Monthly Archives: April 2019

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Movie Review – Missing Link

Category : Movie Review

Director: Chris Butler

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana

Year: 2019

My reaction to the Missing Link trailer in January was doubtful, and I quote: “It’s hard to imagine this movie reaching the same level as other Laika films (Coraline, ParaNorman, Boxtrolls, Kubo); it just doesn’t have that same feel.  I’m sure the animation will be spectacular, what they do is so wonderful, I just don’t see any real reason to watch other than the production company’s fame.  I hope I’m wrong.”  Update: I wasn’t wrong.  Missing Link doesn’t bring the magic that Laika’s others have almost guaranteed from the first still image, failing to live up to the hype built up by audiences’ expectations when they imagine what stop-motion marvels might be next.  Good not great, it’s a project that leaves us wanting more, wanting something else, hoping that the next batter up will be a stronger hitter.

Sir Lionel Frost is the greatest adventurer that the world has never heard of, all his discoveries undocumented or unbelieved.  Wanting desperately to be accepted as part of the club of famous hunters and explorers, Frost doesn’t go for the easy bait, he sets his sights a little higher: dodos, mermaids, the Loch Ness monster.  But no one believes he can find something that has never been seen before, not even when he receives a letter inviting him to the American Northwest to view proof of the legendary Sasquatch.  In fact, he meets the Bigfoot, a kind and confused primitive man/giant animal who Frost calls Mr. Link.  The creature is gentle and can speak English, wanting only to find others of his kind with the help of a talented adventurer, starting a journey in which the pair will become friends, learn lessons, and experience wonders never before beheld by the eyes of man or beast.

Audiences will most assuredly be underwhelmed by Missing Link, a pleasant movie without any punches to throw other than the feat of its animation.  And that part can’t be ignored; it’s indescribably impressive how this team can create this films using stop-motion, how something so amazingly difficult can look this spectacular.  The motion isn’t played safe either, there are intense action sequences throughout, when your mind won’t be able to believe what your eyes are seeing.  The art from beginning to end is excellent, so beautiful, it must have taken so many so long to create something so lovely and complex; no matter what my opinion of the plot and delivery, there is no way I can watch a marvel like this and not clap.  However, and unfortunately, that’s not all there is to a theatre experience.

Coraline is dark, ParaNorman is cool, Boxtrolls is funny, Kubo is epic, but Missing Link simply doesn’t have anything to grab on to when it loses its footing, and it slips early and often.  The story is thin, the characters thinner, and the dialogue is surprisingly weak, with jokes that fall flat and a lack of music that’s both evident and confusing.  Much of the movie is fairly boring, and I didn’t need more action, when there was action present it was very nice, but I did need more …something: heart, depth, oomph, something.  Even my kids, who love everything from Laika to Disney, Ghibli to DreamWorks, left unaffected for the most part, underwhelmed by a seeming lack of effort to produce anything worth watching other than the animation.  I think I would have rather watched a documentary on how the the film was made, rather than the film itself, and that’s not good.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Superman IV

Category : Movie Review

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman

Year: 1987

I remember watching the Superman movies on VHS and on TV when I was a kid; it used to be that renting a video at your local store and checking the TV Guide to see when a film would be on television were both big deals, and, at a young age, those movies you chose to watch stuck with you for a lifetime.  The Superman quadrilogy, most of which came out before I was born, was still a part of my film experience and my taste building, especially the first two, which I remember more clearly.  But the whole series is historic, in its own way, and recently I decided to do a rewatch from the top.  Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV; I expected some ups & downs and that’s exactly what I got, but the music and the memories were worth the visit, and this franchise will always be legend.

In the fourth, Superman is asked to become political, as the world enters a nuclear arms race and faces possibly annihilation.  He doesn’t want to take sides, but he also understands that he has to help in some way, that humanity isn’t ready to go it alone quite yet.  So Superman gathers up all the nuclear weapons and hurls them into the Sun, making Earth less likely to be destroyed; end of story.  But not quite, because tricky Lex Luthor is back again, and this time he’s hidden something in one of the bombs that has now been obliterated that will cause Superman some headaches.  Out of the ashes comes a new indestructible being, Nuclear Man, with the power of a star, and loyal to the evil Luthor.  He and Superman will duel, while Clark falls in love with another lovely lady and tries to figure out once more how to balance a social life with being the champion of an entire planet.

Sidney Furie might only have ever directed terrible movies, like 50 of them, it’s insane, but at least this much can be said for him; he saved Superman.  After Superman III, I’m not sure the world could have taken another direct hit, another film that was as much an insult to taste.  But he swooped in, returned the series to a style it had once sported, and left us all with a good taste in our mouths.  Hackman back as Lex, Kidder back as Lois, the theme music blaring, the same emotions stirred, a way shorter run time to speed things toward the climax; Furie knew what he was doing and did it well.  Now, that’s not saying Superman IV didn’t have its issues.  It’s over-the-top, fairly dumb, and showcases some world-class, F-grade acting; Mariel Hemingway and John Cryer are especially bad.  But, in the end, the film gets by on its own camp, going so bonkers that it starts to be pretty fun, even while we know it’s no good.  So ends the Superman quadrilogy, and the next time I return to it my kids will be a little older and ready to share in the experience with me.  It won’t have changed though, and that’s the magical thing about watching movies, they will be there for you forever, whenever you might need them.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Superman III

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Lester

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O’Toole

Year: 1983

I remember watching the Superman movies on VHS and on TV when I was a kid; it used to be that renting a video at your local store and checking the TV Guide to see when a film would be on television were both big deals, and, at a young age, those movies you chose to watch stuck with you for a lifetime.  The Superman quadrilogy, most of which came out before I was born, was still a part of my film experience and my taste building, especially the first two, which I remember more clearly.  But the whole series is historic, in its own way, and recently I decided to do a rewatch from the top.  Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV; I expected some ups & downs and that’s exactly what I got, but the music and the memories were worth the visit, and this franchise will always be legend.

In the third, Superman has made Lois forget about his true identity and their romance, knowing that the world still needs a super hero on the job 24/7, with no attachments of the personal kind.  But that doesn’t stop Clark, when Lois goes on an extended trip to scoop a story, from accidentally falling in love again while he’s on location developing his own article about small town life.  He attends his high school reunion and reunites with Lana Lang, his old crush, who begins to crush back just as hard.  But the world’s troubles won’t wait for a romantic picnic, Superman is needed, and more than ever.  Super computer genius Gus Gorman has teamed up with the wealthy and evil Ross Webster, who first wants computers to take control of the coffee crop, then the oil industry, and then the whole world.  To stop Superman from interfering, Gus gives Supes synthetic kryptonite, that doesn’t zap his power, but splits him into two distinct versions of himself, Jekyll vs Hyde, good vs evil, with the fate of Earth balanced between who wins the duel.

The third installment is by far the worst in the franchise, and comes close to one of the worst, dumbest, weakest, and most embarrassing movies I have ever seen.  It’s saved by the series, which I already enjoy, so I can’t exactly hate anything that falls under the umbrella, but boy does Superman III ever try its best to get us to despise it.  I’m not really sure where to start; the direction falling off, Superman’s evil twin who has a 5 o’clock shadow to show us that he’s a bad boy, the removal of the Lois love story, the absence of Lex Luthor, Richard Pryor not funny in any way, which is a complete shock.  Everyone’s acting takes a nosedive, like they all agreed to suck, and joke after joke fails to work, like the writer was purposefully trying to make the film tank.  I did like Annette O’Toole as Lana, and I did like that Margot Kidder was absent, but the computer stuff is plain ridiculous, especially looking back on the era 36 years later, and having two Supermen is a shark jump unlike any other.  I wish this movie didn’t exist, because it sullies the good name of the series.

My rating: ☆

 

 


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DVD Review – A Summer in La Goulette

Category : DVD Review

Director: Ferid Boughedir

Starring: Sonia Mankai, Ava Cohen-Jonathan, Sarah Pariente

Year: 1996

An obscure foreign film set in Tunisia and delivered in three languages, A Summer in La Goulette is a 20-year-old, under-the-radar gem that no one has seen but everyone can relate to.  More than anything, it is a story of looking back and growing up, of nostalgia for a time and a place that was more fleeting than you knew when you were living in the moment, more fragile than any memory has the right to be.  Although very specific in its location and time, the tale could relate to any one of us, to those who remember hormonal days spent under the sun, when the entire world seemed to be opening up right in front of you, if you could just find the courage to reach out and grasp it.

The Movie

In 1967, the beach of La Goulette, in Tunis, Tunisia, was the place the world came together to share the sun and to share its culture.  Jews, Arabs, Christians, African, French, Italian; it didn’t matter where you were from, what religion you followed, what food you ate, what politics your home country was embroiled in, or if you had lived on La Goulette all your life, summer was the season for tourists and locals, people from all over, to come together and enjoy.  This is the snapshot story of three very different families who all share a love for one way of life, and who can see past the unique traits they all possess to the common core that lies within.

Each family has an elder daughter who is now a woman, with boys and dreams and futures on the mind, but also with a view that today is a day that needs living, even if it might lead to trouble.  Younger sons frolic about the city, and a group of young men follow the daughters around, hoping for a glimpse or a word or a dance, or perhaps something more.  Fathers worry about their families and their reputations, while mothers worry about what will come of their headstrong girls who aren’t little any longer.  Round and round they all go over the course of a summer, coming of age and growing too old and watching the world spin past them, all at once and all together.

A Summer in La Goulette is a simple, pleasant experience with a lot to say about maturity, sexuality, responsibility, and life.  It’s a nostalgic look back at summers on the beach, trysts with life-long friends, how your path can change so quickly, and how some things always stay the same.  Even though it’s specific to a time and place, we can all relate to an exciting vacation where we had a memorable kiss, or an event that showed us that we were growing up, or a youthful experience that we knew we would never forget.  And from the parents’ perspective, we all understand the fear of watching something leave our control, of worrying about what tomorrow will bring, and never knowing quite where you stand.  It’s a story that both transports us to a specific spot but also makes a home inside our own memories, living there like it was never anywhere else.

The film is sexually charged and evocative, which isn’t uncommon of a coming-of-age tale, with men watching women, women experimenting with men, and a general theme of lust in the air, like humidity, weighing down on bodies with an unrelenting heat.  So there’s that aspect, and by today’s standards we might judge that the girls in the story/women in the movie are being exploited, but there is much more here than simply sex, there’s more being said past the physical parts of the plot.  Cultures may generally clash, but we see an example in Tunisia of how a nation might work made up of pieces of other nations, how it might be difficult at times, but ultimately rewarding.  Multiple languages are spoken throughout, seamlessly woven together to create one tapestry, and that’s a major point audiences are meant to pick up on.  The beach, the warmth, the naps, the cafes, the parties, the disagreements; it’s a lovely snapshot of a time gone but always well-remembered.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (1920x1080p), the video quality of the  Blu-ray is very nice, considering when the film was released and how it was transferred.  It feels much older that it actually is, which is a credit to the whole team, who created this nostalgic world and made every shot look classic.

Audio – The Blu-ray is done in Arabic, French, and Italian DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0.  Subtitles are available in English.  The languages come together, in and out, very nicely, changing with the households we visit, always feeling natural and respected.  The music of the film is also solid, with a nice title song about La Goulette that will stick in your head.

Extras – The only special feature is a trailer for Zizou and the Arab Spring.

Final Thoughts

Recommended. This film was made in 1996, is set in 1967, and is relevant in 2019, a timeless gem that I’m glad I stumbled across.  It feels like a time capsule was opened and our own memories came flooding out, mixed with dreams of places we’d never been and experiences we never had, but, despite that, never seeming unfamiliar.  The acting isn’t going to blow you away, every line isn’t written to perfection, it’s more a feeling captured on camera than it is a masterpiece of the cinema, but there’s no reason not to enjoy it for what it has, rather than expose it for what it lacks.  The video is fine for the time, the audio is strong, the only special feature is a single trailer, so the technical aspects won’t wow, but you’ll never expect them to.  A Summer in La Goulette is easy to watch and evokes interesting responses; while it isn’t perfect, those qualities are enough to hold it up.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


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Movie Review – Superman II

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Donner, Richard Lester

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Terence Stamp

Year: 1980

I remember watching the Superman movies on VHS and on TV when I was a kid; it used to be that renting a video at your local store and checking the TV Guide to see when a film would be on television were both big deals, and, at a young age, those movies you chose to watch stuck with you for a lifetime.  The Superman quadrilogy, most of which came out before I was born, was still a part of my film experience and my taste building, especially the first two, which I remember more clearly.  But the whole series is historic, in its own way, and recently I decided to do a rewatch from the top.  Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV; I expected some ups & downs and that’s exactly what I got, but the music and the memories were worth the visit, and this franchise will always be legend.

In the second, Superman is having trouble hiding his feelings from Lois Lane.  On location at Niagara Falls trying to break a story, Lois begins to suspect who Clark really is, and when he finally tells her and takes her to his Fortress of Solitude, it seems like the pair will officially be together.  But to become a mortal man who can love a mortal woman, Superman must give up his powers, becoming simply Mr. Kent, a price he is willing to pay to be with the woman he loves.  But little does he know that his past is about to come back to haunt him, right when he needs his inexhaustible strength the most.  Years ago, his father imprisoned three would-be rebels on Krpyton; Non, Ursa, and General Zod, evil criminals bent on world destruction.  Their prison destroyed, they have now come to Earth, and they have the same powers as Superman himself; well, the same powers he used to have.  They begin their conquest, with Lex Luthor’s help, and Clark is now just Clark, so who will save the day, and how will he explain it all to Lois?

The sequel is a step back from the original, what else should we have expected, but it still holds on to enough of the elements that made the first film work that it works itself, if just barely.  The music, the love story, Lex Luthor, a bit of Kryptonian history, a bumbling Kent; a lot of the same comes back, and that’s good, because when you look at it too closely, Superman II starts to look a little shabby, it definitely needs a strong foundation to keep from crumbling.  The three Krypton villains are silly, even helmed by the talented Terence Stamp; they just aren’t written very well.  And Margot Kidder, my god, she’s really, really bad, even worse than in the first, because she’s featured more often or at least more personally.  I hate to speak ill of the dead, I’m just commenting on a performance, so I’ll balance it out with how much I enjoy Christopher Reeve, who does an especially good job playing Clark.  I could have done with a little more Lex & Otis, they crack me up, but hey, you can’t always get what you want.  That should maybe have been the tagline for this film, because it delivers, just not exactly as well as you would wish for.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Review – Superman

Category : Movie Review

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman

Year: 1978

I remember watching the Superman movies on VHS and on TV when I was a kid; it used to be that renting a video at your local store and checking the TV Guide to see when a film would be on television were both big deals, and, at a young age, those movies you chose to watch stuck with you for a lifetime.  The Superman quadrilogy, most of which came out before I was born, was still a part of my film experience and my taste building, especially the first two, which I remember more clearly.  But the whole series is historic, in its own way, and recently I decided to do a rewatch from the top.  Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV; I expected some ups & downs and that’s exactly what I got, but the music and the memories were worth the visit, and this franchise will always be legend.

In the first, we are introduced to the alien hero Kal-El.  He was born on the planet Krypton as that world approached its self-destruction, as its leaders ignored the warning signs and refused to abandon their home.  Jor-El knew that the end was near, so he send his infant son into space, with all the knowledge of his people and with the means of reaching Earth, where a yellow sun and a different atmosphere would mean that Kal-El would grow up to be special.  Found by the Kents and raised as their son Clark in Smallville, Kansas, this boy would become the world’s greatest hero, after finally understanding the whole of his past and the mission his parents bestowed upon him when they saved his life; to protect mankind, to be their guide, and to always do right.  Clark Kent, moving to Metropolis and becoming a journalist for the Daily Planet newspaper, would keep the city safe.  But falling in love with fellow reporter Lois Lane and running afoul of genius villain Lex Luthor would complicate his heroics, and sometimes difficult choices arise when you find yourself in too deep.

From the opening credits onward, audiences can sense something special about Superman, an epic adventure with all the pieces present to go down in history as one of the very best.  The score is perfection, and flows throughout every moment, each main character receiving a theme; Superman, Lois, Lex.  John Williams is obviously the best there is, and his talents are on full display here, with music that I will never forget.  This is one of Donner’s first films, his career taking off in the 80s & 90s with hits that became cult classics, and you can see his skill easily.  Compared to today’s comic book movies, he kept things very simple; basically we see Krypton, meet Superman, he falls in love, and then saves the day, but that’s enough for one film, even one with a long run time.  The Krypton scenes are cool, the villains are hilarious, Reeve is an American institution, and the cast is solid, with Marlon Brando popping up to play Jor-El.  Margot Kidder I could have done without, she’s loud and weird, and not a very good leading lady, but basically everything else works, and I’m glad I’ll always have this film to return to.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Wine Country

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Amy Poehler

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch

Release: May 10th, 2019

I wouldn’t watch this movie if you taped my eyes open; I would will myself to stop breathing so I could pass out so I could miss the worse thing to ever happen on screen before my face.


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Movie Trailer – Stuber

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Michael Dowse

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Natalie Morales

Release: July 12th, 2019

This is so easy I know I shouldn’t use it but I just have to; Stu-BER looks stu-PID.  And I like Kumail, just not …like …this.  My god.


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Movie Review – Shazam!

Category : Movie Review

Director: David F. Sandberg

Starring: Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Asher Angel

Year: 2019

Shazam! is a surprising and surprisingly strong addition to the DCEU, a step in the right direction as far as quality is concerned, and a film that did a ton right for a little guy standing in the shadows of bigger, badder, darker superheroes.  I was surprised to learn right before I watched the movie that Shazam is the name of the wizard, not the hero, and that the hero’s name was once Captain Marvel, before legal battles and copyrights and blah blah blah.  So there were two Captain Marvel movies released one right after the other, and in my book the competition wasn’t even close, Shazam blew Carol right out of the water with ease.  What works here is basically everything, a well-rounded project that’s both a simple good time and a complex story arc, revolving and resolving slowly into something we can sink our teeth into and enjoy with relative ease.

Billy Batson has been bouncing from foster home to foster home for years, all the while searching for his mother, who he was separated from when he was small, but who he has never forgotten.  He’s street smart, bitter, lonely, in need of a family, but can’t let anyone close; he simply runs away to the next group home whenever things get rough or he finds another clue about his mother.  But the time for running is now over; Billy has been chosen for something far greater than his own, personal quest.  The wizard Shazam has been looking for a Champion, someone to fight for peace, a pure soul, and with time running out, he guesses Billy will do.  With a magic word, the kid becomes a man, wielding awesome power, if only he can harness it for good.  He had better learn quick, because another Champion has been chosen, this one fighting for evil, and he will stop at nothing to see Batson dead.

Billy, Shazam, Captain Marvel, Sparklefingers; whatever you want to call him this superdude is here to stay.  The amount that this Captain Marvel movie is better than the other Captain Marvel movie is immeasurable, and I say that knowing that I could be grouped alongside misogynist Fan Boys, which is a group I couldn’t be further away from socially, politically, feministally, I’ll stop now.  But I’m a film critic, card-carrying, and I think it would be simple bad taste to think that Brie Larson’s vehicle was in any way better than Zachary Levi’s.  Shazam! is purely a great, fun, cool, enjoyable, clever, well-orchestrated superhero flick, and that doesn’t come around very often, despite how we fawn over the genre.  This movie is well-written, well-paced, and well-thought out, a complete story from start to finish, with only minor flaws, not even depending solely on explosions to get by, letting emotions come to the surface in a very refreshing way.  Levi is awesome, Grazer steals the show, Asher is fine, and Mark Strong plays the villain perfectly, obviously, cementing a strong cast that I felt really fell naturally each role.

It’s interesting, I think there was a lot cut from this film that we will never see, at least not other than in the special features of the DVD, or else moved to the post-credit scenes, which are worth the wait.  But that might also be what made this film so great; I think it was edited very nicely.  In fact, so was the trailer, as it gave almost nothing away, and I can’t express how much I appreciate that.  Especially the ending, which I will not spoil, and which was completely secret, so credit to the entire crew who worked on producing this movie, advertising it very well, and had a product to back up the talk when it came time to sit down and watch.  Not every film can say the same, that they knew how to market but also how to deliver; I really respect what David Sandberg and Henry Gayden did.  Especially when you consider the bumps the DCEU has endured, and the roller coaster it rode to get where it is today: Man of Steel, DOJ, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman.  I liked Man of Steel, skip, skip, I really liked Wonder Woman, skip, skip, and now I’ve highly enjoyed Shazam!, a positive experience all around and a relief if this is what we might continue to get from this point on.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – The Corrupted

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ron Scalpello

Starring: Sam Claflin, Timothy Spall, High Bonneville

Release: May 3rd, 2019

This looks like a British version of the crap we’ve seen here in the States far too often, these thrilling, crime-ridden, gritty, guns a’blazing dramas that don’t amount to much.  I like these actors, they might make it worth our time, and I’m a sucker for English accents, I think they make everything just a little bit better.  But I’m still probably gonna pass.