Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie review.

It only feels like yesterday when The Force Awakens made such a big splash, reinvigorating the long misused and tainted Star Wars brand, and introducing those grandeur space battles to a whole new generation. The Force Awakens did precisely what it needed to, and then some, by negating the damaging impact of the prequels, and restoring the good will and old-fashioned adventurism the series had become classic for. The results were outstanding to say the least, even if viewers felt some disappointment that the film (understandably) heeded so closely to the structure of A New Hope.

And while this wasn't enough to take away from what a great time it was, it was still clearly a first step into a much bigger and greater sandbox. Now freed from the shackles of nostalgic expectations, and able to more carefully craft its blank slate, and a time-waster spin-off inbetween to tide us over, the adventures of Rey and company can continue down darker, more complex, more unexpected routes in the follow-up film, The Last Jedi. And if falling short of the same standards set by The Force Awakens, is only slightly so. The fact still remains that this is one thoroughly satisfying and awe-inspiring film.

Reviewer's note: This review will have minor spoilers for The Last Jedi, as well as spoilers for The Force Awakens. Read at your own risk.

Friday, December 1, 2017

(Not so) Brief thoughts on Justice League.

As much I think DC's Extended Universe has had some middling returns, I'm not one to indulge in the "Marvel v DC" debate. Both are perfectly capable of co-existing with each other. The problem is that whereas Marvel has taken careful time to slowly build their universe, DC's universe has always felt like a Frankenfranchise of numerous cooks throwing their eggs into one basket, and then try to compensate for their dour moods and numerous missteps with badly judged course corrections, Suicide Squad being a particularly embarrassing shipwreck.

Clearly they still haven't learned from their mistakes, because the recut and retooled Justice League finally sees those sins come back to haunt them. What should have been an event the scale of The Avengers or The Force Awakens, instead feels like any other blockbuster out there, opening to a comparatively pathetic $93 million opening weekend. And... it really isn't that bad.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Thanksgiving Double Feature: Lady Bird and Coco.

Over Thanksgiving, I was thankful to turn my attention to what I comfortably consider among the year's finest films, Lady Bird from Greta Gerwig, and Disney/Pixar's Coco. Stylistically, the two are practically nothing alike, one a snarky but sweetly delivered time capsule of emotional teenage turbulence, the other a whimsical and tearjerking adventure of heritage and music, and while both are hilarious, they are so in markedly different ways. But I found this particular match-up to actually be a perfect juxtaposition, as both deal in weighty and complex issues of family and parentage, whose oddities and alternating pessimism/optimism served as a great counter balance to each other. Both are terrific works, and I'll leave my thoughts on both today.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Brief thoughts on Cars 3.

With Disney and Pixar's upcoming Thanksgiving release of Coco, it's time I turned my head to Pixar's other big release of the year, Cars 3, which made its way to Blu-Ray recently. For the record, I didn't have any desire to actively seek this movie out. I'm not even sure why Pixar finds it such a big deal, to be honest. For a studio responsible for some of the greatest animated features ever made, to see them continually spin their wheels (I apologize) on a franchise with little left to offer can be irritating. Why did we get three Cars movies before we got a second Incredibles? Personal feelings aside, how does the end result turn out?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok movie review.

Out of all the A-listers in Marvel's ongoing cinematic universe, I doubt many would consider the Thor entries to be among their absolute favorites. In their infancy, Marvel faced a tough time integrating the Norse god of thunder with the likes of Iron Man and Captain America, as his fantastical vibe made it tough to make him feel at home with the rest of his crew. Knowing this, his first solo entry from Kenneth Branagh stripped him of his powers in order to humanize him, serving as a taste of things to come in later entries.

Unfortunately, its follow-up The Dark World is one entry that does not survive the test of time, feeling uncharacteristically generic among Marvel's portfolio, and even its attempts at gargantuan scale were burdened by an over-reliance on powerless audience surrogates. But with Guardians of the Galaxy proving that the universe could dive in to the surreal and fantastical, and be embraced in the meantime, it feels like Marvel is finally letting Thor have the movie he deserves, the joyously eccentric Ragnarok that serves as a fantastic retooling of the character, leaning us closer to what these films should have been in the first place.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Halloween Movies.

"When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake,
Spooks come out for a swinging wake."
That day is almost upon us. It's nearly time for Halloween, a time that I like many others look forward to every year. And not simply because it signals Christmas as coming closer anytime it's over, but for being that rare time of year when everyone is free to let their freak flag fly, and the macabre spooks and haunts come to go bump in the night, full of festivities for everyone from trick or treaters, to those desiring something a little more ghastly, being that one time of year we welcome the frightening.

And key in this plays into those old annual classics to grace the silver screen and our home theaters, that linger and fester in our mind as they play their horrifying tricks on us, or give us something a little more light to ease us out of the terror and tickle us. Subgenres like the Slasher films were practically born because of Halloween, from Texas Chainsaw to (the appropriately named) Halloween, whose iconic villains and terrorizing nightmare fodder continue to haunt us even today.

It seems every film buff has his or her personal perennial favorite to sit back and enjoy this creepy time of year, and I'm no different. So in celebration of All Hallow's Eve, I've decided to leave my personal favorites for this time of year. These are not meant to be my favorite numerically ranked films, nor are they my attempt to say these are the scariest films ever made. Rather, these films stand here not by preference, but by how perfect they are to watch based on the atmosphere of the season, even if they have little to nothing to do with Halloween. Whether they be scary for the supernatural, for their humanity, or they work as nice counterprogramming to the grim and dark, I think these films are among those perfect to revisit this time of year.

And before we get to the main top ten, some honorable mentions to:
An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 2, The Addams Family, The Others, and ParaNorman.

And so, here presented in chronological order of their release, my top ten favorite Halloween films.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 movie review.

Coming into the 1980's, Sci-Fi traveled down a road less of fantastical adventure flicks, and as attitudes in the world changed, became much more grungy, and more chaotic than what we expected of the genre. Director Ridley Scott was one of those who pioneered its migration to that direction, having helmed the retro-fi blue collar Alien, and immediately following it up with Blade Runner, a then divisive film that soon was seen as a classic on reflection, casting usual charming rogue Harrison Ford against type as Rick Deckard, even as Scott spent years perfecting the film with edit after edit.

For years, the idea of a sequel had long gestated, but it seems any ideas simply didn't materialize. But now the idea finally becomes reality, tempting Harrison Ford back alongside Ryan Gosling, and now under the control of Denis Villeneuve. Although, pedigree is one thing, but can those ingrediants capture the same lightning in a bottle? The short answer is yes. Very, very well. Blade Runner 2049 not only stands as one of the year's finest films, but looks poised to be another classic in its own right.