, Boylan is found gruesomely murdered execution style, along with the dead body of another cop who is conveniently accused for his murder. Known for a near obsessive need to be the hero, Spenser, along with Hawk tagging along, start to investigate further, discovering an elaborate scheme involving drugs, police corruption, and a casino being built on the abandoned Wonderland dog park.
Directed by Peter Berg ("Hancock", "Deepwater Horizon", "Patriots Day"), and based on the character created by Robert B. Parker (Or more precisely, the novel "Wonderland" by Ace Atkins), "Spenser Confidential" is the kind of movie that feels right at home on Netflix. The scale is relatively small, though the production values are just enough to not warrant the usually mocked labeling of "Direct to Video", and reliable actors to carry the solid enough, but uninspired screenplay. The movie's plot is not really something of much focus, despite Berg's attempts to make it more interesting and less convoluted. None of it is anything you find yourself caring about too much, and it's just an excuse for the admittedly fun characters to interact.
Mark Wahlberg's Wahlbergian shtick does fit well here, and the character is brought down to Earth as a likable hero, who just wants to bring people any form of justice, even when it comes at the expense of himself. (I also appreciate how often Wahlberg allows himself to realistically get his ass kicked from time to time) Winston Duke (Who you might remember from "Us" and "Black Panther"), proves to be quite the scene-stealer, playing well off of Wahlberg. Bokeem Woodbine (as "Driscoll", a reasonable police officer) is one of those recognizable faces who usually leaves a welcome presence, and Iliza Shlesinger (as "Cissy", Spenser's overbearing love interest) is a total blast. Meanwhile, Alan Arkin (In a role that was likely written just for him) shows up to play Alan Arkin and I can't imagine a world where that isn't delightful. Also, Post Malone (as "Squeeb", a criminal who Spenser knew while in prison) has a small, though slightly important part in the film, and he actually does a rather solid job too.
"Spenser Confidential" is predictable in story, maybe a little uneven, and really just kind of forgettable when you get down to it. However, it's still a fairly enjoyable, funny, and well executed generic action comedy. I can't necessarily imagine seeing this in theaters, though for something small on Netflix, it's not the worst way to spend your self-quarantine. Not to mention it gave me something to write about. Keeping me sane. 2 ½ Stars. Rated R For Violence And Foul Boston Language.
Image: "So....You wanna' go see a movie?"
So? How's everyone doing? We've had ourselves an interesting last few days, haven't we? I actually saw this movie earlier this week, but recent circumstances such as every movie in Hollywood getting delayed and me losing my job due to all Regal theaters getting shut down across the country because of the Coronavirus pandemic, have given me a lot of other things to worry about. We are going through tough times right now, and we have no idea where it's all going to go next. (Honestly, this year just keeps getting worse,) Just stay healthy, find ways to keep yourselves occupied indoors, and hope this situation doesn't escalate anymore than it already has, so that we can all attempt to go back to our lives once it's over. (You know, unless next month we have an animal uprising or alien invasion. Might as well while you're at it 2020!)
Based on the inspirational true story, "I Still Believe" follows up-an-comer Christian musician, "Jeremy Camp" (KJ Apa), as he leaves home for college. With some help from another musician, "Jean--Luc" (Nathan Parsons), Jeremy appears to have his chance at stardom. Jeremy also finds the possible love of his life, "Melissa" (Britt Robertson), though it also appears Jean-Luc might also have an interest in her. Jeremy and Melissa find an immediate connection, and the two start dating, albeit secretly. Once the secret gets out, it's also revealed that Melissa has been diagnosed with a serious form of ovarian cancer. Despite this, Jeremy loves Melissa far too much to back out now, and asks for Melissa's hand in marriage. The rest of the film follows the couple's relationship as Jeremy tries to help Melissa through this incredibly tough time, though if anyone knows how this real life story goes, sometimes having faith just isn't quite enough.
Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin ("Moms' Night Out", "I Can Only Imagine"), "I Still Believe" isn't the kind of movie I would consider as well, good. It would be more fitting to label it as "Religious Movie Good". The movie isn't something I could recommend to anyone other than its target audience, but thankfully unlike most faith based movies (Last year's "Unplanned" has left a permanent bad taste in my mouth), it's not poorly made, has decent enough production values, and preaching a strong (And I would even go so far as to say, important) message, without feeling the need to demonize or discriminate in the process. It's still overly cloying, the screenplay by Jon Erwin, Jon Gunn ("The Case for Christ"), and Madeline Carrol is typically corny and sloppily constructed, and even though the film looks theatrical (Still not sure why I saw it in IMAX though), nothing about it screams a necessary big screen viewing.
You can tell that KJ Apa and Britt Robertson are much better actors than this movie deserves, though you still welcome their professionalism, and the fact that they still deliver somewhat fantastic performances despite the script's cheesy dialogue. They have good chemistry, and the movie would of failed entirely without them. Gary Sinise and Shania Twain (as Jeremy's loving parents) are good despite only being supporting parts, and I appreciate the filmmakers not finding a forced need to turn Nathan Parsons' character into an antagonist. The film's message of retaining your faith, even in times of crisis, do lead to some moments of inspiration, and the movie does take time to acknowledge that no matter how strong your faith is, bad things can and will still happen. It's all about how you take it.
"I Still Believe" is good for Christian families, but isn't a movie that really warrants the time of anybody else. I'm not going to remember it, yet if you need some faith based entertainment in your life (Especially right now), you could do so much worse. Granted, I'm not sure how you're going to get to watch it right now since all of us have to self-quarantine ourselves and the whole country itself is coming to a complete stop. As for me, I'm basically out of two jobs right now. But hey, look on the bright side. #ReleseTheButtholeCut for "Cats" is trending on Twitter right now. I guess we have that to look forward to. 2 Stars. Rated PG For Life Happening And A Lack Of the Best Christian Rock Band Of Our Time, "Faith + 1".
Image: He's a little slower now, but still furious.
I was planning on celebrating my tenth year anniversary since I began reviewing movies (That's right people! Ten years! Still unpaid!), but sadly due to the coronavirus panic, most major releases are being delayed in the coming weeks, and I'm going to be left with nothing to review. (The next "Fast & Furious" has been delayed an entire year as of right now) Everything is in chaos in the world, people are terrified, and not even the movies that we use to escape our troubles can help. Well.....at least there are comic books, right?
Based on the comic book by "Valiant Comics", "Bloodshot" follows skilled marine, "Ray Garrison" (Vin Diesel), who is living a happy life, cheating death and returning home to his pretty wife, "Gina" (Talulah Riley). All is going good until they're kidnapped by eccentric baddie, "Martin Axe" (Toby Kebbell), who proceeds to murder Gina, before killing Ray as well. However, an amnesiac Ray wakes up in a lab, having been brought back to life through an army of microscopic nanites (Tiny robots.) created by "Dr. Emil Harting" (Guy Pearce). Harting explains that Ray has been enhanced, much like his previous subjects, such as his sexy assistant, "KT" (Eiza González), and can now take an almost unlimited amount of damage and heal in an instant.
Ray's memory suddenly returns to him, and he sets out on a mission to take revenge on Axe. After facing an onslaught of henchmen and against all odds, Ray proceeds to kill Axe, avenging his dead wife. End of movie. Roll credits.........But not really. It turns out everything in Ray's head has been simulated and fabricated by Harting, who is using him to hunt down and assassinate key targets that threaten his research. Of course, Ray's true memories slowly start to poke holes into the falsified reality, and the unstoppable killing machine isn't too happy about being manipulated.
An attempt to capitalize on that much coveted Marvel money, "Bloodshot" is the kind of silly, adrenaline fueled action movie that's a decent amount of fun in the moment, but feels increasingly stupid the more you think about it. Directed by video game visual effects guy, David S. F. Wilson, with a screenplay by Jeff Wadlow ("Truth or Dare", "Fantasy Island") and Eric Heisserer ("Arrival", "Lights Out"), the movie is a bombastic mess, that never really balances out the silly with the serious, though is an admittedly enjoyable ride nonetheless. I think one reason is because despite how jumbled it all is, the film is unique for a comic book movie, and seems to have an identity of its own for the most part. It all looks fairly cool, with the crazy powers and well paced story, with Wilson showing moments of directorial flair. It's also a little held back by its modest by comparison budget. The CGI work is quite bad, and reaches levels of hilarity once we reach the over the top climax. (The sight of a computer generated rag doll Vin Diesel smacking around cybernetic villains, and getting smacked around himself, looks really out of place in a major 2020 theatrical release.)
Vin Diesel still isn't one of those actors that quite has the range necessary to full carry a movie like this, though you can tell he's giving it his all, and ends up being a fairly sympathetic character with some cool abilities. Although on a side note, the movie kind of glosses over the fact that he may of killed an innocent person or two. It would of been against his will mind you, but it's all so vague and feels like the writers found themselves in a corner and decided to ignore it. Eiza González gives more than what appears to be required, which is mostly wearing very, very tight black outfits, while Lamorne Morris (as "Wilfred Wiggans", a comical techie, who becomes Ray's "Guy in the Chair"), is pretty delightful and provides much needed personality. Guy Pearce may very well NOT want to be here, but he's shown before he can play a decent bad guy, while Sam Heughan (as "Dalton", another one of Harting's enhanced soldiers, who has it out for Ray for some reason), is not near good enough of an actor to play up the hammy second in the command villain. As for Toby Kebbell, he's too good of an actor to get stuck in mediocre movies, though he leaves more of an impression than probably intended. (Makes you wish he had been the true big bad in all of this.)
Some times the humor works, most of the time is doesn't, and even then, the failed attempts do get an occasional moment of amusement. "Bloodshot" does try to explain itself as best it can, and while you can see it all coming together, it's all ludicrous mumbo jumbo that doesn't end up making much sense at all. (Also, I'm not sure about the editing in this movie. I wouldn't be surprised if it was originally meant to be rated R, but got chopped down to a safe PG-13). The kind of goofy to get action fans through the lack of a "Fast & Furious" movie coming out this year, though still lesser in quality than those are. (Sometimes bigger budgets and bigger studios do amount to something better than average.) 2 ½ Stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence And Enhanced Machismo.