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Jexi is about the titular Siri/Alexa-like phone program (voiced by Rose Byrne) with a mind of her own who ends up wreaking havoc with the life of an introverted phone addict played by Adam Devine. I generally liked this.
Jexi makes this film. Her smack talking brings the biggest laughs. I also appreciated that this avoids some of the cliches you usually get with AI-run-amok films. Jexi lets you know what she is from the get-go. There's no slow burn of her pretending to act regularly or slowly gaining sentience. However, her arc does become more predictable in the second half.
They really didn't have to hire a known actor to do this. Plenty of people could've easily spoken in a phone-like voice without vocal change. Still, I do admit that Byrne does a good job. I also liked the usually more over-the-top Devine who does a good job with a more subdued role. (This is especially a relief because I didn't think he did a great job in his last straight man role in Isn't it Romantic.)
Understand that this movie works more on a feel-good level than a laugh-a-minute one. Jexi is in about every other scene. When she isn't there, some people may find some of the scenes, many of them involving Devine's character predictably growing as a person, too leisurely for their taste.
This film is a little lightweight. It's not something you need to see immediately, but it's worth giving a chance sometime.
Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Given that this was ten years apart from its predecessor, I feared that this movie would suffer the far-separated comedy sequel curse, but my doubts were quickly shaken.
The sequel remains really funny, including the return of the fun narrative cutaways and the, sometimes creative, use of text for the rules of surviving the zombie apocalypse.
The returning four main characters remain great. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) are a great odd-couple duo with excellent chemistry. Emma Stone as Wichita continues to do a great job as the one who reacts sarcastically. I love new character Madison (Zoey Deutsch). She is a bimbo/airhead type, but she has a specific quirkiness that makes the character distinctive. She always has the most random lines.
The plot itself is a little lightweight; the movie mostly runs on the jokes.
Overall, I had a good time with this and recommend it.
The Addams Family (2019)
Fun little film
This knows how to have fun. The new animated Addams Family movie delivers what you want from the titular family: spades of dark humor jokes.
The movie successfully delivers when it comes to the four main family members. (Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) and Granny (Bette Midler) are just okay.) Gomez (Oscar Isaacs) is the congenial family man with a zest for life. Morticia is the over-protective mother whose viewpoint you understand. Though the movie does have the parents be a little more sentimental than some portrayals, I do think it still captured the core of the characters. More effort is put into characterization for Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) than a lot of previous versions. Let's be honest, Wednesday is usually the sibling that pulls focus. Speaking of which, this version is not much different. This Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) gives the Christina Ricci version a run for her money. This is by far the most unnervingly emotionless one, and the animated format is able to do things to increase her creepiness that you couldn't do in animation.
The story, though, is very basic. It is the trope of the "normies" vs. the misunderstood monsters with predictable parent-child rifts. The normal people, especially villainous home renovator Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), are pretty predictable and uninteresting. I've seen Janney do good voice work before but here it feels like she's trying for a vocal quality she is never able to quite capture.
This appears to be a modestly budgeted film so don't expect Pixar, Disney, or Dreamworks-quality animation. I found the character design for a lot of the townsfolk to be disappointing. Though I did eventually get accustomed to it, the decision to make Morticia's face look like a skull wasn't what I felt to be the best option for the character. It felt a little at odds with the original New Yorker cartoon and previous animated versions. I think it's the chin that's the main issue. It was a little too long. I did like the decoration of the Addams Family house.
I do prefer the two 90's live-action versions over this. This one is more of a children's movie, and the original ones being for an older audience were able to go darker and more-over-the-top. This movie also has less of a distinct identity than its predecessors. (Though in fairness, what can you expect with any Addams Family movie without Raoul Julia?) I can't say this is the greatest animated kids film, either. However, it is an enjoyable time waster for the family.
Really mixed feelings about this
The Joker is a stand-alone film outside the DC Universe which is an origin story for the Batman villain. I don't think that since The Rocky Horror Picture Show's sequel Shock Treatment that I've had such a conflict over how I feel about a film. I think I equally like and dislike this movie.
First off, I'll confirm most of the good things that everyone's been saying: This has some very interesting looks at wealth inequality, the failings of mental health care, what can cause the result of psychopathic attacks, and the basic human apathy and failure of humankid to take care of itself in general. There are a lot of really top notch lines and scenes in this. The final act is something. It leaves quite the impression.
The whole things looks great. Director Todd Phillips provides such an impressive look and sound to the film. Some great cinematography. Dirty, crowded, crime-laden Gotham looks great. Both score and song selections really guide the mood.
Again I must parrot what everyone's saying: Joaquin Phoenix delivers what could be an Oscar-winning performance as the lead. He is so nuanced and excels at making you feel uncomfortable. Joaquin has such a unique body language in this. This version of the Joker has a condition where he can laugh uncontrollably, and the actor does a great job of making it feel realistic and unpleasant. He also appears to have lost a lot of weight in this. The Joker is traditionally portrayed as a skinny feller but here the movie uses this to make the character feel at times downright primal or sickly, matching his mental state.
However, the movie should not have been two hours long. In order to show the events that create the Joker, Phillips over-compensates and throws way too many plot points at the guy. There are moments that are quite tedious, especially in the middle. There is a also a subplot I was really not found of that reeks of uninspired fan-fiction.
To be honest, this was such a grounded piece by superhero comic standards that it could've been a non-comic book film. Yeah, DC is trying to show that these films can be more prestigious and serious, but by taking out the over-the-top parts of the superhero genre, I feel we may lose what made them special in the first place.
This is the first real comic supervillain movie. (Venom's movie was an anti-hero flick.) But taking the comics into account: his isn't the first attempt to redo a supervillain's origina story. I feat that a lot of these stories frustratingly tend to recycle concepts and this is no exception. These include: 1) Make the villain's story darker than previous incarnations. 2) Have one of their few connections be with a mother and/or romantic interest or fixation (Zazie Beets' character could've been cut out of this completely without changing anything).
Considering that this is about a burgeoning psychopath, you can probably guess, but just to confirm: this is a REALLy dark movie. Violence doesn't happen all the time but when it does: Whoo-boy! Phillips has publicly mentioned that the films of Scorses, such as Taxi Driver and The Comedian, greatly influenced him. So, be forewarned if that's not your thing.
I really had a hard time deciding on the rating for this. On one hand, Phillips, who has directed comedies up till now, surprisingly pulls off quite a confident, intriguing cinematic experience. The movie managed to elicit an emotional response from me that very few films have. However, the issues I mentioned prevented me from loving this or watching a second time. Some of the theater audience at the end clapped, but I personally don't think the movie was strong enough to justify that.
Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
Decent, but there was room for improvement
Based on a true story, Jillian Bell plays Brittany, a woman with insecurities and an unhealthy lifestyle, who is told by a doctor that it would be healthier for her to lose weight. This leads her on a path to discovery and eventual plans to run a marathon. I found this to have a generally good uplifting story, but the specific parts don't all work. The script could'v gone through another revision.
There are moments where the humor and dialogue really snaps and others where they don't work at all and scenes feel drawn out or superfluous. Brittany herself at times can be very sympathetic with real world doubts, but at other times her negative actions are so over-the-top that you can't relate to her.
Speaking of Brittany, Jillian Bell does a great job in the role. Many of us have probably seen her in things over the years, such as 22 Jump Street and Date Night, but she's mostly been a supporting player. It's nice to see her take center stage and show that she can do a bit of drama.
This movie is shot interestingly. It uses bright colors like a comedy but uses handheld camerawork and has sort of a more down-to-Earth feel.
As a feel-good movie, I thinks this works more than it doesn't. Just don't expect perfection.
Ad Astra (2019)
A real visual experience, the plot however...
Ad Astra is basically a little bit of a mesh of Black Hole meets Apocalypse Now as Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who goes into space seeking his long thought dead father played by Tommy Lee Jones who may be linked to a serious of dangerous electrical surges. It's a great looking film that can also be pretty dull at points.
This is one of the most visually impressive films of the year. There is just so much gorgeous scenery and special effects. Includes the best looking realization of the moon's surface I've ever seen. The film does a great job of balancing the whiteness or colors of the spacecraft with the darkness of space. The cinematography is also excellent with just some great camera shots.
The movie does a strong job of world building in this near future world where space travel is easier and travel to the moon is pretty routine. The setting is explained naturally without forced exposition.
This is a very deliberately paced movie that focuses too much on the hero's journey for it's own good. This is isn't too much of an issue for the first half of the film as they throw several interesting things at you. However as Pitt's character travels further away from human civilization, scenes get far more drawn out and just plain boring. I had to step away for a few minutes and didn't miss anything.
It doesn't help the movie any that the main story and the hero's journey are all really basic and predictable when you get down to it.
Though I just said how simple his character's arc was, Pitt does a really good job of selling the guy especially since he has his emotions in check for a good part of the film. Though he's not in this much, Jones also does a hell of a job. (Also, this isn't really relevant to the content of the film, but Donald Pleasance is in this and this is the first time I've seen him without facial hair. I think he's a reverse Trebeck in that I actually thinks he looks better without it despite being accustomed to him with the moustache and sometimes beard for years.)
I think this film is more appealing to those you are interested in intellectual films. If you're into pure entertainment, this may not be your thing.
Fun, but not outstanding
Promare takes place in a world where giant robot piloting firefighters go up against the Burnish, a group of people who control flames. The Burnish are also persecuted in this world and soon things become more complicated.
In my opinion, Gurren Lagan and Kill la Kill are two of the best anime of recent years. So when I heard that the studio and main director and studio Studio Trigger were making a movie, I made sure to see this.
This has a very unique look to the scenery. A simplistic lineless cel-shaded look involving neon colors and geometric shapes. The minimalist look can be pretty impressive at times, like a scene of the mountains at sunset. The costumes, giant robots, and actions scenes are all stylishly designed.
However, I did find the quick shots and frame rate to be a bit jarring. The character designs are from the same guy who did Gurren Lagan and I felt a couple of characters' looks felt recycled.
Promare has an over-the-top tone to it and isn't afraid to poke a little fun at itself. Still, the stakes and world building in this are enough that they are able to anchor the movie.
This does suffer from trying to squeeze a little too much into two hours. There are way too many characters. A couple of the firefighters don't really do much. At times, the film feels like it's going too quickly just jamming stuff down your throat. At other times, new plot developments feel like things are being stretched out.
The villains are rather one-dimensional and over-the-top.
The music is pretty good and helps set the mood.
Overall, I didn't like this as much Gurren Lagan and Kill La Kill. This movie just tried to do too much. This may've worked better as a TV show that gave eveything time to breathe. Promare though distinctive in style doesn't tread that much new ground from past anime that feature giant robots or characters with mutant abilities. Surprisingly, this isn't even the first firefighter hero-themed anime. That all said, I still had a good time. This is sugar food, lightweight fun.
Hustlers, based on a true story, is about a group of strippers who suffering financially after the crash of 2008 start drugging and stealing from well-off guys. To be honest, I wouldn't have watched this if it wasn't for the fact that there weren't any films out this weekend that I was particularly jazzed about. Still I try to rationalize the cost of my AMC A-List subscription by seeing at least one movie a week. I was really glad I chose this one.
This is an interesting film. It's a morally gray movie that focuses on the ethical murkiness of the situation of women taking advantage of the type of men who take advantage of them. The movie doesn't try to take a particular stand but just wants you to watch in fascination like a good true crime story. This also sort of has a heist-type feel to it. It's also pretty funny at moments.
The film does a good job of making you like the strippers at the outset before their actions become more complex and shadier. All four leads are great. I particularly liked Fresh off the Boat/Crazy Rich Asians' Constance Wu as the lead in a well-balanced performance. Keke Palmer also has great comedic chops in this.
Director Lorene Scafaria (who directed Looking for a Friend for the End of the World, an interesting film) really has a confident hold on this film. This is one of those movies that does an excellent job of leading the viewer. There are just some really strong edits and other ideas. The lighting, the outfits, the musical selections, etc. are all good.
Overall, the Hustlers is very interesting, very enthralling.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (2015)
Fun, but not the best in the series
This is a generally fun game, but it isn't a standout in the series.
To clarify this is really a M+L game and not a Paper Mario game. The gameplay like in the previous games is a fun combination of RPG battles and button timing. Paper Mario with his own unique abilities is a fun addition. However, I did find several of the special moves and avoidances for boss attacks to be a bit trickier than needed. I'm happy to say they got rid of the long gameplay tutorials from Dream Team.
This game drops the double-screen/sidescrolling stages from the last two games. I'm okay with that as Dream Team, while fun, just couldn't sustain the energy the concept had when it was first introduced in Bowser's Inside Story.
Also instead of the giant fights from the last two games, we get cardboard fights in which the characters fight each with cardboard bots in a tank warfare style situation. It's an interesting idea, but it always feels too drawn out for it's own good. You have to recharge your weapons with a musical rhythm timing game, and it gets tedious real fast.
The overall map isn't as big as some of the other games; a little too much backtracking for it's own good. You just don't get as many sidequests or additional characters, too. I am disappointed there are no real new character or bad guys to fight in this.
The plot is decent but pretty basic. Watching Luigi's antics remain a highlight of the game.
I liked playing the this, but it also reminded me how the previous games were stronger.
Doesn't work as a sequel or by it's own merits
This is a sort-of-sequel to Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. Fans generally consider it to be the best of all Scooby-Doo movies, including live action, which is probably why the WB cynically decided to make this film to captialize on the popularity of the first one. I really wish they hadn't as nothing much of interest came out of this.
The reason this film doesn't work is because it doesn't have any of the things that made the first film work. SDoZI was different than most other SD fare. It was darker and had a more dramatic story and real monsters. None of the many, many other films ever quite matched this tone. This movie is part of the current SD animated universe which has relied more on humor and sticking to the "there-is-always-a-human-being-behind-it formula." The shear difference in tone feels disrespectful and basically neuters the first one.
Also, these two films really take place in separate animated universes. The characters were adults in the first and teenagers in this one, but this movie unsuccessfully tries to connect the timelines.
Of course the previous paragraph is from a guy with way too much time on his hands being defensively nostalgic over a kid's film. How is this to park your children in front of? To be honest, it's too dry. There are several jokes about a certain subject I can't spoil, that I don't think younger viewers will get. (No, I don't mean anything dirty.) The jokes aren't even that much to get anything out of adults, either. Though there are a few bits about Fred's unhealthy attachment to the mystery mobile that work pretty well.
A monster-in-pursuit segment song in this has a classic 60's feel to it. It doesn't match the feel of this movie at all, and I don't think it'll appeal to today's kids. Sorry to go back to comparing this to the first one, but that was a good example of catchy songs that actually fit the feel of the story.
There are a couple things to the film's credit. The opening credits look nice. They do something plot-wise that has hasn't been tried before in Scooby-Doo and I thought it was a good idea.
Interestingly, this is the first Scooby-Doo film to tie in the events of the last film as the group is still "officially" retired from crime-solving after pressure from the local sheriff. Again, I applaud the creators fro trying something new, but I don't think this subplot ever really paid off.
If your kid is a Scooby-Doo fan, they probably won't mind, and I wouldn't say this is downright bad. But if you have to listen to this as they watch, know that this isn't one of the better ones. Critically speaking, Return to Zombie Island never really justifies its existence.
It Chapter Two (2019)
Not the sequel I was expecting or wanted
I liked the first one. Although they were aspects to enjoy here, this wasn't the part two that I wanted.
The film keeps up with the first by having some very good scares and just being visually creative in general. This movie includes a couple of very inspired transition shots near the beginning.
The cast playing the adult members of the Loser's Club all do a good job. I know it's been said to death but SNL & Barry's Bill Hader is the best of them. However, credit should also be given to Insidious' James Ransone. This movie is definitely funnier than it's predecessor and Ransone does a great double act with Hader. They have great chemistry. Of course, Bill Skarsgård still steels the show. His Pennywise continues to be unsettlingly childish and inhuman.
The main problem of this movie is that it relies waaaay too much on flashbacks. A lot of people liked the kid actors in the last film. Given that the adult character portion of the book and the mini-series is generally considered weaker, I'm guessing that the creators got worried about focusing just on the grown ups. So, a good portion of the second act relies on flashbacks to never-before-seen scenes of the kids. I mean there is a lot of this. Except for Hader's RItchie, who never really got a personal journey last time, we're not getting anything new. (Plus, I really didn't need to see anymore of Beverley's creepy father.) The setup for the flashbacks results in way too much of the characters just wandering about without much development. The sequel is way too nostalgic for the first, even the adult segments do too much recycling of previous stuff. I didn't want any of this. When I learned that the adaptation was being split into two movies for each of the age groups, I was prepared and content to watch just the adults, and I didn't get that. There needed to be way more time to focus on the lives of the current characters. (Again the character of Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa from the Old Spice commercials) doesn't get a lot of screentime.) BIll's wife and Beverly's husband basically have cameos here. Both actually had roles to play in the book. I would have preferred they cut the flashbacks and focused more on those characters.
The movie includes the last one's flaw of going way too-over-the-top with the real world threats. They are fairly cringey. In the past I could rationalize that the human characters are so evil and/or one-dimensional because everyone in Derry is affected by Pennywise's evil. However, here we see someone from outside the town also acting that way. So, now I'm just thinking it's just a lack of subtlety on the creator's case.
There was a point where I was considering giving this a ranking one notch higher, because I did like the good stuff. But in the end, I realized that I remembered the parts that bugged me far more. Be forewarned that this is one of those movies where personal enjoyment will really differ.
Swamp Thing (2019)
Some parts work and some don't
Ah Swamp Thing, the big budget show for DCUniverse that got it's episode order cut down from 13 to 10 episodes without warning during production and was then cancelled after only the first episode. (The exact reason hasn't been stated but the buzz is that the higher-ups were either weren't confident in what they saw in the show, the high budget, a lack of financial oversight, or a mix of those options.) So was it fairly cancelled or or just unappreciated by the suits? Well, it's a little complicated.
This show goes with a real southern gothic horror vibe to it and it pays off in spades. When it comes to the often swamp/bayou-themed monsters, the show is very impressive and could make you squirm. The effects are really good. (Though you can still tell this is a TV budget and not theatrical.)
The set for the swamp looks great and has this otherworldly quality to it. I also like the look of the solitary swamp outpost sitting in the water.
The outfit for the Swamp Thing is also impressively detailed. I like that they stuck with practical for him. Derek Mears, who's made a career of being monsters and villains, plays and voices the character and really gets to demonstrate his acting chops. He brings a real pathos to the haunted creature. Kevin Durand also does a great job as socially awkward, research-focused scientist Dr. Jason Woodrue.
Given that the main villain of the Swamp Thing movies, the short-lived cartoon, and the 90's show was Dr. Anton Arcane, I liked that they held off on using him this season and gave other villains a chance to shine.
The show also strives for southern gothic drama, and that part often didn't work for me. There are moments of impressiveness, but overall the show felt too soap opera-ey.
Antagonist Avery Sutherland (Will Patton, the villain from The Postman) is too much of a caricature of a corrupt, southern rich guy. He should've been a recurring character instead of a regular. He has his moments, but he repeats his small stock of character traits too often and just becomes exhausting.
When the action, horror, and sci-fi moments hit, this show is must-see TV. But when it comes to following the lives of the regular folks of the bayou-adjacent Town of San Marais, I found myself looking at my phone. In whole, I was generally entertained. I am disappointed that this show won't get a second chance to improve itself or answer a couple remaining plot threads, but it's not like I'll lose a lot of sleep over its absence either.
Steven Universe: The Movie (2019)
Pretty darn good
I've heard good things about this popular cartoon show about Steven Universe (voiced by Zach Callison), a half-alien boy, and his jewel-themedalien friends, but I haven't had the time to see it. A movie, however, I have time for. For someone jumping in, I was pretty entertained.
This movie does a really good job of setting up the plot and basic characters, the main ones anyway. This film has a robust group of supporting characters from the show, but I didn't feel that they were too much of an issue. I mean, I don't think anyone's opinion of the Popeye movie was really affected by whether or not they knew who Wimpy was.
The STeven Universe movie has a very unique narrative tone, something I've never quite seen before. There are moments where the style of dialoque doesn't quite work for me. (It feels more like the creator's choice than the audience age). But overall, I found this to be a pretty good script. The film like the show from what I understand is really big on acceptance and personal individuality, and it does an excellent job. This is a surprisingly strong character piece for a children's film; the main cast have a lot going on emotionally. The movie's villain Spinel (Sarah Stiles) is well-utilized and developed for a character created specifically for this work without any other setup. She really helps make the movie, and her backstory is movingly tragic.
For a made-for-television budget, this is animated surprisingly well. The whole thing looks so good and colorful with fluid action scenes. I love the opening credits. Again Spinel stands out as she is designed and moves like a '30's cartoon character and fights in a fast, rubbery fashion.
This is also a musical. Like the rest of the elements of film, the songs are also really unique. It helps that all the voice actors have great singing voices.
For a person who doesn't watch SU, I got into this fairly easily and had a surprisingly good time.
Still brings on the scares
Man of Medan is the first in the Dark Pictures series, which is supposed to be a total of eight short interactive story, horror survival games. It is is also a spiritual successor to publisher Supermassive Games' Until Dawn. Though I can't say this game quite matches UD, I still enjoyed it.
LOOK: Being a smaller game, this doesn't quite match the visual grandeur or the scope of the settings of UD, which basically had a smorgasbord of spooky places. But this game is still entertainingly creepy. There are some pretty well-done scares and threats and the abandoned ship that this game mostly takes place in looks pretty good. I also really liked the opening credits.
Unfortunately, the character graphics haven't really improved since UD and don't compare to other recent games. (With a new DP installment expected every six months or so, I'm not entirely surprised if this game was a bit rushed.) The hair rendering looks particularly bad in the sunlight. Some scene and screen change transitions are awkward. I also had an error take me out of the game, though it was at a save point, so I didn't have to backtrack.
STORY: Being a shorter game, around five hours give or take, this game also doesn't offer as much story as UD, but I also felt this kind of helps the replay value in that your time isn't as stretched out. (Though there is a little too much hallway wandering and item searching than I'd prefer.)
I liked the story pretty well. The characters encounter a series of interesting threats. For such a quick game, MoM does offer what appears to be a pretty varied number of endings, even mixing things up a bit more in comparison to UD's just-try-to-have-them-not-die-goals.
The dialogue, much like UD can be clunky, especially at the beginning. However, also much like UD, the cast manages to elevate the script.
The DP series has a host the Curator (mocap acted by Pip Torrens). Though he has some nice lines, the character didn't really work for me. You expect a horror host to have some presence, be they creepy, comical, or mysterious. Here the Curator is just kind of there.
GAMEPLAY: This game fixes the hiding events from UD. In that game, in order to hide you had to keep the controller completely still. Unfortunately, the motion sensor was too picky. As a person with slightly shaky hands, I could never keep still enough. Here you have to press the buttons in line with the rhythm of your character's heartbeat. It gets pretty tricky, but at least it's fair.
What this game doesn't fix from UD is the walking. It's still as slow as last time. Also like UD, the game tells you to press R2 to walk faster, but there is no noticeable effect. The fact that they didn't fix this is a wee bit infuriating.
OVERALL: Despite some of the game's failings, this is still one of my favorite interactive story games. Man of Medan moves at a quick pace and kept me intrigued as to what would happen next.
Seijû sentai Gingaman (1998)
Interesting little season
Though not my favorite season of Super Sentai, Gingaman is fun with a distinct identity.
It did take me a few episodes to like the Gingamen and halfway through the season to like the villains the Space Pirates Balban. The main cast all have unique characteristics and end up being likable. The Balban bicker too much at the beginning. However, we encounter more interesting personalities and changes within their organization as the show goes on. This season differs from all the others in that the villains are divided into four unites, each with their own general and theme, keeping things mixed.
Pretty good robot and monster design in this. I particularly like the design of the pirate leader Zahab, it's something that has to be seen to be truly understood. The foot soldiers The Swabbies may be one of the goofiest looking foot soldiers in the show's history, but you won't forget them, I tell you that.
The villains' main goal in this is to find a way to revive their space monster Daitanix, which they use to fly around the universe and destroy planets with. (Although this would be a common plot device in later seasons, I think this is the first time the show switched from general destruction or world domination to trying to acquire/raise something each episode.) What I liked about this is that the villains would frequently change their strategies in how to accomplish the goal and it kept thing varied.
I recommend this to all Super Sentai fans.
Not a whole lot like this
Legion, about David Haller (Dan Stevens), a man in a mental institution who discovers he is a powerful mutant, is simply one of the most creative shows out there.
This is definitely one of the best looking television shows out there. It takes place in this pseudo-60's world and the whole thing is really inspired by the look of the era. A lot of color in this. The first season starts out kind of grounded in reality with the next two seasons just launching into inspired weirdness. This also contains some of the freakiest creature designs out there.
The narrative is one of the most unique I've encountered as well. However, it does feel that creator Noah Hawley is more interested in ideas than the overall narrative or characterization. There are some great performers in this but some of the cast members are often given short shrift and treated like afterthoughts. There are several artsy stand-alone episodes that detract from the narrative and I don't feel they were interesting enough to justify their existence. I wouldn't say the final episode is bad per say, but it may not be the ending that a lot of people were expecting or wanting.
Be forewarned that this show can get pretty dark at times and that the characters aren't always particularly likable.
There is nothing like Legion on TV. Despite my criticisms, I do recommend you see this.
Angel Has Fallen (2019)
Banning returns in a somewhat different situation
The Fallen franchise deviates from the previous installments by taking a page from The Fugitive and having Secret Service member Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) framed for treason and having to go on the run to find who set him up. This is a generally entertaining film, but I found that there was a strangely interesting balance of several good and bad aspects.
This was a lot more tonally balanced than the previous two films. Olympus has Fallen was weirdly cynical for a save-the-hostages film. London has Fallen unsuccessfully tried to involve both moral greyness and jingoism not to mention that there were a couple moments where Banning seemed to take a little TOO much pleasure in punishing the enemy. Here, I could mostly just sit back and enjoy myself without questioning anything.
However, the basic story is CONSPIRACY ACTION MOVIE 101; nothing particularly new. I did like the script's attempts, albeit merely for entertainment reasons, of looking at the war machine and interference vs. non-interference.
Butler's still got it as Banning. Nick Nolte is a fun new addition as Banning's reclusive survivalist, anti-government father. The villains if not outstanding are smart and provide a reasonable threat with some neat tricks up their sleeves.
The action is quite good, especially the opening attack and the final confrontation. Thought the lighting is pretty grey, especially considering the first film, but it suits the tone here. Director Ric Roman Waugh (who helmed The Snitch with The Rock) has a good eye for visuals and settings.
The camera work is distracting. There is way too much shaky cam not to mention a couple misplace quick pans. This even happens when people are just having everyday conversations. Also, there's a car chase with way too many interior shots of inside the cars than the action you actually want to see.
I definitely think this is better than London has Fallen. Though not the greatest action movie ever made, this is a good time-waster.
A fine Sherlock Holmes show, even if it isn't the most faithful to the material
I've always felt this was one of the better American network channel shows.
When the Elementary started, it had the unenviable position of being compared to the popular British Sherlock Holmes show with Benedict Cumberbatch. However, this show really managed to find a place for itself as a far different modern Sherlock reimagining. I still think the other one is better, but Elementary managed to justify it's existence.
The show really focuses on the corporate world, providing a lot of interesting facts about corporate law. The mysteries feel a little more fleshed out than some other detective shows.
The tone is pretty well-balanced, unlike some detective shows. It doesn't get too comical or light, but it doesn't go too depressing or gritty either.
Jonny Lee Miller does an excellent job as Sherlock Holmes. He does a pretty good balancing act of being human and quirky. I can't say that Lucy Liu is my favorite Watson personality-wise, but she does a very good job of being Holmes' straight man and definitely feels more fleshed out and less of a sidekick than some other Watsons. The chemistry between the two characters is the main driving force of the show.
The show's strength is its stand-alone episodes. The story arcs on the other hand? Well, let me be specific. The story for the first season is pretty good, and the first half of season three ain't half bad itself. The others, though, never quite manage and are either just okay or misguided. Though, the shorter, more personal character arcs work fairly well.
Overall, this show had a unique feel, and I will miss it.
Ready or Not (2019)
A fun time with a messed-up family
In this horror comedy, Grace (Samara Weaving), a bride, on her wedding night, unexpectedly finds herself in a ritualistic deadly game of hide-and-seek orchestrated by her rich in-laws. I found this to be a very well-put together movie.
The backbone of the film is the dysfunctional Le Domas family. Each member is distinctive and well acted, and they have varying levels of competence and willingness. The ritual isn't a regular occurrence for them, and they act like regular people more than most horror movies featuring groups of killers. Half the fun is seeing the Le Domases try to figure what to do next as much as the heroine. Speaking of her, Grace is a fine lead. Admittedly, her character doesn't differentiate herself much from other movie heroines, but Weaving is good in the role. You do root for her as things get progressively worse.
The actual backstory of why the ritual is taking place is thought-out and interesting.
The movie blends the humor and the horror. Though the violent moments occur sporadically, they are pretty strong when they happen. I was kept tense by what was happening to Grace and what'll happen next.
The design, sets, and costumes all look great. They have a classic haunted house or murder mystery feel to them.
Be forewarned that although the film is generally amusing, I didn't have any laugh-out-loud moments. It's more about the general feel.
Overall, I found this to be a pretty fun time and recommend it.
Batman: Hush (2019)
This direct-to-DVD/streaming animated film, adapts the popular comics storyline Hush, which pits Batman (voiced by Jason O'Mara) against the mysterious Hush (Geoffrey Arend) who is manipulating the villains of Gotham.
I liked this. Running at only 81 minutes, this movie does a pretty good job of balancing the busy plot and multiple characters. The movie's main focus is on the relationship between Batman and Catwoman (Watchmen and Childrens Hospital's Jennifer Morrison). I found it to be far more in-depth than any other film. Action scenes are pretty good.
There are a lot of complaints about the changes this made from the original story, but I felt it to be satisfactory.
This is one of the best of the DC Animated Universe films, but it doesn't reach the heights of the best animated Batman films: Mask of the Phantasm, Under the Hood, and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. The dialogue and characterization is never quite there.
Unless you're a purist for the original story, I found this to be a decent time waster.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)
More over-the-top than the first one
This sequel to the original 47 Meters Down has a group of teenage girls scuba diving in a series of Mayan caves when they become trapped with sharks. Not the greatest shark movie ever, but it has it's moments.
The first film was a relatively grounded, by shark movie standards, horror thriller with more emphasis on the thriller part. I give director Johannes Roberts credit for his choicemaking. Rather than risk retreading water (pardon the pun), which isn't too hard giving the basic nature of shark movies. The movie goes into a completely different tonal direction becoming a more teen-friendly, over-the-top horror thriller with emphasis on the horror.
On more than one occasion when a sequel goes broader, it can be bad news. But, it works here. There are some pretty strong moments of violence and other creative ideas. The final act really dials it up to 11.
The Mayan caves make for a far more interesting setting than the cage surrounded by darkness in the first film. Thoug, some of the earlier scenes can also be a little too murky for their own good. It can also be hard to tell which diver is which half the time; I thought that one person who had died was an entirely different person at first. Still overall, Roberts again demonstrates a pretty good handle on underwater filming.
It's only in the second half that things really get going. The movie strangely grows in quality as it goes on.
Though the movie takes place in Central America, you barely see any Central Americans. Everyone interacting, especially the students at the conveniently existing local international high school, just happen to be American. The character set up is as basic as it gets. Acting is also basic, though Brianne Tju does a brilliant job of selling her fear.
Overall, I like this one better than the first one. The original is definitely the more polished piece, but this one is more entertaining.
Good Boys (2019)
This R-rated comedy is about a trio of tweens (Room and The Predator's Jacob Tremblay, Last Man on Earth's Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon) who want to learn how to kiss for an upcoming party. The kids are naive and their attempts to learn land them in a series of increasingly insane situations. And I loved it.
The movie is insanely funny. Joke after joke lands. I haven't laughed so much during a movie in a long, long time.
The three leads are all distinctive and likable. The actors do an excellent job. The entire cast is strong.
They do try a little too hard at points to push the boundaries of what you can do with children in a movie. There is one scene that is especially uncomfortable. I'm not trying to censor, but ask yourself: how far is too far?
The film has a good ending, but I felt a few parts could've been edited down. The film runs briskly at an hour and a half. Part of strength is it pacing, jumping constantly from situation to situation without driving a joke to death. However, you expect things to slow down once you reach the wrap up.
Unless you feel uncomfortable with children in some pretty mature situations, I highly recommend this.
Excels at the scares
I found this adaptation of the popular children's book trilogy to be one of those films that has great scares with an okay plot.
Director André Øvredal (who directed the excellent The Autopsy of Jane Doe) really knows how to bring on the scares. For those worried that the violence and gruesomeness is going to be watered down because this is from children's books, be rest assured that Øvredal manages to push the PG-13 rating pretty far. The movie does a great job with the atmosphere when the scares kick in. The characters are attacked by several stories come to life, and each one is accompanied by an unrelenting sense of doom.
The ghosts and monsters in this are heavily based on the original, iconic, and freaky illustrations by Stephen Gammell, which, let's be honest, are as much as responsible for the books' fame as the stories. They look great. They also rely on practical effects when... well... practical. I found the Pale Lady segment to be one of the best scares of the year. Only draw back is that the final foe, though still creepy, doesn't quite compare to the ones before it.
The plot is okay, just okay. The opening suffers from trying to both fit in the exposition and getting to the scares too quickly. The revelation of what causes all the evil to occur felt undercooked. On the plus side, there are a few clever lines in this.
Acting is mostly just okay. The weaker points are Tommy the bully (Austin Abrams) who even by movie terms is too over-the-top and Natalie Ganzhorn as Ruth, one of the teens, who just doesn't gel. In fairness to the actress, I don't know if the director and the screenwriters really had a grip on the character either.
Once again, I want to clarify that the plot isn't bad, just not great. I recommend this for the scares, which by themselves would've had this rated a little higher.
The Lion King (2019)
Runs mostly on presentation
Found this computer-generated remake to be an entertaining on the whole with a few caveats.
The movie looks so amazing and photo-realistic. The background in particular is really impressive, I'm surprised this film had only one real setting shot. You really can't tell the difference between this landscape and the real world. Director John Favreau (Iron Man; Jungle Book) has some interesting shots in this. At times, the movie feels like a nature documentary.
Plotwise, this is probably the least ambitious of the recent Disney remakes. Unlike Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, which clung to the plot structure of the originals but also added new elements, this one just retells the basic story. Still, I'm not hating it. This isn't the 90's Psycho. It's not word-by-word. What works for me here is that the jokes are almost all new and they work really well.
Cast is decent. All the funny characters jive. Donald Glover as adult Simba and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar do a good job as the hero and villain. However, Beyonce as adult Nala sometimes really comes across as reading off the page without a whole lot of effort.
The background music really sells the scenes, but admittedly Hans Zimmer basically just rehashes the music from the first film.
This contains all the classic songs from the original. However, "Be Prepared" has been changed to a half-it's-length spoken word song with reworked lyrics. I know at one point the news was that they were cutting this song. (Either for time or Ejiofor just didn't have the pipes.) I'm guessing this was added back due to the backlash but modified to accomodate either or both of the potential issues just mentioned. I actually would've preferred if they left the song out rather than going with this neutered version, which doesn't quite work.
If you feel that the recent Disney remakes are soulless cashgrabs, this really won't be the one to change your mind. Despite coasting with the story, I personally found this to be engaging.
Descendants 3 (2019)
Good ending to Descendants, if not the standout of the series
Not my demographic, but I've always been fascinated by this campy, weird little world that combines mostly the Disney fairy tale movies with children-oriented high school drama and the modern day.
Though the movie suffers a little from franchise fatigue, this ain't half bad.
This isn't as strong as the first two movies. (In fairness, the script is more cohesive than the first film). The individual character moments just don't have the impact and charm of the previous flicks. This probably has to do with the fact that there are just TOO many characters to juggle by now. I mean the overall story films is resolved competently, some elements and characters are just handled really quickly. If you missed Audrey, daughter of Cinderella, (played by the Charmed reboot's Sarah Jeffrey) in the second movie, you'll be pleased to see her back. But if you liked Lonnie, daughter of Mulan, (Dianne Doan) from the first two films, you'll be disappointed to see her missing. I'm guessing they just didn't have time for her.
Crammed plot aside, this is an okay film. (I mean by Disney Channel Movie standards. I'd still put this near the top of them.) Story and characters are decent. The cast is strong and everyone seems like they're having fun. (RIP Cameron Boyce). I'm legitimately impressed how this movie takes itself seriously in it's own way. There is legitimate character development and use of such issues as redemption and morality. The handling of the socioeconomics of the world of Auradon, where criminals have been banished to a prison island and their kids are forced to grow up on it, is surprisingly complex and nuanced for a Disney Channel movie. (Again, by the channel's standards. The bar must be set accordingly.) If this is to be the final film, it ends the story exactly where it needs to.
The movie continues one of this series' biggest selling points: Its look. Again, we are bombarded by some delightully uber-corful and whimsical sets and costumes. I know the costumes are a little nuts, but they are just so distinctive.
Unfortunately, the songs go downhill. They are mostly weak or just okay. They just aren't catchy. The best in this is probably the villain song Queen of Mean, but it runs completely on style, and I don't know how many people will remember this afterwards. The dancing, however, still remains pretty impressive.
Overall, if your kids liked Descendants 1 & 2, they'll probably likethis. In general, number 3, while not the standout of the films, is the ending the movies needed.