Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2017

I've toyed with the idea of doing a "most anticipated" list for years, but I've always stopped myself, knowing the sad fact that at least one of them was bound to end up a massive disappointment. I didn't want to over-hype myself. But... sometimes the hype can be fun, so what the hell.

10. Coco
Dir. Lee Unkrich
Release Date: November 22

FINALLY Pixar will have another non-sequel coming out after the brilliant Inside Out, though it's unfortunately surrounded by sequels on all sides (Cars 3, Toy Story 4, and The Incredibles 2). Coco is sure to be a beautiful tribute to Mexico's Day of the Dead tradition, following a young boy who develops a secret passion for music in a family that's banned it - kind of sounds to me like a Mariachi-themed Footloose. With Toy Story 3's Lee Unkrich acting as director, sounds like it will be a fun, emotional ride.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Top Ten of 2016!

I don't know what the hell 2017 is going to look like for our country with a reality TV star at its helm, but if the year's movies are half as good as they were this year, I'll welcome it with open arms. 2016, by far, has been the most difficult year I've ever had cultivating a "Top Ten" list since I've started making them. I've left off certain movies that in any other year would've easily made the list, but 2016 was just brimming with an amazing froth of films. It's movie musical chairs, and there's only ten seats available. So let's start the music and see what flicks secured a seat on my list!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The "Talkies": 2016 Superlatives!

The Oscars are fun and everything, but I know that all you really care about are which lucky movies earn the gold on my annual superlatives list! Wrapping up the movie year of 2016 was not easy, as there was so much greatness on display - making these picks was a real Sophie's choice at times. So, without further delay... here are the "Talkies!"

BEST ACTOR - Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

One of my favorite eras of film history that I explored in film school was the Italian Neorealist movement of the post-WWII period. In contrast to their Hollywood counterparts, often "real," non-professional actors were cast in the lead and supporting roles, lending these films an unprecedented level of truth to the story, melting away at the artificiality of movie-making. A similar feeling of human authenticity washed over me while watching Manchester by the Sea, but somehow director Kenneth Lonergan was able to capture that same level of realism with Hollywood actors like Casey Affleck. In the most devastating performance of the year, Affleck doesn't play Lee, an emotionally complicated Boston handyman, he just is Lee. I might be at risk of sounding hyperbolic in my praise, but I was reminded of Brando's performance in On the Waterfront - it's seriously that good, and it would be a travesty if he lost the Oscar this year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One, La La Land, Miss Sloane, The Brand New Testament Reviews

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Dir. Gareth Edwards
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Among my biggest problems with The Force Awakens were its over-use of winking nostalgia and its slavish relationship to the original trilogy. In fact, the entire film pretty much exactly mirrors A New Hope in its characters, locations, and plot structure. But I feel for J.J. - he had a ridiculous amount of elements to juggle in bringing back the Star Wars franchise, and he accomplished what he set out to do: setting the stage for future adventures that can live and breathe on their own. Rogue One, the first live action Star Wars movie not set in the "main" Skywalker timeline, had the opportunity to be something completely new and fresh for a change. Unfortunately, this film not only pulls the same veil of throat-cramming nostalgia over our eyes, but it does so with dull characters and the drabness of an actual war film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Jackie, Elle Reviews

Manchester by the Sea
Dir. Kenneth Lonergan
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The log line for Manchester by the Sea seems to be: "Grief-stricken Boston janitor is sad for 2.5 hours." While it's true that this film deals with heavy subjects like death and grief, and has several of the most tragic gut-punches in a movie this year, the real reason why it's so great is that it's actually hilarious! Manchester by the Sea works because it doesn't stick to a single melancholic groove - its characters experience life as it really happens, with both its unfathomably, almost operatically terrible moments as well as its small funny details. This film feels so natural and authentic to the human experience that it's hard to think of a comparison. It's a tough watch at points, but Manchester by the Sea is a fantastic character study and one of the best dramas of the year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moana, Allied, Bad Santa 2, Christine Reviews

Dir. John Musker & Ron Clements
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For nearly eighty years, starting with Snow White, Disney has found success with adapting fairy tales under a familiar template - typically involving a naive, but ambitious young girl who ventures outside her safe home, finding her destiny and identity in the dangerous world outside while singing catchy songs and a cute sidekick or two tags along. Moana, the latest in Disney's "princess" canon, follows this same formula to a T and then some, but the difference lies in the execution: here the story beautifully captures ancient Polynesian myths that provide a unique backdrop as yet unseen in a film like this and a handful of songs developed by Hamilton's Lin Manuel Miranda that are sure to get some Oscar attention this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fantastic Beasts, Arrival, Edge of Seventeen, Loving Reviews

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Dir. David Yates
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The Harry Potter series was one of the biggest, most reliable cash cows ever for Warner Brothers Entertainment. Every year or so saw another guaranteed box office hit with a rabid built-in fan base and studio execs were showering themselves in gold doubloons a la Scrooge McDuck. But look - uh oh - there aren't any more books left to adapt in J.K. Rowling's Potter series! Now how will the executives pay for their third or fourth beach houses?! The answer lies in returning to the wizarding well in a new form: the spin-off/prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though it may be a fresh property not based on an existing book, featuring a whole slew of new characters, Fantastic Beasts still feels like one of the most calculated movie productions this year, manufactured to be a hit.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, Moonlight, The Handmaiden Reviews

Doctor Strange
Dir. Scott Derrickson
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The fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is in many ways one of the most formulaic origin stories we've seen in the series so far - BUT it's also one of the most visually inventive, with mind-blowing special effects that will cause the heads of viewers on LSD to explode like that guy from Scanners.  Paralleling Tony Stark's character arc from the first Iron Man, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is also positioned as an arrogant genius who becomes humbled through his superhero journey - and coincidentally rocks the same goatee. In this case, Strange is a world-famous surgeon whose hands become damaged after a brutal car accident. In the aftermath, he seeks healing from a faraway Eastern secret society that practices the "mystic arts" under the tutelage of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). It's there that Strange's scientific mind learns about worlds and dimensions he never thought possible. Replace Iron Man's technology with trippy-dippy Inception-inspired reality-manipulation and you've got Doctor Strange: a routine, but mind-meltingly cool looking Marvel movie.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Accountant, The Birth of a Nation, Queen of Katwe, Denial Reviews

The Accountant
Dir. Gavin O'Connor
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On paper, the ensemble brought together for The Accountant sounds amazing: Ben Affleck in his first post-Batman role, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, and directed by Warrior and Miracle's Gavin O'Connor.

On paper, the story for The Accountant sounds like a complete unmitigated disaster-in-waiting. Christian Wolff (Affleck) is a mathematics savant on the autism spectrum who makes his living as a freelance accountant for dangerous criminals. As a Treasury agent (J.K. Simmons) is hot on his trail, Wolff takes on a state-of-the-arts robotic company, run by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), as a legitimate client, but uncovers a discrepancy that involves millions of dollars. Using his genius, as well as military-level defense skills his father taught him (including martial arts and shooting targets a mile away), Wolff uncovers the truth while on the run and the bodies starting piling high.

I have no idea how O'Connor got that pedigree of talent for such a b-grade, somewhat exploitative action flick, but I found The Accountant to be a singularly entertaining, bizarre Bourne-meets-Rain Man shoot-em-up that despite a wonky (and possibly offensive) depiction of autism and a labyrinthine plot that makes little sense, I had a lot of fun with.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Deepwater Horizon, The Magnificent Seven, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Eight Days a Week Reviews

Deepwater Horizon
Dir. Peter Berg
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Armageddon and Deep Impact. Volcano and Dante's Peak. Batman v. Superman and Captain America Civil War. All of these are examples of the strange phenomena of "twin movies" - two films released at roughly the same time that have seemingly identical plotlines. The same could be argued for Deepwater Horizon and Sully, my previous featured review. Both films deal with very recent true stories involving blue collar American heroes thrown into a crisis, who bravely come together to survive by means of pure professionalism, workmanship, and mastery over complex machines. While I much prefer Clint Eastwood's introspective Sully to the more traditionally "Hollywood" Deepwater Horizon, I do appreciate that both films take the time to genuinely give appreciation towards those people who go into work every day and simply do their jobs as well as they can.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sully, Snowden, Blair Witch, The Innocents Reviews

Dir. Clint Eastwood
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The problem with many real-life stories depicted on screen, especially if they were covered in the news as much and as recently as Captain "Sully" Sullenberger's emergency plane landing in the Hudson River, is that we already know how things turn out. There's no tension as to whether or not Sully will "make it"; we know that all the passengers survived. It's a story about a nice guy who saved a bunch of people and was immediately hailed as a hero - that doesn't exactly make for satisfying drama. However, what I didn't know about this story going in, and what the film primarily focuses on, is the aftermath of the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into whether or not Sully's critical decisions put the passengers in unnecessary risk. I found the procedural nature of this investigation to be really engrossing, and the clinical, unsentimental manner in which Clint Eastwood captures everyone - from the captain to air traffic control to the investigative team - just doing their jobs extremely proficiently in a time of crisis made Sully a surprisingly intense, dramatic, dynamic experience. Plus it features possibly one of the best plane crash sequences ever put to film.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rob Zombie's 31, Morgan, The Light Between Oceans, Southside with You Reviews

Dir. Rob Zombie
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Homicidal clowns, backwoods hillbillies, brutal violence and mayhem: these are a few of Rob Zombie's favorite things. The hard rocker-by-day, horror director-by-night is back at it again with another movie that's best to leave grandma at home to see: 31, about a traveling group of carnival workers kidnapped by crazed aristocrats on Halloween night and forced to play a twisted game of life-or-death called "31." For 12 hours, they must fight to survive against an endless parade of increasingly dangerous maniacs, sort of like The Hunger Games as seen through the eyes of Charles Manson. While this horror movie had the potential to be a fast-paced, disturbing thrill ride through hell, ultimately Mr. Zombie rests a little too much on his laurels, staying inside his "comfort zone," making this film his most bland so far, and even strays into self-parody territory.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

RESULTS: Summer 2016 Box Office Predictions

Back in May I predicted which summer flicks would reign supreme at the box office, and as usual, the box office proved to be unpredictable! That elusive #1 spot slipped by me again! Who knew it would be cartoon fish that would dethrone a superhero all-star bash? Here are some of my quick observations of this year's season, in convenient bullet-point form, followed by the results:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings, Don't Breathe, War Dogs, Hell or High Water Reviews

Kubo and the Two Strings
Dir. Travis Knight
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Stop-motion animation studio Laika has established a foothold against the modern tidal wave of 3D CGI cartoons with a series of refreshingly morbid children's entertainment like Coraline and ParanormanKubo and the Two Strings is a similarly dark and beautifully hand-crafted tale, only the ghouls and ghosts have been replaced by samurais and badass origami warriors. While Kubo suffers from the same "hero's journey" plot that's literally older than film itself, and at times feels disjointed, with Kubo's voyages more or less evoking the "fetch quest" aspects of video games like Legend of Zelda, it still ranks as one of the most beautiful-looking films of the year, and its painstaking attention to detail is astonishing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sausage Party, Pete's Dragon, Florence Foster Jenkins, Captain Fantastic Reviews

Sausage Party
Dir. Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan
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While there have been precedents for R-Rated "adults only" animated films (i.e. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, Fritz the Cat), writer-producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are the first to plant the flag for raunchy 3D cartoons in the Pixar vein. Like many of Pixar's films, which employ the familiar formula of "The Secret Life of (non-human thing)," the stoners who gave us Superbad and This is the End explore the secret life of food, which if you think about it has horrifying implications. Sausage Party is essentially the college freshman version of VeggieTales - featuring non-stop immature sex jokes, lazy racial stereotypes, and even hot dogs that smoke pot out of a kazoo. While I was hoping for a clever, pun-filled adult-oriented Pixar-esque film, what I got was an obnoxious, shocking just for the sake of it bro-fest that rarely made me laugh.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Suicide Squad, Jason Bourne, Nine Lives, Life Animated Reviews

Suicide Squad
Dir. David Ayer
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While we're already in "Phase Three" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warners' DC Films division has just barely learned to crawl with only three wittle movies under their belt, and there's so much fan-created hooplah over which studio is "better," you could almost replace the words 'DC' and 'Marvel' with 'Democrat' and 'Republican' in any given news story and the fervent passion between each side would be just as intense. Before it was even released Suicide Squad's generally negative critical response on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes caused a petition from unemployed mouth-breathers to shut the site down. Hopefully they don't come after my blog as well, because I also found Suicide Squad to be a bit of a mess.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond, Lights Out, Nerve, Café Society Reviews

Star Trek Beyond
Dir. Justin Lin
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At the beginning of Star Trek Beyond, Captain Kirk is as moody as a teenage drama queen with her cell phone taken away, bemoaning the fact that his life is starting to feel routine and "episodic." He's looking for some kind of purpose, and in many ways his comments reflect the series itself: where does Star Trek fit in today's world? In the late 1960s, the original series presented a Tomorrowland-esque optimal future that seems out of place in today's world of fear-mongering political candidates, and even our superhero films reflect a darker, more cynical view of the world. Beyond is partly a return to form for Star Trek - gone is the perpetual brooding and "rehash-y" elements from JJ Abrams' Into Darkness, with director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) and writer Simon Pegg again focusing the series on space exploration and working as a team with people who are different in both appearance, personality and philosophy. At the end of the day Star Trek Beyond is still simple-minded popcorn entertainment with its share of problems, but it does thankfully recapture the spirit of Gene Roddenberry's altruistic original series.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ghostbusters, The Secret Life of Pets, The Infiltrator, Hunt for the Wilderpeople Reviews

Dir. Paul Feig
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Ghosts weren't the only ones booing recently. When the trailer for Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot hit the web, it was met with nearly universal hate, earning the most dislikes for a movie trailer in Youtube's history. While some of those "haters" were purely fist-clenched misogynists doubled over by the fact that the four new ghostbusters were ladies, I think most people were disappointed by the cringe-worthy humor, the overall "cheap" look, and the fact that this was the best they could come up with in the wake of Harold Ramis's death. But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and you shouldn't judge a film by its previews - somehow, despite what its poorly-edited trailer would indicate, Paul Feig's Ghostbusters is a fun, colorful chuckle-fest with four distinctive and charming leads that, in my opinion, deserve their own franchise as much as Venkman, Stantz, Spengler, and Winston.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan, The Purge 3, Swiss Army Man, Tickled Reviews

The Legend of Tarzan
Dir. David Yates
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The vine-swinging, poo-flinging Tarzan is certainly no stranger to the film medium. Nearly 105 years after the publication of Edgar Rice Burrough's original novel, which itself spawned 14 sequels, we have seen well over 50 adaptations of the loin-clothed man-ape for the big and small screen, going back all the way to the pre-talkie silent days. So with such a deep, rich (and not-so-rich) well of material to work from and try to make fresh, David Yate's The Legend of Tarzan feels pretty pointless. Haven't we seen enough of this tale already over the past century? Although the studios apparently didn't think so, audiences have, as Warner Brothers spent $180 million for a film that will struggle to break even. The Legend of Tarzan is a boring, lifeless, unnecessary, too-familiar re-hash of the Tarzan story that proves that brand-recognizability alone won't make people automatically flock to see a film.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The BFG, The Shallows, Free State of Jones, The Neon Demon Reviews

Dir. Steven Spielberg
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Steven Spielberg used to be synonymous with spectacle-based summer blockbusters (E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park), but as of late he's taken less inspiration from the fantastical and more from the History Channel, with movies that have "father's day gift" written all over them, like Lincoln, War Horse, and last year's Bridge of Spies. But The BFG, based on Roald Dahl's children's book about a Big Friendly Giant, harks back to that time of awe-struck children and dream-like visuals (in this case literally) that made Spielberg a household name. Unfortunately, despite The BFG's dazzling special effects, the Spielbergian aspects that weren't translated here was any sense of tension or conflict, a brisk pace, and perhaps most egregiously, a child actor who wasn't annoying as hell.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Finding Dory, Independence Day 2, Central Intelligence, Weiner Reviews

Finding Dory
Dir. Andrew Stanton
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In a year of lackluster sequels (both critically and commercially) like Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Huntsman, Zoolander 2, etc, Pixar is defiantly holding its head above the water, with its sequel earning a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and the highest opening weekend at the box office for an animated film ever. Finding Dory, arriving 13 years after the Academy Award-winning Finding Nemo, continues the undersea journey of Marlin, his son Nemo, and their forgetful friend Dory. Yet again they are on a cross-ocean adventure to find a lost family member - this time Dory's parents - but their travels leads them to become trapped inside a Marine Life Institute not unlike Seaworld, with the film essentially playing out like a feature-length version of the Dentist Office escape from the first film. Despite its reliance on the "Pixar formula" and its similarities to the first film, Finding Dory does enough to hold its own, introducing new fun characters and providing a heartfelt message about living with a disability. In other words: it's predictably high-quality animation from Pixar.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Warcraft, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Sing Street, The Meddler Reviews

Dir. Duncan Jones
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Movies based on video games don't have the best track record. Just recently we've seen Hitman: Agent 47, Ratchet and Clank, and Need for Speed tank both critically and commercially. The state of video game movies is much like how comic book movies used to be - considered as trashy b-movies not meant to be taken seriously. What the genre (if you can call it that) needs right now is the equivalent of Tim Burton's Batman or Bryan Singer's X-Men to legitimize it for the masses. When it was announced that Duncan Jones, the brilliant director behind Moon and Source Code would be directing Warcraft, it seemed like we just might have finally made that breakthrough. So, after 20-some odd years after the release of the Super Mario Bros. movie, is Warcraft finally the "Batman" of video game adaptations we've been waiting for, to usher in a whole new era of big-budget video game movies? I wish. Instead, it's yet another mind-numbing, cluttered, boring mess of a film that only reinforces the idea that video games don't inherently make for good movies.

Friday, May 27, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse, The Nice Guys, Neighbors 2, High-Rise Reviews

X-Men Apocalypse
Dir. Bryan Singer
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Counting all the spin-offs, Apocalypse is the ninth entry in the X-Men franchise. At the turn of the new millennium, the original X-Men pretty much changed the game for superhero movies; at a time when Batman and Robin's ice puns were still seared into the public consciousness, Bryan Singer and Co. literally began a comic book film in a concentration camp. Superhero movies were officially ready to be taken seriously. With no bat-butt zoom-ins to be found. Since then, for the last 16 years we've seen the superhero genre balloon into a behemoth that's pretty much taken over the box office, and throughout that time the X-Men franchise has seen its highs (X2, First Class) and abysmal lows (Origins: Wolverine, The Last Stand). In my opinion, X-Men Apocalypse is pretty middle-of-the-road for the series, not the best and not the worst, and has enough fun moments "for the fans" that it's worth catching on the big screen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Captain America: Civil War, Eye in the Sky, Money Monster, Miles Ahead Reviews

Captain America: Civil War
Dir. Joe & Anthony Russo

Only a couple months ago we saw a blockbuster comic book film that presented a central conflict between two superheroes, being manipulated by an outside evil force, while examining the philosophy and repercussions of the civilian casualties caused by the heroes' big battles and also setting up future movies in a mega-budget franchise. I'm of course talking about DC's Batman v Superman, and it's crazy to think how similar in structure Civil War is...and how much better it pulls off the same ideas.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Summer 2016 Box Office Predictions

While technically the movie "summer season" has already started, I'm still going to post my annual box office predictions, albeit a little late on arrival. Basically, I attempt to guess which blockbusters will rake in the most American coin; I don't do worldwide intake because movies are released at different times in different countries. The rules reward accuracy more than getting the exact right movies, so it's not enough to get the Top Ten, my goal is to get the Top Ten in the right order. This year was particularly difficult because there's not nearly as many sure-fire hits as last year, and it's anybody's guess as to how the season will play out! Below is the points system, if you want to play along and attempt to beat my "score" at the end of August:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Keanu, Midnight Special, Green Room, Everybody Wants Some!! Reviews

Dir. Peter Atencio

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, known for their Peabody Award-winning sketch comedy show, Key & Peele, are sort of the hot thing in comedy right now. And like their fellow Comedy Central star Amy Schumer recently did with Trainwreck, Keanu is the first time the duo dip their toes into the pool of feature filmmaking. The story follows a slacker, Rell (Peele), who shortly after being dumped by his girlfriend finds happiness once again when an adorable kitten, Keanu, shows up on his doorstep. The two form an impenetrable bond, with Rell even making painstakingly intricate photoshoots of famous movie scenes with Keanu in them. But one night while he's away, a thief ransacks his apartment and takes his cat friend with him. Rell recruits his cousin Clarence (Key) to help him, and they soon find out a thug named Cheddar (Method Man) has his pet, and will only give it back if they agree to work for him. The problem: Rell and Clarence are possibly the least "gangster" people imaginable. Instead of N.W.A., Clarence's playlist is filled with George Michael.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Jungle Book, Hardcore Henry, The Tribe, The Lobster Reviews

The Jungle Book
Dir. Jon Favreau
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Continuing Disney's string of live action remakes of its beloved animated features, The Jungle Book definitely seemed worthy of an update after Life of Pi proved that CGI tigers can be A) Believable and B) Badass. Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) has stated that this iteration of The Jungle Book is the most technologically advanced film ever made; everything, save for the main human character, Mowgli (Neel Sethi), was created in a computer and through a motion capture process similar to James Cameron's Avatar. It's a stunningly beautiful film from a pure "woah, that tree looks real!" standpoint. However, the film, for me anyway, felt like nothing more than a darker retread of familiar themes, with a bit of an identity crisis as it tries to be its own thing while sticking to Disney "fan moments" that seemed out of place in this more realistic world. Plus, it features a central performance by a child actor that was more annoying to listen to than the chatty kids in my theater bitching to their parents (I literally heard one say: "No, YOU shush!"). The Jungle Book '16 is a pleasant enough movie to watch, it moves at a nice pace, it's pretty to look at, the action looks great - but it just lacks that X-factor, that Favreau-ian sense of fun and originality that I got out of Iron Man and Chef.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Dir. Zack Snyder
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It's the superhero match-up I've been waiting for since I was a kid: The Son of Krypton vs The Dark Knight! Two of the most iconic superheroes finally together on the big screen. Zack Snyder's Man of Steel got the ball rolling on DC's movie universe-building to keep up with the monster that Marvel Studios has created in recent years. It was met with mixed reactions, especially regarding the final battle between Superman and General Zod, where Supes took Zod on in a massive, city-destroying fist fight without much regard for the actual people in the buildings he was demolishing in the process. The film was crazily heavy-handed with 9/11 imagery, and longtime Superman fans took issue with his conflicted "kill for the greater good" morals. Although I was one of the few who really enjoyed Man of Steel and defended its alterations to Superman (after all, he was still "new" at being mankind's savior), Batman v. Superman had a lot riding against it already, as not only being a sequel to Man of Steel, but also an introduction to a new version of Batman only a few years after Chris Nolan's trilogy and a set-up for the upcoming Justice League film. While I was hoping Snyder would pull through, make the haters chew their words and rectify the problems in Man of SteelBatman v. Superman just exacerbated them and basically turns into a complete mess by the end.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Zootopia, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Where to Invade Next, Son of Saul Reviews

Dir. Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush
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As far as I'm concerned, Disney Animation Studios are crushing Pixar in terms of their quality of movies as of late. Even though Inside Out was fantastic, with Frozen, Big Hero 6, Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, Pixar's output of farming dinosaurs and sequels no one asked for hasn't been up to snuff lately. Zootopia continues Disney's winning streak, and this is my favorite of their current re-renaissance (which is really saying something).

The story follows Judy Hopps, a small-town bunny who moves to the big city of Zootopia to realize her dreams of becoming a police officer - despite the fact that "prey" are never usually given that privilege. Her parents are terrified for her and provide her with stun guns and fox repellent before leaving for the city. Once in Zootopia, she's relegated to the lowest position of parking duty, and while unfulfilled with her new life, strikes up an uneasy relationship with a fox hustler, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). The two eventually work together past their misunderstandings to uncover a political conspiracy to keep the public afraid of "predators." There are surprisingly deep themes with this story - there's a feminist angle with Hopps trying to be a police officer, there's a racial angle with her and the city's false assumptions about predators, and there's an interracial buddy cop movie in there, all wrapped up in a fun, hilarious package about furry CGI animals for kids.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Deadpool, Hail Caesar, Anomalisa, The Witch Reviews

Dir. Tim Miller
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If Jim Carrey's character from The Mask was a sword-wielding, X-Rated superhero with parkour skills, you'd have something like Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds, who's seemed to belly-flop every chance he's been given with a comic book-based movie franchise (Blade: Trinity, X-Men Origins, Green Lantern), has finally found his muse with the 'Merc with a Mouth,' Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool. A fan favorite among comic book fans, Deadpool is a self-referential character that is aware he's in a movie, frequently breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience, making references to real-life figures like Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds himself. The film is unlike anything that Marvel has made thus far, combining a Ted-like raunchy humor with an ultra-violent aesthetic that would probably make 12-year-old me as giddy as a schoolgirl. Deadpool is a fantastic satire of its own genre that's fun from beginning to end.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Predicting the 88th Academy Awards (EVERY CATEGORY) [UPDATED]

This is one of the most controversial Oscar seasons I've ever remembered seeing. The lack of diversity in the nominees (not a single non-white actor in the 20 acting category slots) has a bunch of people riled up, not the least of whom are Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who, let's face it, are probably bitter Will's work in Concussion didn't get any love. I totally see where this backlash is coming from, but for me personally, if you look at who was nominated as opposed to who wasn't, I think save for maybe 1 or 2 exceptions, all the nominees were completely deserving of the Academy's votes. In other words, I blame more the film industry as a whole for its lack of diversity than I do the Oscars - let's not arbitrarily vote for movies just because black people are in it. Far less people are talking about the bigger picture and are quick to point a finger at the Oscar voters for being a bunch of whitewashed racists, when this whole argument is stemming around the exclusion of the same 3-4 movies. If you want to fix this problem, lobby the film studios, go and actually see IN THE THEATER movies like Dope and Compton and Creed, and then we'll see more of a change.

The only major issue I have with the Oscars is the fact that there are only 8 movies nominated for Best Picture, when up to 10 are allowed - what's up with that? Those extra 2 films could have made way for a movie like Creed or Straight Outta Compton (or Beasts of No Nation which was entirely snubbed). So this weird cloud of exclusion has been cast over the Awards season this year, but that only makes me that much more excited to see how Chris Rock handles his hosting duties! And on that note, here are my predictions for which whiteys will take home the Oscar this year:

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Revenant, Carol, 13 Hours Reviews

The Revenant
Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Watch Trailer

If you want to watch a film where the main characters end up holding hands and singing Kumbaya under a rainbow, you may want to avoid the movies of Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Even his most light-hearted film, Birdman, featured enough violence, quasi-rape, and mental breakdowns to truly earn the "dark" in its "dark comedy" moniker. The Revenant fits right alongside his other works: it's a brutal, showy, technical masterpiece that will make you want to take a shower afterwards, but it may not have as much going on under the hood as you might think from such an Oscar-hopeful production.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2016

While the voting board for the Oscars, consisting of thousands of industry professionals, is much more "legit" than that of the 90-some-odd journalists that make up the Oscar's weird step-child, the Golden Globes, the Academy still gets things wrong every year. Sometimes really deserving movies and performances get left by the curb and have to walk home with that sad Incredible Hulk hitchhiking music playing in the background. The following are, in my opinion, the top ten snubbiest Oscar snubs of 2016!

10. The Good Dinosaur for Best Animated Feature

Although Pixar got onto the list with Inside Out, their holiday release, The Good Dinosaur, was left for extinction. Whether or not you dug the movie (I liked it despite its very simple story), the environmental animation was stunning and it does sting a little when the typically Oscar-friendly animation studio doesn't automatically earn a spot on the nomination list.

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