Thursday, January 31, 2019
Between "Vice" and "The Big Short," I've can safely say that I despise Adam McKay as a director. While "The Big Short" just felt like a whole lot of nothing while being extremely pretentious about it, "Vice" wants to say something important but its presentation and attitude is so egotistical and condescending that it comes across as insulting. Even if everything the film says is factually accurate, McKay treats his audience like idiots that need to be reminded of how stupid they are. And while there are some standout moments and many solid performances, especially from Christian Bale and Amy Adams, I can't say that I'd recommend this film to anyone. "Vice"'s mission seems to be making everyone feel bad about themselves, mostly for letting Dick Cheney happen and for not seeing it coming. It's like a stuck-up jock that just read a book about the George W. Bush presidency and won't leave you alone until you agree with his overly negative opinions.
Final Grade: D+
Imagine a Cary Grant screwball comedy only directed by the guy who brought the Marx Brothers to life. "The Awful Truth" plays out much like that, with a lot of witty improvisational comedy, as a pending divorced couple (Grant and Irene Dunne) do their best to ruin the others' romantic lives. This is quite possibly the funniest film centered around revenge that I've ever seen, as both partners get a chance to shine and have it get sent right back in their face like a cream pie. Dunne and Grant's chemistry makes this film hard not to love, as they switch between loathing and loving so easily. I'd even go as far to say that "The Awful Truth" works even better than "Bringing Up Baby."
Final Grade: A
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Much like the "Fast and Furious" movies, "Aquaman" is insane, high-octane action that never takes itself too seriously and becomes much better when you don't think about it. The story is the generic tale of a every-man becoming king and the journey he must under-go, and the actors do a fine job of selling it, with Jason Mamoa continuing to be serviceable in the lead role. But the film really shines when showing the impact and scope of underwater battles and all of the vast creatures of the deep, making everything carry far more weight and scale than it would on land. Beyond that, this is a fine yet fun action movie that will keep your interest from start to finish. A very good summer blockbuster...released in the middle of December.
Final Grade: B-
I never thought I'd live to see a Transformers movie that doesn't blow chunks, but much to my surprise, all it took was moving Michael Bay out of the directors chair. "Bumblebee" is a breath of fresh air, reminding audiences why these robot aliens that can turn into just about anything were so cool in the first place. And while the story feels like "The Iron Giant" mixed with "Independence Day," the actors add just enough charm to remain invested and the effects are surprisingly great, always making it feel like these robots are really interacting with the cast. Maybe it's just because I'm so glad to see the Transformers without shaky cam and awful toilet humor, but "Bumblebee" was a lot of fun.
Final Grade: B
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
For a film that has one of the best singers of its time and one of the best dancers of its time, "Holiday Inn" fails to be anything more than just Hollywood cannon fodder. Even though they pit Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire against each other for the affection of the lovely Marjorie Reynolds, the film does a poor job of making either of these characters seem likable. They spend so much time butting heads and getting Marjorie's attention that they seem like despicable, selfish people. Though Astaire has some impressive dance numbers and Crosby gets to show off his singing chops, including the first time he'd sing "White Christmas," there isn't much else going for this one.
Final Grade: C-
Talk about a film that sucked out all the fun and imagination of the original and made it as dull as listening to actual bank discussions. "Mary Poppins Returns" is the "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" of the next generation, taking something that should be simple and universal yet making it so boring and tedious to the point of betrayal. Like all of the recent Disney remakes, the film simply tries to cash in on the nostalgia and zeitgeist of its original without ever trying to add anything new or worthwhile, simply a watered-down copy.
But what makes this one so bad is the insistence to move away from the joy and wonder of "Mary Poppins" by hardly ever making Emily Blunt smile or look like she's enjoying herself. She always looks pissed off and never stops being snarky. To make matters even more contrived, the filmmakers feel the need to include a cliché villain. If there was ever a film that never needed a villain, it was Mary Poppins. So rather than focusing on the bliss of childhood, they spend the entire third act fighting something that was out of style by the mid-90s in the stupidest way possible.
"Mary Poppins Returns" is an abomination. Disney only sees this classic character as dollar signs, not what she represents. It's like Disney forgot they made "Saving Mr. Banks" only a few years ago and the message of that film. I feel like Walt Disney would be ashamed of this picture, for failing to capture the whimsy that only Mary Poppins can truly bring.
Final Grade: F
Monday, January 28, 2019
There's an alluring yet overpowering spell to Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" that I can't quite place my finger on. Maybe it's because the film feels like a beautiful memory of Cuaron's upbringing in Mexico City, recalled with perfect clarity and abundant detail that we've come to expect from a master storyteller. Maybe it's because of the subtle lingering class divide and ensuing political turmoil juxtaposed with the struggles of a maid taking care of a wealthy family while contemplating a family of her own. Or maybe it's the tender yet brutally honest depiction of a world that happened in Cuaron's memories to make a cinematic treasure that should never be overlooked.
Final Grade: A
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Never before have I seen a film that so nostalgically captured the wonder, horror, thrill and selfishness of conquering the old west than in "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs." The Coen Brothers masterfully create a series of vignettes that examine why we felt such a strong desire to head west when it more-or-less meant doom and despair. Each short film feeds off of a longing to be better than who we were and all the beautiful and ugly forms that can take. As far as anthology films go, this is one of the more reflective. It is sometimes hilarious in that dry yet witty-Coen way, while other times heart wrenching and cold, but it is always an homage to a simpler yet uncivilized way.
Final Grade: A-
"The Favourite" is probably the strangest beast of cinema we've had in ages. Imagine if a battle of wits similar to "There Will Be Blood" had the cinematography and production design of "Barry Lyndon" but also traded in the Shakespearean style for a more modern wit and sense of humor, while also centering around multiple lesbian relationships. And yet, all of this works stupendously, always entertaining while looking gorgeous. The performances from the three leads (Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) make for quite possibly the greatest love triangle in all of cinema. It's the most unique movie in years so do yourself a favour and catch its infectous charm.
Final Grade: A-
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Watching "The Mule" is like stopping by to see your eccentric grandparents on the way to an amusement park - you're drawn in by their oddly lackadaisical storytelling for a little while and spend your time on something more entertaining just out of reach, but you respect them too much to leave early. Clint Eastwood has gotten to that point in life where he just can't hold a film quite like he used to, too slow and not witty enough to keep the audience's interest for long. But there's enough suspense and personal tragedy to keep this from getting too boring.
Final Grade: C-
"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is as much a celebration of everything Spider-Man as "The Lego Batman Movie" was for Batman. It revels in everything that is glorious, emotional, bizarre and dumb about everyone's favorite webslinger, from simply swinging around New York and the quips to the heroic tale of overcoming personal tragedy. Yet, it feels holey unique with its wide variety of Spider-men and women, while toting a spectacular visual style that uses a comic book style with remaining as vibrant as New York itself. This is the most accessible animated superhero movie, and it deserves every bit of praise towards its animation and world building.
Final Grade: A -