Thursday, October 10, 2019

Joker - Movie Review


Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleschler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham and Marc Maron.
Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver.
Directed by Todd Phillips.

★★★½ 

This is unlike any DC “comic book movie” that’s come before. This has taken the skin of the Joker and placed over the aesthetic of a late 1970’s-early 1980’s Martin Scorsese movie. It owes a lot to The King of Comedy, but its main inspiration would be Taxi Driver. It’s fitting that DeNiro shows up here.

The film centers on Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), an obviously disturbed man with mental illness, on seven medications, but facing a cruel 1981 Gotham where the gap between rich and poor has never been more stark. This isn’t an origin story so much as a journey, and the series of unfortunate events that befall him feel like a hindsight explanation of how we’re going to end where we know we’re going to end.

1981 Gotham feels just like the New York we see in Taxi Driver, the New York you could believe would turn into a prison-state when Kurt Russell went to go help someone escape from it, or would have Popeye Doyle beat up suspects.

The cinematography is top-notch, the score is spot-on, and the screenplay takes us down this dark, bleak hole, where we watch a man decide that the only way the world makes sense is if he stops caring about right and wrong.

I can’t praise Joaquin Phoenix’s performance enough. He embodies every inch of the character. He commands the screen the entire time and there’s not one wasted gesture or glance. I would argue in the third act, he becomes the scariest on-screen Joker we’ve ever had.

I can see why this is getting mixed reviews, but some of it is unfair. The “buzz” around it inspiring copycat killers was ridiculous. The political statements it makes are ones that you’d think “woke” critics would agree with. Also, it’s a feel-bad movie. It’s one you respect or admire but it’s not “fun.” Which is why it reminds me of Taxi Driver. It’s unilaterally considered a classic, but it’s not one anyone wants to watch over and over again.

Side note: My wife pointed out some problems with some revelations from Arthur’s childhood, but I can chalk those up to “Gotham in 1950 was really messed up.”

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Joker opens to $93 million



For the weekend of October 4-6, 2019, Joker opened to $93 million, the highest October opening ever, breaking the record set by Venom last year. Joker was unafraid to go for an R rating and eschew many conventions of “comic book movies” in this take on the Joker’s origin. It’s the highest opening ever for Joaquin Phoenix as well. In fact he hasn’t been in a movie that passed the $93 million domestic mark since 2005’s Walk the Line.

In limited release, Pain & Glory starring Penelope Cruz did well, while Lucy in the Sky starring Natalie Portman bombed.

Joker will have some competition next weekend but it’s still expected to hold on to the top spot while Gemini Man and The Addams Family duke it out for #2.



Opens October 11
THE ADDAMS FAMILY with the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron and Chloe Grace Moretz.
GEMINI MAN with Will Smith, Clive Owen, Mary Elizabeth Instead and Benedict Wong.
JEXI with Adam Devine, Rose Byrne, Michael Pena and Wanda Sykes.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Good Boys is #1, Hobbs & Shaw #2 at box office



For the weekend of August 16-18, 2019, Good Boys managed to emerge from a crowded field as the #1 movie. The “Superbad for 12-year-olds” comedy gives Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) his first hit where he stands on his own two feet, and it showed an audience for comedy can still be found.

Of the other new releases, The Angry Birds Movie 2 fizzled out of the gate, despite better reviews than its predecessor. 47 Meters Down 2, which doesn’t have anything to do with the first movie, didn’t perform well either, though the low budget means it won’t lose money. Blinded by the Light didn’t go anywhere. I can’t help but think this movie should have been pushed to next year after Yesterday was a sleeper hit. Where’d You Go Bernadette was going to flop no matter when it was released.

Of the holdovers, Hobbs & Shaw had a respectable third week. Its global haul isn’t as much as previously tracked, and it looks like it will be profitable, but not as big as Universal needed it to be. The Lion King will cross the $500 million domestic mark later this week. (It’s over $1.4 billion worldwide.) Why is Disney doing live-action remakes of all of their animated films? This is why. It may feel like the cash-grab of all the late 1990’s-early 2000’s straight-to-DVD animated sequels they did, but same result. Profits.



Opens August 23
ANGEL HAS FALLEN with Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman and Piper Perabo.
READY OR NOT with Samara Weaving, Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Men in Black Intl. gets $30 million



For the weekend of June 14-16, 2019, Men in Black International won the weekend, but it continues the recent box-office trend of underperforming titles. I think part of it can be blamed on savvy audience members who do check what the critics say before they go, and MIB Intl. was eviscerated.

The other new wide release was Shaft, and while it was tracking for a $20 million opening weekend a couple weeks ago, it fell on its face. Late Night tried to build word of mouth by opening on a handful of screen the week before, but it didn’t pay off. Also, Jim Jarmusch’s wry zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die was dead on arrival.

In its second week, Dark Phoenix fell a staggering 71.5%. The only studio finding consistent success is Disney. Avengers Endgame should pass Avatar next week as the highest-grossing worldwide movie ever. (It will fall short of breaking The Force Awakens’ domestic record.) Aladdin continues to stay in the top three in its fourth week, and next week, Toy Story 4 should open to over $100 million. AND they still have Spider-Man Far From Home and The Lion King coming this summer.





Opens June 21
TOY STORY 4 with the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack.
CHILD'S PLAY with Aubrey Plaza, Brian Tyree Henry and Mark Hamill.
ANNA with Helen Mirren, Sasha Luss, Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dark Phoenix - Movie Review


Starring James McAvoy, Sophie Turner, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jessica Chastain, Tye Sheridan, Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Written & Directed by Simon Kinberg.

★★½ 

We’ve had three X-Men movies, three Wolverine movies, and this is the fourth X-Men First Class movie. Between this and Apocalypse, it’s a good argument for the franchise to hibernate for a few years and come back rebooted in the MCU.

Why is this movie retreading the plot from X-Men: The Last Stand? For one, I’d argue it was the worst movie of all of them so they wanted to retell this story right. For another, the events of Days of Future Past screwed up the timeline, so the events of the Patrick Stewart trilogy wouldn’t have happened that way in this timeline.

I did find it strange this movie takes place in 1992. That means it’s been 29 years since McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, etc. were in X-Men: First Class, and there’s no effort to age them accordingly. Oh well.

So how is it? Well, for starters, maybe the producers thought Sophie Turner’s big from Game of Thrones so it’d pay off to make her the star of the show. But this means other, more famous actors take a back seat to her in the action. Jennifer Lawrence seems like she’d rather be anywhere else than doing another one of these movies. Michael Fassbender doesn’t show up until a good 45 minutes in (but when he does show up, the movie is better for it.)

I liked it a little more than X-Men: Apocalypse. The third act final battles are more satisfying, especially the part on the train. But ultimately I’m glad this was the last outing.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters - Movie Review



Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, David Strathairn, Charles Dance, Aisha Hinds and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Written by Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields.
Directed by Michael Dougherty.

★★

The Godzilla movies can’t ever seem to get the human characters right. The last movie didn’t do much for me because I didn’t think Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s central soldier character was very compelling, and it was almost halfway through the movie before Godzilla showed up. This time around, we get monsters galore right away, but we keep having to cut to pesky humans with their bad dialogue and overwrought reactions. (This director really loves starting with the actor’s back to us so they can turn around dramatically.)

After the last movie, Godzilla has disappeared, and the company that monitored him - Monarch - is looking for him and other potential titans. Truth is, Monarch knows where several titans are; it’s just that most of them are laying dormant. Ah, but one terrorist gets a hold of Monarch’s technology that will awaken them. More baddies for Godzilla to fight.

If you swapped this cast out with the cast from The Meg, it wouldn’t be much different.

I will give a movie the logic it establishes within its own universe. I will give it the titans. I will give them the origins of all the creatures. Now, the plot has to make sense after that, and it rarely does. From the opening scene that rips off Batman v. Superman to the convoluted motivations of most of the characters to the murky, smoke-filled battles where it's hard to invest in what's transpiring, you have to go dumpster-diving to find the pleasures.

How are the titans? Pretty cool. Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah are all here, plus others. I wish the movie had lived up to their potential.

P.S. The three stars from Straight Outta Compton were O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell. Jackson was in this. Hawkins and Mitchell were in Kong Skull Island. All three of their characters are still alive, and Godzilla v. Kong is due in 2021. Don't squander this reunion, Warner Bros!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Secret Life of Pets #1 at Box Office; Dark Phoenix Fizzles



For the weekend of June 7-9, 2019, The Secret Life of Pets 2 managed to win the weekend. The sequel opened far below the $104 million the original opened to, so maybe this is not going to be the next Ice Age level franchise, but it’ll still ultimately be profitable.

Dark Phoenix, meanwhile, is the lowest opening ever for an X-Men movie, including the different Wolverine spin-offs. It’s also the worst reviewed of them all. Maybe they shouldn’t have taken the plot from X-Men: The Last Stand and made Sophie Turner the star while making James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, etc., take backseat roles. Perhaps it’s a good thing this will be the final outing for this cast. Expect the X-Men to lie dormant for a few years, then circa 2023, they’ll be introduced into the MCU.

Late Night opted to open on only 4 screens before going wide next week, and with a $62,000 per-screen average, it’s poised to do well in expansion, albeit against a couple other comedic offerings in Men in Black International and Shaft.

Of the holdovers, Godzilla’s dropping like a stone. Godzilla v. Kong is still the plan for 2021, but WB has to be wondering if they’ll be able to break even on the project. Rocketman hasn’t really caught fire the way Bohemian Rhapsody did. Perhaps the R-rating can be blamed, although A Star Is Born seemed to manage with one.

Many films seem to be underperforming what studios had expected, but the real overperformer has been Aladdin. And Disney still has Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and The Lion King on the way.



Opens June 14
MEN IN BLACK INTL. with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Liam Neeson.
SHAFT with Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse T. Usher, Regina Hall and Richard Roundtree.

Friday, May 31, 2019

John Wick 3: Parabellum - Movie Review


Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Said Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn and Randall Duk Kim.
Written by Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Cris Collins & Marc Abrams.
Directed by Chad Stahelski.

★★★ 

John Wick 3 starts the minute John Wick 2 ends. John is on the run for breaking the rules by killing someone on consecrated grounds, and so he is now “excommunicado,” meaning no more protections or privileges in the assassin world, and there is now a high price on his head. And that’s what we get. We get a week of John fleeing from assassins while trying to figure a way to take the price off of his head.

The mythology of this world was hinted at in the first movie and greatly expanded in the second. The third one is therefore able to rely on what the viewer knows and doesn’t have to explain much. We get a touch more on his backstory and he meets up with “old friends” that we hadn’t heard of before. The action sequences are more non-stop than the first two movies. The wave of assassins after him feels relentless.

Keanu Reeves has the charm of one of the last old-school action heroes. Not the best actor, but he has presence, and everything he does is just indescribably cool. He’s surrounded by award winners to carry the dialogue scenes.

I will say this. They need to figure out how to get Carrie-Anne Moss to appear in John Wick 4.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Aladdin - Movie Review


Starring Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, David Negahban, Billy Magnussen and Numan Acar.
Written by John August & Guy Ritchie.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.

★★★ 

This movie balances nicely between being its own creation while also staying true to the original. The songs are all still here, there are many scenes that could be considered shot-by-shot remakes of the animated original, but it’s more comfortable in fleshing out some scenes and being a more fluid story when dealing with live-action/CGI elements.

First, how was Will Smith’s Genie? He was good. He wisely does not attempt to ape Robin Williams, but he makes the Genie his own. He gets the most laughs, as it should be, and he keeps things bouncing along. I also liked how they gave him a love interest, a new character: Dalia, Jasmine’s handmaiden, played by SNL alum Nasim Pedrad.

Second, how was the rest of the cast? The real standout of the movie was Naomi Scott as Jasmine. She has a great voice, and the character herself has been upgraded and given more to do, including her own new song. Mena Massoud (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) is good as Aladdin. Marwan Kenzari is a very different Jafar, but on its own level, I thought it still worked. 

Some of the humor of the original is edged away. The Sultan isn’t as bumbling, and Iago is creepier and doesn’t have any laugh lines.

Guy Ritchie does a good job of fleshing out Acraba, giving Aladdin plenty of buildings to jump from, and the musical numbers like “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are fun to see with real people dancing in them. They change some lyrics in the opening “Arabian Nights” number to justify people of all ethnicities (besides white people) in one city.

So yeah, I thought it was going to be terrible based on the original trailers, but I was pleasantly surprised. I liked it more than the live-action Beauty & the Beast.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Aladdin opens to $90 million


For the Memorial Day weekend of May 24-26, 2019, Aladdin was the predictable winner but it opened much higher than tracking had suggested. Despite mixed reviews to its marketing, the title, the familiar songs, and the idea of Will Smith as the Genie got people to flock to theaters for it.

Brightburn, the horror twist on the Superman origin story, never could build buzz. Meanwhile, Booksmart had fantastic reviews, but that message never got out to the general public.
















Opens Friday
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS with Kyle Chandler and Millie Bobby Brown.
ROCKETMAN with Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard.
MA with Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, Luke Evans and Allison Janney.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Summer 2019 Box Office Preview


I actually had this almost completed when I was laid off from my job. So better late than never. These are all domestic predictions.

1. AVENGERS: ENDGAME - $800 million - Yeah, we all knew this would be big, like "gross $1.2 billion worldwide on opening weekend" big. It will become the largest domestic grosser and probably worldwide grosser ever made.

2. TOY STORY 4 - $400 million - Woody and Buzz will recapture that Pixar magic, I have no doubt.

3. THE LION KING - $320 million - The nostalgia factor is just too strong with this, even though it looks like it'll do what Beauty & the Beast did. Combine shot-by-shot recreations with new stuff to make it about 40 minutes longer than the animated original. It's going to be one heck of a summer for Disney.

4. SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME - $280 million - Tom Holland's gee-whiz enthusiasm for the character hasn't worn off, plus people will be ready to see the repercussion of Endgame in alive-again Peter's world.

5. THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 - $260 million - The awkward replacement of Louis CK with Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) in the main character's role shouldn't matter too much.

6. DETECTIVE PIKACHU - $235 million - As long as it doesn't suck, it should be a hit. It's positioned to be the first big hit of May.

7. ALADDIN - $180 million - The previews haven't been that encouraging. This could be closer to Dumbo than Lion King numbers.

8. ROCKETMAN - $165 million - This'll be the Bohemian Rhapsody of 2019. A killer discography will overcome any storytelling shortcomings.

9. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD - $150 million - The Hateful Eight indulged in unpleasantness, but this looks like it'll restore Quentin Tarantino to his Inglourious Basterds-level of box office. The cast is simply too huge to overlook. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Timothy Olyphant, etc., etc.

10. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS - $145 million - Bonus for having Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown in the cast, but the real selling point will be how willing audiences are to watch big-budget updates on characters like Mothra.

11. HOBBS & SHAW - $140 million - Looks like a hoot.

12. DARK PHOENIX - $120 million - The final X-Men movie before they all get rebooted into the MCU, this mostly looks like an apology for how lame X-Men: The Last Stand was.

13. JOHN WICK 3 - $110 million - Who would be foolish enough to try to kill John Wick? He's already killed hundreds of top assassins, so these have got to be the dumber class.

14. MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL - $105 million - Thor and Valkyrie reunite in different roles, but they look like they'll keep the same light chemistry.

15. ANNABELLE COME HOME - $100 million - All it needs to be is as good as Annabelle 2.

16. SHAFT - $95 million - I really like the spin on this franchise, with a decidedly non-violent son of Shaft thrust into the world for comedic effect.

17. THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 - $85 million - We don't "need" another one, but the last one made money, so...

18. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK - $70 million - Hard to tell what's going to break out in mid-August, but this seems as good a bet as any.

19. MA - $62 million - Octavia Spencer is the latest Oscar-winner to cash in her chips to play a psycho, and the preview makes it look like it'll be a slow burn to her craziness. A good thing.

20. DORA & THE LOST CITY OF GOLD - $60 million - Can Dora the Explorer find what Allan Quatermain couldn't? This looks decent, in a Spy Kids way.

Dark Horses:

THE KITCHEN - Crime drama about mob wives who continue to run their husbands' businesses while they're in prison. Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish star, and while it sounds similar to Widows, this one takes place in the 1970's, with a lot more Scorsese shenanigan potential. It's the directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, who co-wrote Straight Outta Compton.

STUBER - Dave Bautista and Kumail Najiani look like a fun pairing.

YESTERDAY - I love the high concept. After a worldwide blackout, a young musician finds himself the only person on Earth who's ever heard of the Beatles, so he records their songs and becomes an international star.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Captain Marvel - Movie Review

Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Clark Gregg, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan and Rune Temte.
Written by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet.
Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck.

★★★

The 21st entry into the MCU is really a prequel episode if you want to take the timeline in chronological order. We not only meet Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) in 1995, but also we get our first looks at Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) 13 years before they would have met Iron Man.

We first meet Captain Marvel as "Vers", a Kree warrior who's part of the fight against the Skrulls. You don't really need to know much more about the blue-tinted Kree v. the shapeshifting Skrulls, as it doesn't take long for the battle to spill to Planet C-53, aka Earth, where Vers finds herself having memories as though she used to be human. A young Agent Fury wants to investigate this lady who supposed fell from the sky to put a hole through the roof of the local Blockbuster video store, and we're off!

Larson and Jackson have natural chemistry together, and it's fun to see Jackson let his hair down, so to speak, as a younger more optimistic Fury, who has yet to deal with Loki and Hydra and everything else he's going to face. I really liked the way Vers was written, but I can't say I'm always a fan of the way Larson portrays her. I thought her coldness in the previews was going to be due to her being an alien, but there's definite humor and playfulness written in the character that Larson doesn't always pull off.

I really liked that it was set in the 1990's and all of the fun they had with that. (The music cues, the slow internet speeds...)

I thought Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Ready Player One, Robin Hood) was going to be playing his umpteenth cardboard villain as Telos, Skrull leader, but the character had a lot more depth than I expected and that to me is when Mendelsohn is most interesting.

This is one of the few Marvel movies where it's best to avoid spoilers, as the story did take a turn I wasn't expecting. And yes, stay for all of the credits.

Carol will be back in Avengers: Endgame, which is only a few weeks away, and I'm looking forward to seeing her interact with other Marvel characters, especially Thor and Ant-Man. (Everyone should meet Ant-Man!) Besides, Larson will be more comfortable in the role by then.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How to Train Your Dragon 3 is #1


For the weekend of February 22-24, 2019, How to Train Your Dragon 3 was the big winner and s a solid close-out for the trilogy. It benefited from The LEGO Movie 2 underperforming, and Alita: Battle Angel not capturing enough imaginations to prevent a big second-week drop-off.

Fighting with My Family expanded, and while business wasn't too bad for a small indie film, it IS an indie film that heavily featured Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as himself in the marketing.

Dragon should rule next week too, as its only competition will be a Madea movie (which will get about $20 million), and a generic stalker thriller starring Chloe Grace Moretz. Then in two weeks? Captain Marvel.



Opens March 1
A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL with Tyler Perry, Courtney Burrell and Patrice Lovely.
GRETA with Chloe Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert and Maika Monroe.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Complete List of 91st Academy Award Winners


BEST PICTURE - Green Book
BEST DIRECTOR - Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
BEST ACTOR - Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST ACTRESS - Olivia Colman, The Favourite
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Mahershala Ali, Green Book
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Green Book
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - BlacKkKlansman
BEST ANIMATED FILM - Spider-Man into the Spiderverse
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM - Roma
BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM - Free Solo
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY - Roma
BEST FILM EDITING - Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS - First Man
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN - Black Panther
BEST COSTUME DESIGN - Black Panther
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING - Vice
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - Black Panther
BEST ORIGINAL SONG - "Shallow", A Star Is Born
BEST SOUND EDITING - Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST SOUND MIXING - Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT - Period. End of Sentence.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT - Skin
BEST ANIMATED SHORT - Bao

Count:
4 - Bohemian Rhapsody
3 - Black Panther, Green Book, Roma

It wasn't too bad not having a host, although I did like the SNL trio of Tina, Amy, and Maya acting like the not-hosts.

Biggest surprises? Olivia Colman beating out Glenn Close, Bohemian Rhapsody winning the most trophies overall. All eight Best Picture nominees winning something. I had Green Book as my second-place guess for Best Picture, so I can't say I'm TOO surprised it beat Roma.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My Top 15 Movies of 2018

BUT FIRST!...

Best Movies 16-20

BUMBLEBEE - Easily the best Transformers movie. I credit the simpler story, the 1980's nostalgia, and a compelling lead (Hailee Steinfeld).

GAME NIGHT - Comedy's hard, and Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are hilarious in this high-concept comedy where a group of couples think they're part of a pretend kidnap-mystery when it winds up being the real thing.

HEREDITARY - Spooky. A horror slow-burn, with a nomination-worthy performance from Toni Collette as a mom who gets more unhinged after her own mother dies and supernatural events start happening around her and her family.

ROMA - Alfonso Cuaron's semi-autobiographical tale about a house-servant in Mexico in 1971 is immersive and natural, and while not much happens in the first hour, it marinates the audience into these people's lives so that the events of the second half have more impact.

SEARCHING - A gimmick done right. John Cho is a desperate father searching for his missing daughter, but it's all done from the POV of screens. Computer screens, phone screens, camera footage, and it never overstays its welcome or feels like a cheap trick.

=======
And now my Top 15 Films of 2018
=======




15. ANT-MAN & THE WASP 
14. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
13. BLACK PANTHER
12. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE - I lump all four Marvel movies together, but I do have them in order that I enjoyed them. They're all great. Infiinty War did a good job of juggling the massive cast and dozens of subplots. Ant-Man & the Wasp manages to be as fun as the first one. Black Panther is the first comic-book movie to actually get nominated for Best Picture (after the wrongful snub of The Dark Knight a decade a go). And the Spider-Verse movie, which I do believe will win Best Animated Film, is a landmark in animation, the same way Toy Story was in 1995.

11. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE - Joaquin Phoenix is a force in this pared-down version of Man on Fire. He's a mess, not someone you want in your life, but if your daughter got kidnapped, there'd be no one on Earth you'd rather have hunting her down than him.

10. ANNIHILATION - One of the more original sci-fi movies of the past few years, it contains genuine suspense, unsettling imagery, and a third act that mystifies without feeling like a cop-out.

9. THE FAVOURITE - Two bisexual women vie for the attentions of Queen Anne in 17th-century England. It's wickedly funny.

8. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT - The franchise continues to impress with its stunts but it also has emotional resonance, as the repercussions of previous films' events seem to be catching up to Ethan Hunt. MI7 & MI8 are filming back-to-back, presumably to allow Cruise to play Hunt for the last time before he turns 60.

7. GREEN BOOK - Funny, touching PG-13 dramedy about the unique friendship that springs from musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his driver Frank (Viggo Mortensen). It's based on true events, and Frank's real-life son co-wrote the screenplay.

6. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS - Some stories are stronger than others but taken as a whole, it hits on many familiar Coen Brothers' themes, and this is now the most gorgeous Netflix movie yet.

5. A QUIET PLACE - A movie suspenseful enough to make the audience hold its collective breath with the main characters.

4. WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? - Mr. Rogers made quite an impact being the most decent human being of the 20th century. This doc captures how sincere he was, and how he touched everyone who came into contact with him.

3. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU - It's not perfect, but it's so unique and takes such unexpected twists that I couldn't help but love the audacity of it. And Lakeith Stanfield should get as much work as possible.

2. A STAR IS BORN - A classic story told right. I'm surprised this isn't the front-runner for Best Picture. Seems like the perfect Hollywood-y movie that the Academy likes to celebrate.



1. BLACKkKLANSMAN - It seems like Spike Lee's been in the wilderness for a while, and this is his best movie in decades. It's sharp, it's entertaining, and it packs an emotional wallop at the end. Very well done.

Honorable mentions to Bohemian Rhapsody, Chappaquiddick, Creed II, The Death of Stalin, First Reformed, Isle of Dogs, RBG, Red Sparrow, A Simple Favor, Unsane, Upgrade and Widows.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Prodigy - Movie Review

Starring Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Colm Feore, Peter Mooney, Brittany Allen, Paul Fauteux and Elisa Moolecherry.
Written by Jeff Buhler.
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy.

★½

Each movie, I give them one big rule they've established, as long as the movie then follows the rules it set up in the universe. For this movie, I will give them that reincarnation is a thing. But, the movie still has to follow basic logic, and there are some dumb decisions made by a couple main characters late in the movie that yanked me out.

The film focuses on Miles, an 8-year-old boy who has the spirit of a serial killer slowly taking over. We see the killer die right before Miles is born, so there's no mystery there. It's a matter of waiting for characters to catch up to what we know. Miles keeps doing creepy things. He mutters Hungarian in his sleep. He likes sharpening knives and tools.

There are a couple effective jump-scares, but more often, director Nicholas McCarthy telegraphs what's coming. We get tropes like the close-up on the boiling tea kettle. In many ways, the movie is set up to live or die by the third act, and that's where the movie really jumps off the rails. How stupid are these people?

Jackson Robert Scott is really good at switching between being normal and malevolent as Miles. So at least there's that.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Glass #1 for third week


For the weekend of February 1-3, 2019, Glass was #1 for the third week in a row. No studio wanted to put their big guns out in its wake, so there wasn't much competition. Plus the expansion of some Oscar-nominated movies didn't get much bump. And this little thing called the Super Bowl might affect Sunday tickets.

Miss Bala is a poorly-reviewed remake, so it didn't do much business. Theater chains have to be thrilled that four new wide releases are coming next week. I expect them to be the top four.

The Upside had been considered an awards movie, but when it got mixed reviews at early screeners, it got dumped in January, and yet here it is, hitting the $75 million mark.

The Mule crossed $100 million domestic.

Opens February 8
THE LEGO MOVIE 2 with the voices of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks.
WHAT MEN WANT with Taraji P. Henson, Max Greenfield and Tracy Morgan.
COLD PURSUIT with Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum and Laura Dern.
THE PRODIGY with Taylor Schilling, Colm Feore and Jackson Robert Scott.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The 91st Academy Award Nominations

BEST PICTURE
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Adam McKay (Vice)
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

BEST ACTRESS
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams (Vice)
Marina de Tavira (Roma)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Favourite (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara)
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Green Book (Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga)
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
Vice (Adam McKay)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters and Eric Roth)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty)

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Mary Zophres)
Black Panther (Ruth E. Carter)
The Favourite (Sandy Powell)
Mary Poppins Returns (Sandy Powell)
Mary Queen of Scots (Alexandra Byrne)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Favourite (Robbie Ryan)
Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel)
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
A Star Is Born (Matty Libatique)
Cold War (Lukasz Zal)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"All the Stars" (Black Panther, written by Kendrick Lamar, Al Shux, Sounwave, SZA and Anthony Tiffith)
Performed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA

"I'll Fight" (RBG, written by Diane Warren)
Performed by Jennifer Hudson

"The Place Where Lost Things Go" (Mary Poppins Returns, written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman)
Performed by Emily Blunt

"Shallow" (A Star Is Born, written by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt)
Performed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

"When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, written by Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch)
Performed by Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson)
BlacKkKlansman (Terence Blanchard)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)
Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat)
Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

BEST SOUND MIXING
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

BEST SOUND EDITING
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Black Panther (Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart)
The Favourite (Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton)
First Man (Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas)
Mary Poppins Returns (John Myhre and Gordon Sim)
Roma (Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

BEST FILM EDITING
BlacKkKlansman (Barry Alexander Brown)
Bohemian Rhapsody (John Ottman)
The Favourite (Yorgos Mavropsaridis)
Green Book (Patrick J. Don Vito)
Vice (Hank Corwin)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

I'm cool with Vice getting nominated for Actor, Supporting Actress, and Make-Up, but all of the other nominations are a joke. I think the one that is most upsetting is giving Adam McKay a nomination for Director over Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) and Peter Farrelly (Green Book).

I can't believe Won't You Be My Neighbor? wasn't nominated for Best Documentary Feature. That's the worst snub of all.

I love that Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs got nominations. Netflix's plan to release their titles in a theater or two right before it hits the platform is paying off.

Nomination totals
10 - The Favourite, Roma
8 - A Star is Born, Vice
7 - Black Panther
6 - BlacKkKlansman
5 - Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book
4 - First Man, Mary Poppins Returns
3 - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Cold War, If Beale Street Could Talk
2 - Isle of Dogs, Mary Queen of Scots, Never Look Away, RBG