Mar 112018
 

I was excited to see what kind of vision director Ava DuVernay would bring to Disney’s adaptation of the classic children’s book. but the results are middling at best. Too much of the movie is wasted on the characters reciting New Age pabulum while not enough attention is given to the book’s exploration of the dangers of conformity. The acting and visuals are fine; kids and tweens will probably enjoy what Disney offers here. There just isn’t much to keep adult audiences interested, which is unfortunate.

Mar 042018
 

I’m hoping that Get Out picks up at least a couple Oscars tonight. The Academy generally isn’t fond of genre movies, but Get Out is so much more than a horror movie. It’s a funny, incisive commentary on race and our inability to fully reckon with the legacy of racism in America. I also really liked the interspecies romance The Shape of Water, but Get Out is the more important movie. Director Jordan Peele is an exciting new voice and I want him to have plenty of leverage to do whatever he wants as his next project, although I’m already looking forward to his work on the rebooted Twilight Zone.

Mar 032018
 

I didn’t expect to be so moved by Pixar’s take on the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos; perhaps I’m becoming more sentimental in my old age. The story of a young boy who, against his family’s wishes, desperately wants to be a musician is a great setup for a thoughtful exploration of the artistic spirit, forgiveness, and the power of memory. The artistry in Pixar movies is always dazzling, but the kaleidoscopic vistas of the Land of the Dead make me wish that I had seen this on a big screen.

Coco plays it a little more straight than other Pixar films; you won’t find the subversive humor of WALL-E or The Incredibles here. But Coco is such an empathetic and sweet movie that any archness would seem out of place. See it with the people you love and be sure to bring a few tissues.

Dec 182016
 

Rogue One is the first standalone movie set in the Star Wars universe and, despite some lazy character development, it’s a worthy addition to the canon. We follow Jyn Erso, a reluctant recruit to the Rebel Alliance, and a motley band of freedom fighters as they try to steal the plans for the first Death Star. The plot moves along at a brisk pace and it soon becomes apparent that we are watching a war movie that is much darker in tone than other entries in the series (with the possible exception of The Empire Strikes Back). The theme of war and its costs hasn’t been explored much in the previous movies, so I was a little surprised at how bleak Rogue One could be at times.

The movie also provides a wealth of visually arresting moments as well as carefully placed Easter eggs for the hardcore fan. I’ve already seen it twice and I’m sure I still didn’t completely absorb all of the details in each scene. I would have liked a little more depth in the main characters and fewer vaguely portentous lines about their backstories, but vaguely portentous statements are the bread and butter of Star Wars. Perhaps the next standalone movie (featuring a young Han Solo) will do better in that regard, but Rogue One is still hugely entertaining.

Jul 162016
 

No, the Ghostsbusters reboot did not ruin my childhood. It’s been a disappointing summer movie season replete with misfires, but Ghostbusters is a funny and charming evening at the cinema. The entire cast has great chemistry, which helps sell even some of the weaker jokes. Kate McKinnon, in particular, delivers a delightfully weird performance that sometimes borders on the truly absurd. It lacks some of the original’s freshness, but how could it be otherwise? The 1984 blended comedy and spectacle in a way that hadn’t really been done before and today’s audiences are much more difficult to impress. The reboot doesn’t try to impress; it just wants to show you a good time, an skill that many blockbusters have forgotten.

Be sure to stay for the final scene after the credits roll. It offers a hint at a possible sequel that should excite fans of the original. I hope we get to see it.

Sep 112015
 

Remember that time when I couldn’t stop gushing about Children of Men? It’s still one of my favorite movies and it’s still a favorite topic of discussion among fellow film nerds. Case in point: this excellent video that examines how Cuaron’s use of background imagery works in conjunction with the main story playing out in the foreground.

This movie has been on my mind as I’ve watched news stories about the refugees seeking better lives in Europe. The situation isn’t quite as bleak as what’s portrayed in the film, but the vile xenophobia on display in places like Hungary isn’t far removed from it, either.

May 162015
 

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie whose engine never stops roaring until the credits roll. It’s a brilliantly executed return to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of The Road Warrior, but Fury Road makes that movie seem like a leisurely Sunday stroll in comparison. The plot is simple yet elegant: an extended chase sequence that ebbs and crescendoes in tightly choreographed displays of chaos. Max (Tom Hardy) is once again the tortured loner eking out a grim existence in the wastelands until he’s captured by Immortan Joe, a warlord with a death fixation. Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), launches a plan to liberate her master’s most favored sex slaves and take them to safety. As you might imagine, things don’t go according to plan.

Director George Miller makes sparing use of computer generated effects, which gives his scenes of automotive mayhem a more visceral feel. The chrome and sand flying across the screen is tangible in a way that the superpowers of the Avengers still aren’t. And while Max may be the titular hero, Furiosa is the movie’s true moral center and the character with the most depth. Theron joins the pantheon of female action stars (including Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton) whose presence elevates their movies from the generic to the compelling. Fury Road‘s feminist themes have managed to elicit growling and howls from the caves of the men’s rights advocates, which is another reason to love this movie.

Apr 172015
 

A few pop culture thoughts to end the week:

  • The new teaser for the upcoming Star Wars movie stands up well to repeated viewings. That shot of a Star Destroyer wreck in the desert (apparently not Tatooine, though) looks magnificent. But the teaser also raises many questions. What exactly is this new iteration of the Empire glimpsed in various scenes? Did the Rebels totally screw up their chance at governance? Are Han and Leia still a thing? These are the questions that will keep me awake between now and December.
  • I’ve only seen a couple episodes of the Daredevil series on Netflix, but what I have seen is excellent. The tone is dark but not oppressive, the dialogue is snappy, and the fight scenes are stunning. You should watch it.
Mar 122015
 

Rogue One, the first Star Wars spinoff movie announced today, has me intrigued. The title hints that it may focus on X-wing pilots, which presents all kinds of interesting storytelling possibilities. And it could have a woman as the lead character, which may demonstrate that Disney is trying to expand the franchise’s appeal to a wider audience. While we have yet to see whether any of these movies will actually be good, I’m impressed thus far with Disney’s handling of the property. They seem to be making real efforts to create a movie universe that could be just as interesting as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has worked out quite well for them.

Feb 202015
 

I’m excited to see what director Neil Blomkamp does with the Alien franchise. District 9 is one of my favorite science fiction films of the last few years and an Alien movie could be a great showcase for his gritty, shakycam-fuelled sensibility. And if his movie chooses to ignore the mess that came after Aliens, even better. Based on some of the concept art that Blomkamp previously shared on his Instagram feed, we could get to see the return of Ripley and a grizzled Corporal Hicks. I’m also taking bets on what role Sharlto Copley will play and whether his character will survive until the end of the movie.