Category Archives: 2010s

Weekend Outlook – Pirates of the Baywatch: Guardians of the Covenant

Happy Memorial Day weekend everybody! So after you get done with your barbecue (which is really just burgers and hotdogs, or maybe brats if you’re fancy), then what are you going to do?

Maybe you’ll go shopping. I hear there are some good deals meant to lure you away from the simplicity of always paying less for things by shopping online. Perhaps you are thinking about visiting a theme park, but that’s expensive and you run the risk of dehydration. I guess you could watch any of the mediocre sporting events which will be on all weekend, you’ve got the Indy 500, the NBA conference finals, a whole bunch of baseball, or the carbonated poison water 600. But those all sound long, boring, and better watched in short clips on YouTube as a last resort of entertainment.

Why not hang out at the multiplex and catch up on those early Summer blockbusters that you have missed because you have been so busy catching up on your assignments from procrastination class or cramming for that test that you no longer remember because of sleep deprivation? It has been a relatively slow start to the summer movie season, but this long weekend should be the perfect time to catch that movie that has been calling you. We’ve got 3 sequels and an R-rated comedy TV adaptation to examine so buckle up!

If you haven’t already seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, you might be a Mennonite (Note to self: find Mennonite comedian and pitch the idea of stealing Jeff Foxworthy’s signature bit). It has only been out since Cinco de Mayo and it has already made close to 3 quarters of a billion dollars worldwide! Guardians is a ton of fun and it is fairly kid friendly, so as long as your kid can dress themselves and no longer needs a high chair, they should be up for this adventure.

The premise is simple. We rejoin our lovable gang of space anti-heroes a little while after the first film ends (If you haven’t first Guardians of the Galaxy, then you should probably buy it on iTunes and catch up with the rest of civilization). Star Lord has daddy issues that he needs to work out and they do it in hilarious fashion. This is has more laughs per minute than the first film with more of the same character driven drama and amazing 80’s soundtrack. (I’m serious about the soundtrack! I literally just Googled “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. It will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week, just be prepared.) I’ll be honest, if you haven’t seen this one, and maybe even if you have, it is your best bet. The rest are likely going to be hit or miss.

I just saw Alien: Covenant last night and it was very good, but it kind of felt like it was struggling with what kind of movie it wanted to be. But what should we expect from the 3rd film from Ridley Scott in this franchise which he helped reboot back in 2012 with the prequel Prometheus. Covenant rides the line between the heady philosophical ramblings of Prometheus and the crap your pants scariness of Alien.

If Guardians was safe for kids that can ride a roller coaster then this one is only safe if you can drive a car (manual transmissions only, none of that wussy automatic garbage). I’m serious, there is blood everywhere in this, aliens bursting out of all kinds of cavities and orifices, not to mention the synthetic on synthetic porn that almost happens. I could hear the Fassboners rising in the theater. If you’re a fan of Ridley Scott and the franchise you won’t be disappointed, but it’s not his best work. I’m seriously hoping that Blade Runner 2049 is better.

I’ll be quite honest, the only thing that get’s me excited about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Longest movie name since Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood) is the inclusion of Javier Bardem as the baddie. If you’ve seen Skyfall or No Country for Old Men you know that he can be extremely creepy and intimidating, and that’s before he’s been all zombified. Even though it looks creepy, this is Disney we are talking about and I’m sure if your emo kids are into pirates then they would be okay going to this one too.

I know that this is a total cash grab on Disney’s part. They want to revive the franchise that has brought in $3.7 billion since 2003. I get it, but even Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley were smart enough to get out after three films and here Johnny Depp is riding into his fifth. He is simply the worst pirate that I’ve ever heard of, but I have heard of him so I’ll be checking this one out on Saturday, so stay tuned for my thoughts.

Finally, we have the R-rated 90’s TV adaptation that literally no one has ever been clamoring for. Baywatch hits theaters this weekend and I can only hope that they at least got Hasselhoff for a cameo, I mean he’s in Guardians so it’s not like he wasn’t available for filming. If they missed out on the Hoff, at least they have the ghost of Pam Anderson’s boobs, a.k.a. Alexandra Daddario. It looks like they are trying to go down the comedy parody road with this one and that would be great. But they have had me worried in a couple of trailers that they might try and take this straight, and if it takes itself too seriously it will be garbage.

The critical consensus is already that it is garbage (18% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I’m hoping that this could at least be as good as Central Intelligence. I’ve never been much of a fan of Zac Ephron, but I’m willing to give him a shot. This one is for adults only, the red band trailers have been bad enough that I had to watch them after my kids went to bed. I’ll be seeing this one next Wednesday so you’ll have to wait a little bit longer for my full review.

The most important thing is for you to enjoy this weekend and remember those brave men and women who died so we can eat lots of expensive buttery popcorn and be entertained by the beautiful monkeys we pay to entertain us. Have a great weekend!

 

 

The Little Prince – Review

I was excited a few months back when I saw the preview of The Little Prince. Netflix is bringing great art to the world of entertainment and I thought that it was a Netflix original feature, perhaps one of their next big ideas. Imagine being able to watch the latest that Hollywood (and independent filmmakers everywhere) have to offer in the comfort of your living room (or home cinema) on the same day as their release in the theaters. Actually, Sean Parker of Napster fame is working on this right now with a project called Screening Room.

I honestly think that if they could figure out a way to partner with distributors to bring new films to the small screen that they could charge any amount they wished for a subscription and people would pay it, and they would have their own distribution platform for their own productions. I know they would have me hooked. I would even consider it if the movies didn’t hit Netflix until a week after they hit theaters. Unfortunately, that was not what happened with The Little Prince.

Apparently, back in March around a week before the film’s US theatrical release Paramount decided not to release the film after all. The film originally appeared premiered out of competition at Cannes in 2015 and it has been released in theaters around the globe and has made almost $100 million. It was even awarded France’s Cesar Award for best animated film. The Director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) seemed melancholy yet hopeful when he tweeted about Paramount’s decision back in March.

Many thanks to everyone for the outpouring of love and support in these strange times. …  As it turns out, the much anticipated U.S. release of this special and unique film will have to be anticipated just a little bit more. … All I can say is #thelittleprince will in fact be released by another distributor later this year. … Until then, head to Canada! The film opens there in wide release this weekend!

Then, about a week later, it was announced that Netflix had bought the rights to the film Pictures’ domestic rights to The Little Prince. This book of the same title, upon which the movie draws its inspiration, was published in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. There have been several attempts to adapt it to the screen, but its brevity, childish whimsy, and intangible qualities have proven difficult for adaptation even for the likes of Orson Welles and Gene Wilder.

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I believe that Mark Osborne was successful here because he didn’t try to adapt the book alone. He has given us a story surrounding the creation of and inspiration for this nearly mythical text. Something so dear to millions of people is unable to be adapted without controversy, so he kept the images and text from the original as close as he could and framed the story to emphasize the same messages that have been treasured for these past 73 years and gave it a form that will allow it to be emblazoned on the mind of countless generations to come.

I’m sure that no changes were made to the final release of the film, but going back and watching the original theatrical trailer from last year and the new one released by Netflix a few months ago (above) you can see the difference in tone. The first felt like a more traditional animated film with its frenetic pace and quick cuts. But the new trailer takes its time and lingers quietly on iconic images and phrases from the book. In the end, I’m just happy that this film has found an American audience. It is mesmerizingly beautiful and so emotionally poignant yet funny. It really is brilliant and the voice cast is amazing.

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Think of the movie What Dreams May Come or The Fountain with their beautiful imagery and breathtaking visuals. The Little Prince has more in common with these films than your common animated fare like Secret Life of Pets or the latest Ice Age sequel. Animated films are generally associated with the comedy genre, especially when the main character is a child. However, even though this film has comedic elements, it is not a comedy. It is an amazingly deep and moving drama appropriate for all ages. Kids should see the importance of their childhood and hopefully some adults can remember what it is like to be a kid again.

Since I had next to no knowledge of the original story going into this film besides knowing that it is a beloved french children’s book, I have watched the movie again to soak it in and I have plans to read the book. However, I don’t think I will be able to read the book without hearing Jeff Bridges voice in my head. He functions here as the perfect narrator. I’m not sure how the 106 minute runtime can speed by as quickly as it seems to, because the film is not in a rush at all, even during the more action oriented 3rd act, it is still playfully artistic. It reminds me of a Roald Dahl or Dr. Seuss story.

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Like one of those tales, the story happens on what might be called an exaggerated Earth where we walk a tightrope between reality and fantasy. In this world, our protagonist and by extension all children are forced by their parents to focus all of their attention on studying to be essential functional members of society. This leads to an almost mechanical life where children don’t play or make up their own fictional worlds with their toys. Essentially, everyone is grown-up. That is everyone except the Aviator who teaches us that, “Growing up is not the problem. Forgetting is.’

We see the original novel play out in deliciously beautiful stop-motion visuals. We aren’t given everything at once, instead we are told the story with our protagonist a little bit at a time. This framing device is animated in CG and hand drawing. Here we meet a young girl who is on a strict schedule in her studies, preparing for her first day at the prestigious and very seriously grown-up Werth Academy. This leaves her no room for free-time. However, after moving to a new house with her single business minded mother, she takes notice of her eccentric elderly neighbour who we learn to be the Aviator of the original novel. The two become secret friends as her mother insists that she won’t have time for friends until next summer. As they spend time together and she is freed to be a kid, the Aviator tells her the story and she begins to learn the timeless lessons of which we all need to be reminded.

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For a film that will not even touch your cineplex’s screen, this film is packed with superior talent. Mackenzie Foy and Jeff Bridges have the largest parts, but Rachel McAdams, James Franco, Paul Rudd, Paul Giamatti, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, Albert Brooks, Bud Cort and Ricky Gervais fill out the supporting cast. Even though some of them are only given a handful of lines, they are all superb, and bring a sense that this film was a passion project for a lot of people, the director included. In fact, it is his son Riley Osborne that voices the titular Little Prince.

The Little Prince is currently sitting in very rare company on top of my best of the year list so far. I am recommending it to everyone I can. I mentioned it to someone who told me that they did not have Netflix and I responded by saying, “It is worth the cost of a year’s subscription to Netflix to see this film.” Please don’t ignore it because you have read the book or bypass it because you haven’t. It is a totally different story which uses the enchantment of the source material to tell a new story infused with the same vigor and determination to dream, love, live, and explore.

Nerdwriter says DC’s Flaw Is Not Lack of Comedy

I’m a huge fan of YouTube creator Evan Puschak a.k.a. Nerdwriter1 and his video essays on everything from film and culture, to politics and economics. He does a great job  of saying the things that I am thinking better than I could have if I tried. He releases videos every Wednesday and I would strongly encourage you to support him on Patreon if you like his work.

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In his latest video, he talks about the apparent course correction that DC is making with Suicide Squad and Justice League and why he doesn’t believe that more comedy is the solution to the problems that people really had with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I talked about this in my review of Batman v Superman, and I talked about levity as one of several things that DC needed to change. But as usual, he discussed it with more polish and finesse than me and really got to the core of the problem which is more than the lack of comedy but is an overemphasis on movie moments at the expense of rich scenes. Watch his latest episode below.

I really agree with his discussion of the various locations within Batman v Superman. The usage of medium to close-up shots throughout keeps us disconnected from the setting. I would contrast that with the iconic fight between Iron Man and Captain America in Civil War. There were definitely moments in that film that were meant to play to our nostalgia and evoke memories of the comics, but they were so organically placed within their respective scenes that nothing felt forced. The plot and camera were allowed to move in and around those moments so they took us deeper than a simple two dimensional frame of reference into a dynamic world in motion.

Weekend Outlook: Star Trek Beyond

What does this weekend look like for new releases? Two more sequels crash upon theaters this weekend and while they may not be total busts, both are probably going to fall short of the previous installments in their respective series. Star Trek Beyond and Ice Age: Collision Course represent the 21st and 22nd wide release sequels this year. Only four of them (Finding DoryCaptain America: Civil War, The Purge: Election Year and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) have been able to outperform their franchise predecessor at the box office. Also opening this weekend is the new PG-13 thriller Lights Out from producer James Wan.

Star Trek Beyond

The third film in the rebooted franchise. It makes me nervous that there is no J.J. Abrams. Instead, it is being helmed by Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) although he wasn’t even the original choice. The original reboot of the series in 2009 was great and it enabled us to explore this world with a new reimagined cast. Because they had a blank slate to work with, I was a bit disappointed that Into Darkness was essentially a remake of Wrath of Khan. It was an acceptable remake, but I’m hoping we don’t see whales in Beyond. Regardless, I think it will easily end up on the top of the charts this weekend after Secret Life of Pets snuck past Ghostbusters to lead the box office for a second week in a row.

Ice Age: Collision Course

This weekend’s second sequel is likely going to fall short of second place in the weekend as it goes head to head with an original property in The Secret Life of Pets. I don’t like to hate on films, but this Ice Age series needs to go extinct. Interestingly, no Ice Age film has ever opened below $41 million. But this is the fifth in the series, sequels have not fared well so far this year, and we have had a very strong season of animation which I don’t think will help. I think it will be very close, but Pets will freeze Ice Age in 3rd place this weekend.

Lights Out

The final wide release is one that I won’t be watching unless it is a matinee showing. I’m not a huge fan of horror films but anything with James Wan’s name attached seems to have a leg up on the competition. Lights Out looks scary and with a budget of less than $5 million, I think it is safe to say that Lights Out will be in the green after one weekend in theaters. It won’t be enough to compete with Ghostbusters in its second weekend, but I think a respectable $15 million showing is very likely since it is doing well critically and there is no other genre competition right now.

How do you think these movies are going to do? My predictions are below. I’d love to hear what you are watching this weekend, even if you are just binge watching  Stranger Things on Netflix.

  • Star Trek Beyond – $60 Million
  • The Secret Life of Pets – $27 Million
  • Ice Age: Collision Course – $26 Million
  • Ghostbusters – $24 Million
  • Lights Out – $15 Million

The Lobster (2016) Sarcastic Review

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Seriously, I think you should make it a date night with the one you love. Watch as the sexy Colin Farrell woos the nearsighted woman of his dreams (Rachel Weisz) by bringing her dead rabbits. In the days of Tinder, it is nice to see a movie that gets down to the things that really matter in a relationship, like sharing the same physical malady.

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But you might ask, is this another one of those movies where single people get turned into animals if they don’t find love in 45 days. Yes, it is another one of those movies and I do agree that is a worn out plot device, but The Lobster is so much more than just another formulaic animal transformation romance. For instance, in this film single people (or loners) can be killed to extend your stay at the luxury hotel and masturbation is not allowed or you will have your hands disfigured. It is so romantic.

Continue reading The Lobster (2016) Sarcastic Review

Weekend Outlook: Ghostbusters and Infiltrator

So Secret Life of Pets went beyond everyone’s expectations and reeled in $104 Million last weekend. That is giant for any film, but I’m planning to write a separate post all about this film that made more in its opening weekend than any other original non-adapted property. Think about movies like Inside Out and Avatar. Yes, Secret Life of Pets just did something unprecedented. So what’s coming next? Do any of this weekend’s offerings have what it takes to dethrone the pets? Let’s find out.

Continue reading Weekend Outlook: Ghostbusters and Infiltrator

Trailer: ‘Whiplash’ Director’s Musical ‘La La Land’

Yesterday, we got the first fantastic trailer for Whiplash director Damien Chazelle’s new Los Angeles-set musical La La Land. It looks great and I can’t wait to see it. Ryan Gosling stars as a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress, played by Emma Stone, in the City of Angels. There’s lots of singing and dancing and it is just not something that we really see anymore.

I’m excited because this is the next film from Chazelle, who blew me away with Whiplash. So stop what you’re doing and watch this right now. Lionsgate is planning to release Chazelle’s La La Land in select theaters starting December 2nd this year, with a wide release soon after.

2010 Best Movie Bracket

There were a tremendous number of innovative and well crafted movies in 2010. This made it very hard for me to decide on my top movie for this year. A lot of the the critics that I really respect pick a ton of independent films that only 20% of film-goers have even really had the opportunity to see. I tend to watch more populist films or independent films that get a fair amount of press. As I have already expressed, I am only picking from movies that I have seen, so I had to pass over films like Never Let Me Go, or A Prophet.

Even without those films, and not counting the three that I finally chose, we still had Inception, Black SwanExit Through The Gift Shop, DogtoothTrue Grit, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Meek’s Cutoff, and Winter’s Bone. Yes, you heard that correctly, I am not including Inception in my top three. It is certainly a good film and I would consider it part of my top 10 of the year, but it had some big problems that I couldn’t get past. Christopher Nolan wants us to see this as his greatest achievement, and while it is gorgeous and very intricately crafted I wish he didn’t feel the need to explain everything so explicitly and the fact that we don’t get much character development.

As far as the box office for the year, it looks like this year is lining up to be very similar to 2010. Five of the top ten highest grossing films of the year were animated, six if you include Alice in Wonderland, and many of them were very good, but I think that as we march backwards through time we will see the chasm between a film’s financial success and visionary prowess shrink. So let’s see the three films that I put on the top of the heap.

3rd – The King’s Speech

Tom Hooper’s historical feature The King’s Speech was the big winner at the Oscars celebrating the films of 2010. It won 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Colin Firth who gave a fantastic central performance as a man with a crippling handicap who just happened to be Britain’s King George VI. The central relationship between Firth and Geoffrey Rush who plays his unorthodox speech therapist is filled with a wry and self-effacing sense of humor.

It’s a pleasure to watch Firth bring a heavy tension and frustration to his role as a man who cannot find his voice who has been thrust into the role of the voice of all of England. Firth begins the film by stepping up to a microphone as if he is stepping into a hangman’s noose. After a series of failed attempts with vocal coaches, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) pairs him with the unconventional Rush who insists on calling the budding monarch “Bertie” and treating him as an equal. Eventually, Firth unbends under Rush’s calm, unforgiving style and unwavering good humor. Firth’s agony and this rich relationship makes this one a good candidate for the best of the year.

2nd – Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 was the top grossing film of the year coming in almost $100 million above Alice in Wonderland. I often think about the reason why these animated films do so well at the box office. I think a huge part of it is because kids can’t go to the movies by themselves. So with every group of happy children there is at least one adult along for the ride. It is like a buy one get one deal in reverse where the theaters sell one ticket and get one more at full price for good measure. However, I think that with Toy Story 3, there may have been times when the kids were being dragged in by the parents who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the magic they saw years before.

In this third and what we thought would be final Toy Story movie, we see a bunch of toys desperately trying to force an 18-year-old to play with them the way he did a decade ago. Coming to the realization that he has moved on, they mourn and debate about their place as Andy’s toys. The Toy Story movies have always been about the joy of play, but never before has it seemed like such a drag to be a toy. The fate of most toys is probably a horror story if we think about it. Essentially, they are immortal beings whose only pleasure comes from entertaining fickle children who will quickly grow up to forget them, leaving them to be broken and discarded.

There were few grimmer movie moments in 2010 than the point where the toys face their deaths, and few more uplifting sequences than the film’s ending. It’s strange to speak of a kids’ film as challenging, moving, and heartfelt, but Pixar’s movies continue to be some of the most sophisticated and entertaining films that we see all year, bar none. They did it again this year with Finding Dory though maybe not to the extent of Toy Story 3.

1st – The Social Network

Writer Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, A Few Good Men) and director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) make a movie about the contentious beginnings of Facebook, scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from metal band Nine Inch Nails. While that certainly sounds interesting and potentially exciting, it also sounds like it could be a bit of a mess. I remember thinking when I heard about the plans for this film that it had everything it needed to be great it just had to find a way to put all those things into one box.

That is what makes this movie is so audaciously impressive. Sorkin is famous for his extremely verbal dialogue. How could that exist alongside the visual stylings of a guy like Fincher? And what business do these guys have working on a Facebook biopic since their specialties seemed to be government corruption and cover-ups, murder, scandal, and social unrest? They made it work to amazing effect. Using the deposition recordings of two separate lawsuits against Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg  as an ingenious framing device,The Social Network traces the site’s origin in all its agonizing complexity.

Speaking of Zuckerberg, if you have seen this movie, the picture that you get in your head probably looks a good bit more like actor Jesse Eisenberg than the actual founder. Eisenberg was able to capture the innovation and youthful energy of Zuckerberg while also detailing his all too human flaws. We completely forget that this is a movie about recent events in the unfolding of the technological world and we are enthralled in this compelling story of a genius who is often petty and puerile but is also driven pathologically by the same thing that drives the 500 billion users of Facebook… the need to belong.

What do you think? Did I get it right? I’m actually going to put an asterisk on this one because I would like to potentially come back and add Toy Story 3 if I don’t use my four ties before the end.

2011 Best Movie Bracket

Continuing our search for the Best Movie of all time, we come to 2011. Marching backwards to near the dawn of the decade, we saw some brave and creative work coming out of Hollywood. The Artist, a silent black and white film, swept five of the top awards at the Oscars including best picture, best director, and best actor. However, I did not see it as a brilliant work so much as a bit of nostalgia to feed to an industry which is extremely narcissistic.

Plenty of others could have made this list including three great Marvel properties (Captain America – The First Avenger, X-Men – First Class, and Thor) which set things running for the current spate of superhero films which we are all enjoying. We also had the end of the canonical Harry Potter franchise with The Deathly Hallows Part 2 even though Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is trying to recapture that magic later this year. And I can’t forget Super 8, Melancholia, Moneyball, Source Code, The Intouchables, and The Help just to name a few. It was a good year, but let’s take a look at my top 3.

Continue reading 2011 Best Movie Bracket

Spielberg’s BFG (2016) Review

The BFG doesn’t waste any time getting us into the action. We are barely introduced to young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who is awake at 3am in her dilapidated London orphanage. After hearing a noise outside, she goes to the balcony and sees something amazing. She spots a giant around 30 feet tall shrouded with a cloak to keep himself hidden. As they meet eyes, she runs back inside to hide under her blanket, and we see a large hand come through the window. Less than 10 minutes into the movie, Sophie is already being whisked away to Giant Country where the giant tells her that he intends to keep her for the remainder of her life.

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Lucky for Sophie, the giant who snatched Sophie away is a Big Friendly Giant who sets off to Dream Country every night to collect dreams and spread them to households while bottling the nightmares away in his lab. He is indeed big, but as we soon learn, the other 9 giants are as much as twice as large as him and they aren’t so friendly. They eat humans, and children are some of their favorite snacks. With imaginative names like Meatdripper, Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, and Gizzardgulper that could only be concocted by Dahl. I was disappointed that Mathison and Spielberg made these supposedly menacing creatures into giant ogres who pose dwarf-sized threats.

Continue reading Spielberg’s BFG (2016) Review