Month: January 2018

Movie Review – The Boss Baby

Category : Movie Review

Director: Tom McGrath

Starring: Miles Bakshi, Alec Baldwin

Year: 2017

When Boss Baby was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, I admit, I scoffed.  I’ll be more honest; I thought the Academy was a bunch of fucking idiots.  From everything I had heard and from the trailer I had watched, I easily assumed that this ludicrous movie was just another Dreamworks dud, another giant prat fall that played down to kids and insulted adults.  But perhaps you’ve already spotted the error in my thinking, and perhaps you’ve heard the old phrase; to assume makes an ASS out of U and ME.  I will gladly admit that I was made to look like an ass, and that it’s entirely my fault.  I assumed I knew what Boss Baby was before I watched it, and that’s a lesson I hope to take with me long after this awards season is over.  Because not only was I wrong about the content, the jokes, and the heart, but I was wrong about its nomination; it is truly deserved.

Tim’s life is practically perfect in every way, if you don’t mind the Mary Poppins reference, which is fitting, since she’s brought up in this film in other ways as well, which is neither here nor there, just worth a mention.  Anyway, Tim is happy, and why shouldn’t he be?  He’s got two special parents, they give him all their love, they work with puppies, they let him use his imagination to have outstanding adventures every day; it doesn’t get much better than this for a little boy.  But one day that all changes, when mom & dad bring home baby brother.  All of a sudden, Tim’s life has turned upside down.  The baby gets all the attention, the house is a mess, his parents are exhausted, it’s like Tim’s not even there anymore, and, oddly enough, he is shocked to discover that the new little bundle of joy can talk, order sushi, and may be planning something terrible.  Tim’s got to get it out of the house as soon as he can, to save his own existence from complete destruction.

Hear me out; this isn’t the movie you think it is.  I saw the trailer, I assume your reaction was like mine, it looked awful and tedious and thoughtless and basically done in a style that most people wouldn’t even want their kids consuming for fear that they’d lose brain cells.  But it’s not like that, you’ve got to trust me on this one, there’s more to it than meets the eye.  The first clue is that Tim has an overactive imagination, and he might get carried away a little sometimes.  This story might not be exactly transparent, you might actually need to dig down a bit deeper.  When you do, you’ll find a ton of heart and some really clear messages, along with some clever comedy and a song choice that’s spot on.  Yes, some of the humor is still silly, still poop-related, make only for kids.  But that’s par for the course; this isn’t Kubo after all.  It’s a fun family movie, but it isn’t anywhere near as mind-numbing as you might imagine.  Someone in the marketing department needs to be fired, I’m just glad I gave it a chance.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Trailer – When We First Met

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ari Sandel

Starring: Adam Devine, Alexandra Daddario

Release: February 9th, 2018

This genre of movie is beyond stupid, it’s like a cross between a rom/com and a frat house flick, and I don’t know who watches it.  What is Adam Devine famous for?  He’s the most annoying person I’ve ever seen on a screen.  Alexandra Daddario is actually talented, and of course drop-dead gorgeous, she should be following a different path, not stooping to the level of this moronic comedies.  Pass.

Movie Trailer – Ant-Man and the Wasp

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas

Release: July 6th, 2018

I liked the first Ant-Man enough; it was good, funny, pretty cool, without being much of anything excellent or a movie you would ever see again.  I actually liked Rudd more in Civil War than I did in his own origin story, his comedy just works better as a juxtaposition instead of a focal point.  Michael Pena was the real stand-out, he was hilarious, and I hope he’s got a big role in the sequel.  I hated Lilly as Hope, she’ll need to be much better, and I wish I knew the villains better, because I’ve never heard of any of them.  We’ll see, I’m skeptical, but I’ll also watch.

Movie Trailer – Mute

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Duncan Jones

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux

Release: February 23rd, 2018

I have an awful feeling about this movie, that it might be absolutely terrible.  I thought Moon was great (and it’s rumored to have a tie-in), I love Paul Rudd, I dig sci-fi, but at least judging by the trailer, I think this film might do all of those things a disservice.  It looks like a Blade Runner wannabe, or a What Happened to Monday mistake, and I’m afraid it’s simply going to suck in Bright fashion.

Movie Trailer – Hereditary

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro

Release: June 8th, 2018

I want to watch this movie, but I’m not sure I physically can.  I’d need friends, things to hide my face behind, Skittles, and the permission not to go to bed that night.

Movie Review – The Ballad of Lefty Brown

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jared Moshe

Starring: Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Joe Anderson

Year: 2017

I might be the only person to have seen both Dead Man’s Burden and The Ballad of Lefty Brown, two Westerns directed by Jared Moshe, his only two feature films, as a matter of fact.  DMB (not to be confused with Dave Matthews Band) was a film that walked a fine between farce & ridicule and actually paying homage to the genre.  Perhaps it helped that the actors were no-names, that expectations were low, that I wanted to enjoy a good cowboy flick, but I rather liked Moshe’s first attempt.  I thought it was corny in just the right ways, using the language of the time so thickly that it almost seemed like they were poking fun, but somehow making it work, if barely.  I could see, however, that if you watched from a slightly different angle, you could absolutely hate the film, and I think my head was cocked for TBOLB, because I’m not sure I’ve ever despised a Western more.

Lefty Brown has run with Edward Johnson for the past 40 years, the pair as close as friends can be.  They fought in wars together, protected the law together, built a ranch together, but now Edward is off to Washington to be a Montana Senator, while Lefty, never the brains of the operation, will stay behind to man the farm.  But before plans can commence, Edward is killed by a sharp-shooting horse thief, and Lefty is off to catch the criminal as a one-man posse.  His two friends, Jim & Tom, part of the old foursome that saw so much action together, want him to wait for the army, let them deal with the murderer, but Lefty is insistent.  What he discovers on the trail goes far above his head, but he knows one thing for certain; friends never betray friends, and if they ever do, their punishment should be swift.

The Ballad of Lefty Brown is no Bone Tomahawk or Dead Man’s Burden, two films it tries to meld; hell it’s not even The Ridiculous Six.  In all seriousness, Adam Sandler made a better Western than Bill Pullman, and I’m not really sure we should be all that surprised.  Pullman is an awful actor, and oh dear lord did they make it even harder for him by giving him the most terrible supporting cast you’ll ever see.  Kathy Baker and Peter Fonda were bad, but Jim Caviezel and Tommy Flanagan were SO bad that they made Pullman look like a golden god.  I like Joe Anderson, I think he stood his ground, but there was absolutely nothing he could do.  The “dialogue”, the “plot twists”, the “action”; it was so horrible I felt personally insulted.  I know that the fine line always exists, because this is a genre that can be cheesy and weird.  But I’ll defend Westerns to my grave; this film took a dump on the line, stepped over it, and began masquerading as a movie until I wasn’t sure what the hell was what anymore.  If I’ve seen a worse example of this genre it was either Living by the Gun or Doc Holliday’s Revenge, or both, but I have a special beef with TBOLB now.  It should have known better, it should have BEEN better, and I’m angry that something this ludicrous was ever made.

My rating: ☆



Movie Trailer – Unsane

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Claire Foy, Juno Temple, Amy Irving

Release: March 23rd, 2018

If ever there was a time to use “WTF” I think that time is now.

Movie Trailer – Submergence

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Wim Wenders

Starring: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy

Release: April 13th, 2018

I’ve been waiting for this one for a while, ever since I heard the names of the two stars.  In my book, it doesn’t get much better than McAvoy & Vikander.  Fassbender & Vikander tried combining, to some success (The Light Between Oceans), but they’re both too melancholy, I think McAvoy adds a touch of light where it might be needed most.  Not that this film looks like an easy watch, far from it, but I have absolute faith that they will make it work.

Book Review – American Gods

Category : Book Review

Author: Neil Gaiman

Year: 2001

Neil Gaiman has a particular obsession with mythology, especially Norse mythology, and that interest is right up my alley.  I’ve always been fascinated with the gods, Greek and Roman, but also Norse, from the naming of our planets and days of the week to their archetypal appearance in so many of the fantasy books I read growing up.  And also, I was brought up religious, but have now turned that knowledge into an understanding of Christian mythology as well, how the stories we hear as children shape our belief systems, even if they are completely fabricated and unbelievable.  Gaiman swings for the fences with American Gods, an epic novel on the struggle to reconcile ancient traditions with modern technology, with a fantasy flare that will capture the imaginations of that genre’s nerd contingent.

Shadow counts down the days until he is released from prison for a petty crime gone wrong, until he can return to his loving wife Laura and the simple existence he knew before his giant mistake.  But he is let out early for a terrible reason; Laura has died, and Shadow is free to go, though now nothing waits for him back home.  Consumed by grief and the inability to see a future ahead, he runs into the same man twice, seemingly coincidentally, although Shadow will soon learn that there are no such things as chance encounters.  The man gives his name as Mr. Wednesday, and he asks for Shadow to work for him, to be his driver and right hand man, to stand his vigil if he is ever struck down, whatever that might mean.  A war is coming, and Wednesday is in the process of rounding up some very special people to fight on his side, people who aren’t exactly human, who have been biding their time for centuries, who are tired of the changing landscape of America and are ready to die to protect their legends.

I know a good bit about various mythologies, but even I had to reference some articles every now and then to keep the characters straight, to understand who they were in secret, behind the names they gave readers.  Just don’t find out too much, you wouldn’t want to spoil anything, because there are some twists in Shadow’s road, and the surprises are worth your time.  The novel is as well, a story that pulls from mythology, makes excellent observations on modern culture, and puts a fascinating figure forward as the main character, someone we can rely on, root for, and see ourselves in, no matter what awful decisions he is forced to make.  The book is definitely written in an unusual style, it takes some getting used to, but if you are brave enough to invest you will be rewarded with something special.  Gaiman is a ceaseless fountain of literature, but you may have heard of or read some of his major works: Neverwhere, Coraline, Odd and the Frost Giants.  Make sure to add American Gods to your book list if you’ve enjoyed those or any others from Gaiman; it’s his most adventurous and ambitious, and quite worth your time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Phantom Thread

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

Year: 2017

Paul Thomas Anderson is near the top of my short list of favorite directors, perhaps only behind Wes Anderson; apparently I have a thing for Nordic filmmakers.  His movies are an amazing blend of speed, wit, and humor, dashed with darkness that he sometimes lifts us out of and sometimes lets us wallow in.  Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice; seven features before his latest, and what a filmography to hang your hat on.  All are masterpieces, I’ve seen and enjoyed every one, although I love some while only liking others, and if I look closer I find that perhaps there’s a peak in the middle, with a slight build up before and, dare I suggest, a slight drop off after.  I don’t doubt the talent of this incredible artist, but I will say this; I find his last two projects, including Phantom Thread, to be his weakest work, Oscar-nominations or not.

In London in the 1950s, no name was bigger in the world of women’s fashion than that of Reynolds Woodcock, a designer and dressmaker with the eye that every wealthy woman in high society wanted searching for their latest look.  From countesses and princesses to widows with too much money spend, everyone wanted a Woodcock dress for their formal event, which kept the genius and his team of seamstresses busy every single day.  From time to time, Reynolds would take a break from his routine by evicting his latest model girlfriend from the house in which he lived with his bachelorette sister and heading to the country for some fresh air and perhaps a fresh idea.  On one of these outings, he stumbled upon Alma, a beautiful foreign girl who was exactly the proportion he was looking to clothe.  But Reynolds would also fall in love with this charming creature, a state he didn’t necessary enjoy and a disruption he absolutely didn’t need.

Hear me out for a minute; Phantom Thread is a rom/com.  Stephen King once wrote a great but greatly under-read and under-appreciated novel called Cell about people’s bodies being hijacked by a cellular signal, and it was as if he was tired of stupid zombie stories, that he almost flippantly wanted to show us that he could do it so much better, that the genre itself wasn’t stupid as much as the people producing the media weren’t very smart.  That’s how it is with PTA’s latest film; it’s like he’d seen enough silly romantic comedies and wanted to show us how it ought to be done.  It’s just that he’s so incredibly talented that it looks like a period piece drama/epic love story and it gets nominated for Academy Awards, when in reality it’s no more than a well-made love story with a little metaphor thrown in for good measure.

I don’t mean that take to sound like a belittlement at all, I think it’s amazing how masterful an artist must be to create something outside of their style so effortlessly, just to prove that they can.  Phantom Thread is excellently romantic, more so because it shows so many negatives as well, even going into dark places that we don’t want to explore in order to make the point.  But it’s also brilliantly funny is so many subtle ways, a clever essay on relationships that will have you laughing out loud if you can look past the surface and see the humor underneath.  Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible, of course, because that’s just what he brings ever time, and Lesley Manville more than deserves her Supporting Actress nod for her role as the sister, even if she doesn’t have a prayer against Janney and Metcalf.

But here’s where I take a moment to step back and look past my awe at what the director is able to do, at the lead actor who has given us so much, at the beautiful dresses and sets and moments sprinkled throughout this oddly entertaining and twisted melodrama.  First, it’s not very Anderson-like.  It’s not quick, not driving, intense more in a Jane Eyre type of way and less a There Will Be Blood, surprising me with its departure from what has worked so well before.  Second, there’s a plot point involving mushrooms, and it’s the fourth time I’ve seen that from a film this year, which is simply weird.  PTA is above copying what others are doing, the only defense I can think of is that he wanted a wind-swept moor mood, a classic English novel feel, and he added that in with a typical, unimaginative ingredient.  Lastly, Vicky Krieps was chosen because she has a distinct look, but she’s not a strong actress, at least not at this exact moment or in this exact project.  She doesn’t hold up her end of the load, and that’s rather unfortunate.  Phantom Thread is a good movie, a fun mix of Brit Lit canon and ill-fated love comedy, played with striking performances from its veterans.  But it doesn’t deliver the punch that Anderson is known for; even when it tries to go dark it only turns out some of the lights.  It might pick up some Oscars, I won’t sit here and tell you that it deserves to be ignored, but I also can’t say that I’m not slightly disappointed.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆