Month: July 2018

Movie Review – Apollo 13

Category : Movie Review

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon

Year: 1995

Apollo 13 was nominated for 9 Oscars, winning 2, and easily cemented itself as one of the best movies of the decade, a pillar of Hollywood that might have been even stronger than the actual quality of the film.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic feature, one of Tom Hanks’ best, and a complete 90s icon.  But after a modern rewatch, a few flaws emerge, which I will never hold fully against the film, simply because it’s so definitive.  It’s a space movie, a sci-fi action flick, a drama, a history lesson, a look at man’s endeavors in a field which we will never completely understand; there’s a lot going on here beyond checking boxes and coming up with a composite rating.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this; Apollo 13 is great, always will be, despite not being as great as we remember.

After the United States successfully landed on the Moon, the public began to question whether its space program was really necessary, whether the government needed to be spending the money on going back to a rock that we already stamped our foot upon.  But as attention waned, the program still forged ahead, manning Apollo missions to our neighboring orbital body for study and for research.  For Jim Lovell, the 13 launch was a chance to make a dream come true, to walk on the Moon one time in his life, to captain a crew that did something that very few humans had ever done before.  But the mission was cursed from the start, fitting its unlucky number, and its team would never reach their destination.  Even their return home after abort was questionable, as they quickly became lost mariners in space, trying desperately to come back to Earth.

Ron Howard is a cheesy director, that’s just his style, that’s how he crafts his films, and it’s fine but it’ll never be my exact taste.  He gets really sappy with his stories and his characters, his films becoming dramatic icons but not perhaps stirring masterpieces.  Apollo 13 is a prime example, a really great and high-quality film but not something that will shock you with emotion and with content.  Maybe the word I’m looking for is “approachable”, Howard’s films are approachable, movies for everyone, beloved classics even, just not critical wonders.  Hanks is strong, obviously, he always is, he could helm a three-hour film about plankton and we’d watch it, because we’d be sure he’d pull off the impossible.  And his supporting cast is pretty impressive too: Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris.  The images and the music from this movie are legendary, but I did find that the pace dragged a bit, watching it back, and that the same dramatic set up was used too often to be believable, resulting in my investment waining from time to time.  Still, Apollo 13 is Apollo 13, it stands on a pedestal all its own, and will probably remain there for all time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Get Smart

Category : Movie Review

Director: Peter Segal

Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson

Year: 2008

The greatest thing about Get Smart, at least now, is knowing how incredibly famous the three stars of the film will become, and how legendary some of the veteran side actors still are to this day.  It’s the cast that makes the film, because it’s definitely not the comedy.  The old TV show was fun, silly, good for its time, but probably shouldn’t have been made into a modern feature film.  Oh well no one leaves well enough alone these days, so here we are with  a mostly unfunny film version, which we needed about as much as a third nipple.  Still, it isn’t all terrible, and now we can look back ten years in the past on the earlier parts of the careers of these superstars as smile.

Secret Agent Maxwell Smart is tired of working behind a desk as an analyst, he wants to get into the field as an operative, where he knows he can really make a world of difference in Control’s fight against the evil Chaos organization.  His skills are unquestionable, but he’s a bit of a screw up, and would probably be as likely to shoot himself as his enemy if a confrontation even came to a firefight.  But sometimes you work with what you’ve got, and when Control HQ is attacked, Max is paired up with sexy Agent 99 to head to Russia and discover Chaos’ secret plans.  Max knew he’d have to face his fears and step up to the plate in order to make Control proud, but he never dreamed he’d fall in love on the mission as well, a sticky situation that he has no idea how to resolve.

The show was entertaining, if you’ve ever caught a rerun, but it was a far cry from exceptional.  The movie version doesn’t really compete or even do the program justice, barely registering as funny and mostly bordering on stupid.  I can only think of one laugh-out-loud scene, when Max is in the airplane bathroom shooting himself with tiny, painful darts, and that’s only funny in the way that 40-Year-Old Virgin already was.  The rest is mostly stupid and never super original, resulting in a film that you could describe in the same way.  Carell is naturally gifted, he doesn’t lose that, so that’s always hovering over the movie.  And Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses, a chameleon who is also stunning, a true Hollywood megastar.  The Rock is pretty terrible in his role (he was still learning), but the side guys make up for it: Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, James Caan, Bill Murray.  There’s really no need to watch Get Smart if you missed it a decade ago; you didn’t miss too much.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Trailer – I Think We’re Alone Now

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Reed Morano

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning

Release: September 14th, 2018

I wish we had more, because this isn’t a giant blockbuster that you can tease us about because we’re already salivating and already know the whole story.  This is a film you’re going to have to convince us to see, via a stellar trailer and some good buzz from a film festival.  I don’t know, I just think this little snippet wasn’t near enough and failed to do its job.

Movie Trailer – Hunter Killer

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Donovan Marsh

Starring: Gerard Butler, Common, Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini

Release: October 26th, 2018

Holy dumbbells and dipshits this looks awful.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand it, I’ve seen/enjoyed bad submarine movies before, they’re catchy and fun, you’re not alone.  But this one has just jumped the shark, or should I say blown it up with a torpedo while showing “Ooorah!”  Gerard Butler is terrible in these action movies, which is too bad, because he’s actually a good actor, he just does crap too often to be taken seriously.  Avoid this ridiculous “thriller”; all you’ll get is seasick.

Movie Trailer – Slender Man

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Sylvain White

Starring: Joey King, Annalise Basso, Julia Goldani Telles

Release: August 10th, 2018

Joey King needs to stop doing terrible movies like this and Wish Upon because she’s better than them, and I’m tired of everyone other than me not knowing it.  I like to think that I discovered her; it’s been well-documented that I’ve claimed that many times.  So I always wish her the best, I just need her to pick better films, because someone is steering her in the wrong direction.

Movie Trailer – Mid90s

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Jonah Hill

Starring: Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges

Release: October 19th, 2018

This is Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, and it’s gonna be all that & a bag of chips.  It looks like a cross between Lady Bird, Florida Project, and Airborne, which sounds like something I was born to love.  Sunny was great in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he’s an up-and-coming star, Lucas Hedges is gold, and I think there’s a lot of personal touch surrounding this film, the kind that screams to be heard.  I’m in.

Movie Trailer – What They Had

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Elizabeth Chomko

Starring: Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster

Release: October 12th, 2018

I wish Michael Shannon hadn’t gotten himself mixed up in this mess, because he’s much better than this film.  We all are, really, except maybe these-days Hilary Swank.  I’m just tired of these movies, these background songs, these emotions being piled on so thick.  If you want to deal with this subject, think of an original way to present it or don’t touch it at all.

Movie Trailer – Wildlife

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Paul Dano

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould

Release: October 19th, 2018

This is Paul Dano’s writing and directing debut, working alongside Zoe Kazan, his longtime girlfriend.  That makes four names I trust absolutely when it comes to cinema: Dano, Kazan, Mulligan, Gyllenhaal.  I would watch anything this quartet worked on, even a Chevy commercial, and boy do I hate Chevy commercials.  But it doesn’t matter; I know this group would turn it into something amazing, as they will with this story.  It’s heavy, it’s dated, it’s Oscar bait, but I would put money on the belief that it will rise above the trivial and become something special.

Movie Review – Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Category : Movie Review

Director: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara

Year: 2018

Joaquin Phoenix took a swing at an Academy Award earlier this year with You Were Never Really Here, and he’s back for a second at bat, with a stellar character in the true story Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.  Phoenix went from a hitman on the run to an addict in a wheelchair, proving once again that he really can do it all, and that fact should shock exactly no one.  Phoenix is a master, a current top dog, and every time he appears on screen we ought to take notice.  And this role is no exception; it might just win him an Oscar.

John Callahan is a recovering alcoholic, an illustrator, and is confined to a wheelchair, venting his frustrations through his comics and attempting to live sober one day at a time.  He was in a car accident that paralyzed him from the waist down, the result of a drinking binge that ended with John testing his luck one too many times.  He can’t stand being in his wheelchair, and has been depressed for so long he doesn’t know how else to feel.  But an AA meeting might be the thing he needs to turn the corner toward a happier life.  His sponsor, Donnie, is independently wealthy and dying, but his advice is sound, and he encourages John to find a higher power to give over control to, whether that be God, Buddha, a lightbulb, or a cloud.  That step might be the hardest one for John to take, but it’s standing in the way of his recovery, and his only other choice is death.

Surprise surprise; Joaquin Phoenix is amazing.  I think we could be talking about an Oscar here, and it’s high time, his filmography is among the strongest you’re ever likely to see.  He was nominated for Best Supporting for Gladiator, and Best Actor for Walk the Line and The Master, but has never won an Academy Award; that could change now.  His character is layered with grief and Phoenix weaves his way upward so deftly, giving us so much to take in and to think about, that the story becomes about the audience and what we can take away.  The film itself is very laden, never lets up, focuses very specifically on addiction and the steps to defeat it, so those of us who have never really been able to identify with substance abuse plots might have a hard time relating in the way that is necessary in order to fall in love with the movie.  But Phoenix’ performance is more than enough reason to pay attention.  Jonah Hill is solid, Rooney Mara is unnecessary, and a cameo by Jack Black almost steals the show; that guy is underrated.  He Won’t Get Far on Foot might not be a film we remember for years to come, but I think the lead role is, and we might be hearing about it more come Oscar time.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆



Movie Review – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Category : Movie Review

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill

Year: 2018

Tom Cruise must age just like the rest of is; it’s science.  But he obviously doesn’t; that’s either magic, immortality, or vampirism, who the hell knows.  Regardless, this ageless wonder keeps churning out the hits, and taking them too, doing his own stunts, putting his body on the line, and shocking us all with his vitality in every new film he releases.  Cruise is a legend, and that has never been on display more prominently than in the Mission: Impossible franchise, especially the last two, Rogue Nation and Fallout.  These are action flicks at their finest; not quiet Fury Road caliber but close, with enough high-quality thrills to put them at the top of the genre’s list for a long time.

Ethan Hunt and his team took down Solomon Lane and the Syndicate, but now every government and crime organization in the world are fighting to get their hands on the madman, either for retribution or for further destruction.  Meanwhile, the IMF team are busy trying to get their hands on some raw plutonium that will undoubtedly be turned into nuclear bombs, which obviously they can’t let happen.  But Hunt will have a choice to make; either secure the plutonium or hand Lane over to criminals, a conundrum that is exactly what the chaotic world wants.  Trades, deals, attacks, back stabs; it’s just another day at the office.

Cruise and the filmmakers seem to be saying from the beginning to the end of this film, “look what I can do” and “I dare you to stop me”.  What they accomplish here is beyond impressive, a modern marvel of action entertainment that has rarely been matched.  They swing for the fences and connect, creating an adventure that is pure spectacle and entirely awesome.  Did they need every single, long, blood-pumping sequence to tell the story?  Maybe not.  But they were ready, able, and willing, and no one was going to keep them from going over the top.  Lucky for us, the movie never feels out of control, just insanely driven at a high speed that we’re sure isn’t safe, but we can’t help enjoy anyway.

Basically, the movie literally gave me a headache, but I didn’t really mind, I guess because I had so much fun even while my eyes couldn’t keep up.  The action scenes are mind-blowing, beyond impressive, so fun, but at the same time ridiculously frenetic, but somehow always in an acceptable way.  I think what I’m trying to say is that 90% of audiences will absolutely love this film because the action is so incredibly and tightly packed.  But if action isn’t your thing, you honestly might get motion sick and throw up, so stay home and watch something calmer.  As far as the story goes, it’s a little cheesy, a little more convoluted than its immediate predecessor, which I enjoyed slightly more, but it’s still always fun and always true to the franchise.  Cruise is great, Ferguson is perfection of course, Cavill (and his infamous mustache) is a good side character, Simon Pegg was underused, Angela Bassett was a colossal strike out, so the characters are a little hit or miss.  But the experience is not, the actual sitting down in front of a screen showing this feature is most definitely not; it’s a late-summer explosion of intensity that most of us will want to immediately see again, as soon as our heads stop spinning.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆