Widows

Being a Widow must suck. You know, getting married, being in love maybe, marriage for decades possibly! And then your spouse dies. I also learned recently that the term widow only refers to a woman who lost their partner. I guess that is good, because then I never have to be a widow. And you know, I just talked about how that must suck.

Widows is a movie brought to us by Steve McQueen, who has not been too busy since he had a movie win best picture. He famously directed 12 Years A Slave for a 2012 release, and since then this is his first theater film. Someone clever might say 6 Years NotInTheSpotlight for McQueen. Does this mean that Widows is going to be 3 times as good as 12 Years A Slave (because 12 Years came out 2 years after his previous film)? Yes. It has to mean that.

You can’t argue with science.

Funeral
Having the funeral really cements in the widow status.

Veronica (Viola Davis) is wealthy, giving, and in love with her husband (Liam Neeson). He might be into some corrupt shit, working with political campaigns an doing jobs, but she doesn’t know the specifics and it does put her life in a good place. And then? Well, a job goes poorly, and he gets killed dead along with three other men, leaving her to feel quite sad, notably poorer, and alone.

But she isn’t given time to grieve. It turns out in this final job, her husband stole from some powerful people, and they know who robbed them. So they have to now harass Veronica, to look into their savings accounts or whatever to pay it back. Or else.

Unfortunately, nothing like that really exists, as far as she knows. She does end up finding a notebook, with plans on robbing an even bigger fortune. If she can pull off this heist, she will be able to pay off the goons and have a lot left over to live comfortable and worry free after that. She just needs a team, and she isn’t the type to know about this sort of stuff.

There is an idea for a team though. She wants to find the other women who just lost their husbands. They are probably hurt and need funds as well. Maybe they are all desperate enough to join her.

Starring Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo. Also starring Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Molly Kunz, Jon Bernthal, and Robert Duvall.

Gang
It is impossible for the guy in purple to be a Widow. We talked about this.

If you are thinking about 12 Years A Slave still, which scene do you think about? It is likely the one where the main character is being hanged by his neck for a few minutes, with kids playing in the background, him struggling to breath, and of course, eventually not dying. It was scary, and intense, and the camera did not move away.

I love a long scene that doesn’t cut, and there is one very exciting scene in Widows that is similar. It doesn’t show violence, and it isn’t scary, but it is just a long cut of a very short car ride in Chicago, showing how quickly it takes for one to go from a poor to a rich district. During this scene is a conversation as well, and it would be one of the best scenes of 2018, if we got to see the characters talking as the drive occurred. The camera didn’t focus on them, just on the scenery, so it is most likely that they did the conversation later and just edited it on top. But it is still a great scene and shows that McQueen has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.

Davis is the star of this film and has to carry a lot of it with her face and eyes. There is no doubt she is a great actress and does a fantastic job in this one. I do want to point out another actress though, because it was a surprise. Debicki, who has been in plenty of films, and never been the one reason you want to see it. Her character had a lot more going on than her normal characters, and by golly, she felt like a real actress and not just a model who is in a bunch of movies. Hell, she could have a best supporting from this for all I know. It was also great to see Erivo in this film, who was one of the best parts of Bad Times At El Royale. She is having a great year and she came out of nowhere.

To highlight one male actor, I will point out that Kaluuya was scary. He felt like a wildcard in the realest sense of the word, and I loved seeing him on the screen.

Widows is suspenseful, with a few twists that I didn’t fully expect. It hits hard and is not afraid to throw any punches. It could have been better, but the over two hour film just flew by and it was good enough for me to just love.

4 out of 4.

Boy Erased

A lot of films about boys coming out this year. Most notably we have Boy Erased, which this review will be out, and Beautiful Boy, which I haven’t seen yet because I suck, apparently.

I think all of these films are a reaction to Lucas Hedges, who is the Hollywood “it” teenage/young adult male character these days. His first year of acting he was in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Manchester By The Sea, and Lady Bird. All award nominated films.

This year it is Mid90s, this film, and Ben Is Back. Films that just want to use Lucas Hedges up.

Ignoring some of his previous roles where he didn’t have as big of a pull, but apparently he only takes great projects now. Good on him. He doesn’t want to be a boy erased.

Family
“If you are going to be raised in this house, you are going to speak Australian! Crikey!”

Being gay in…well, most places is going to be hard. It is going to be harder if you are in a staunch anti-gay City environment, or ultra religious environment. For example, maybe your parents are preachers. That might not be the best place to come out.

And that is the reality of young Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges). He had to come out to his parents after an incident, despite his dad (Russell Crowe) being the Baptist preacher of the area. This is awkward, uncomfortable, and a bit sad. The mom (Nicole Kidman) wants to be supportive, while also listening to her husband.

Somehow, they all agree to send Jared to a gay conversion therapy camp. It is only for a little bit at first, to see how reluctant someone is to change. They can earn their straight card relatively quickly, with faith and good attitude. Others might have to have a more permanent, longer stay, with overnights and cabins.

And this is where Jared meets people like him. And the very intense and seemingly powerful man running the show, Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), who knows that people can change. And if not, they can be forced to change.

Also starring Flea, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, and Joe Alwyn.

Bed
Sleepovers help build trust.

I don’t know how many movies have been about gay conversion therapy before this one. It has been plot points of various TV shows, from South Park to Malcolm in the Middle, but they rarely talk about the extreme dangers to the mind that happened during these things, along with the brainwashing and extreme control of them all.

And this one gets real with it. It puts the viewer in there, it showcases the sadness, and it really makes you think.

At this point there is a lot less gay conversion therapy places in the US, but there are still some that exist. Which is a big problem. This is a film meant to bring more awareness to the issue, in a way that the dozens of articles may not have been able to fully address.

Hedges, Kidman, and Crowe were really great here. I loved the fuck out of Crowe, specifically, it is good to see that he still has it. Edgerton, our director, also really did a good job of making me hate and somewhat fear his character. A lot of great performances.

And yet, at the same time, I strangely didn’t cry. It seems like a perfect film to bring on the tears, and I still couldn’t ever reach that point.

It is a film that will certainly be talked about for some time.

3 out of 4.

The Grinch

The Grinch would be the biggest Dr. Seuss effect on society if it wasn’t for that feline that wore head accessories.

Speaking of the Cat of the Hat, I have still never seen that live action movie. But it was supposedly terrible, so bad that that the Seuss family said no more live action films. Just animated. Which means that eventually we got to have The Lorax from Illumination Entertainment, a company normally on my shitlist, because they make shit to average films.

And despite seemingly having any Seuss thing to work with, they figured they could just do The Grinch again. Why? I don’t know. We have a successful animated 2D version, and a successful 3D live action version, so I guess we need another version, this time animated and 3D.

If it was a better company, I would be annoyed because they could have decided to do One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish instead. Maybe Tim Burton will tackle that one after Dumbo.

Snowman
One way to ruin Christmas is to teach the local youth about jerking someone else off.

Oh yeah, this is the section where I talk about the plot of The Grinch.

So uhhh, there is this place called Whoville, where all these Whooligans live in splendor and wonder. They are overtly happy and cheerful, and for whatever reason, they all enjoy the shit out of Christmas. Decorations, noise, presents, togetherness, food, you name it. Christmas is number one. Celebrations all month long.

But someone doesn’t love Christmas. No, he hates it. The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) lives in a mountain outside of Whoville, alone and bitter, with his dog, Max. He just wants to be left alone, but he has to visit Whoville to buy food occasionally. Normally he hides up all December to avoid the festivities.

This year, however, he has to return and get involved. Because they are putting everything bigger, 3 times bigger at least, and that he cannot stand. He must steal this Christmas from them, to make them feel as sad as he does all the time. That will show those Whos who’s boss.

Also featuring Angela Lansbury, Cameron Seely, Kenan Thompson, Rashida Jones, and Pharrell Williams at the narrator.

Santa
That’s not Santa! Santa Claus is a black man!

There is only really one major point I want to harp on, so I will get to the quicker stuff first. The Grinch doesn’t seem mean, just sad and lame. The film felt too long, and featured what turned out to be an unnecessary reindeer plot to pad the time. And the backstory they gave to him paints the city of Whoville as a terrible place to be with a bunch of assholes, and also sort of makes his behavior completely justifiable. Great.

However, besides all of that, I have a question. Do you think the Whos in Whoville worship Jesus or believe in any sort of god? Because in the last two movies and the book, they have not made any references to Jesus or religion. They celebrate Christmas like Americans, the secular ones at least. Presents, Santa, food, and togetherness.

There are no mangers in Whoville! This is not Earth at all, it is its own planet or city or entity. Shit, maybe it is on a snowflake.

But not in this movie. The first sign was when a choir was singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in what was definitely a minute long and silly scene. It took me out of the movie. They had Angels on trees, which isn’t as bad. But then even later, there was a singing of Silent Night, another very religious song.

These movie makers are so out of touch with the material, that they are getting their own potential Christmas traditions mixed up with Whoville Christmas traditions and that is a problem.

Come on, you know it is true. A fundamental breakdown of this magnitude is either agenda driven, or a lack of intelligence, neither of which should be celebrated.

1 out of 4.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Right off the bat, I will say I was not looking forward to Bohemian Rhapsody. The song is fine. And I love Queen! I have very fond memories growing up, watching Wayne’s World and hearing Queen’s greatest hits. My family owned two VHS tapes collecting their music videos. I saw them all the time. I really enjoyed I Want To Break Free because the men were dressed like ladies with facial hair, but the instrumental part freaked me out.

Hey. I was a kid.

But why don’t I care about this film? Because production woes made me indifferent. I was in love with the idea of Sacha Baron Cohen playing Freddie Mercury, it was perfect, and he could sing!

Production woes! Cohen left! Creative differences! The band wanted a feel good movie about the band and PG-13, the actor wanted the real story, the R rated stuff, the Oscar winning Mercury stuff. And eventually we now got this movie. Let’s not forget that the director, Bryan Singer, probable diddler of young male talent in Hollywood, was kicked off the project when it was almost done, and they had to finish it without him.

Even the well edited trailer did nothing to me. I got to hear so many Queen songs in under 3 minutes. With Mercury singing. Is this whole thing going to be a film with Queen songs just spliced on top? Fuck. On my films, even my biopics, I want the actors do the singing, at least in a studio. I don’t need to see Remi Malek doing an air band performance for a few hours.

Mercury
And aerobics!

In the 1970’s, times were changing. Disco wasn’t yet in a full swing, but people still liked music, and still had dreams. Like a young Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek), who later would change his name to Freddie Mercury. He didn’t want a normal job at an airport, he wanted to sing in a band. And he just so happened on a band who just lost their main singer. That is where he met Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy). A guitarist and a drummer. They didn’t want him, due to his teeth and look, but his talent did not lie. They eventually found a bassist in John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) and the rest was history!

Oh, and some more things happened. Not an instant success, but honestly, it didn’t seem to take long either.

They were a band who worked together and competed together. To get songs on albums, to try new things, to go into places they had not gone before. Especially true for Mercury, who found himself eventually with men, despite being married with his long term love, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and with kids.

There were a lot of influences on their music and on their lives. Roadies, managers, other lovers, groupies, fans, and what not. And of course, eventually the story ends in tragedy, but not before one of the best live concerts televised around the world.

Starring Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, and Aaron McCusker.

Band
They definitely look cooler in this picture. Too cool. Ice cold.

Behold, for I am disappoint.

People will praise this movie for several reasons, and these are things you should be leary about. The number one aspect being nostalgia. Hey, they like Queen, so a movie with Queen songs is alright. Just having music that you expect to hear inside of it is not a reason for something to be automatically good. Queen music is expected.

Malek’s performance is praised because he gets to prance about on stage like no fucks are given, with some big facial expressions. But you know what he didn’t do? Sing. I think maybe once, or twice in this movie he actually had to sing, and when he did it was all very little. Basically all of it is just actually Mercury singing and again, if I wanted to hear Freddie Mercury sing, I have YouTube and CDs for that. Is it weird to have a double standard when it comes to performances? I want my actors if they are playing singers to actually sing, but of course I wouldn’t care if an actor is actually playing piano, guitar, or drums, although it can surely help make things authentic.

Honestly, one of my favorite aspects of the film ended up being the other members of Queen. I just loved that these members looked so much like their counterparts, who I recognize from seeing their music videos over and over again. They all also had their own personalities and traits, consistently through the film. I guess it is easy to get them right when the real figures are alive and backing the film. They weren’t outstanding acting performances or taking away from Mercury, but they felt like real people and that was a good change.

The way they chose to portray actual events in the film is really what bugged me. Honestly, it took way too long to have Mercury come out as gay in the film. They had hints about it, like stupid teases. Sure, being gay at that time was way more frowned upon, but as modern viewers, there is no need to keep such an obvious and important focal point hidden. And honestly, about 3/4 of the way through the movie, I was wondering if they would even say the word AIDS in the movie. I almost thought they wouldn’t mention it at all (they did). But they did it first through a weird news cast that Mercury happened to see. And the scene where he went to the hospital and was tested was just so…odd looking. It ended with a fan singing at him, and felt way too much like an awkward TV PSA about…drugs or anything really. It didn’t feel impactful, it felt awkward.

Biopics often have moments where they have people who doubt their talent who later are shown regretting it and being angry. These scenes are ALWAYS bad, and seem petty and unnecessary. But they really went full out with it in this movie. First, they had Mike Myers as the character in question. They made him say a line about how teenagers would never be banging their head to Bohemian Rhapsody, obviously referring to the scene in Wayne’s World decades later. We get to see him angry in his office later in the movie, because why not. Also during the Bohemian Rhapsody scene, it decided to have news/review quotes fly through the screen about how it was a bad song and destined for nothing.

Like, was the entire point of this movie actually to just rub it in some critics faces that people ended up liking Bohemian Rhapsody? Enough to name the Queen biopic after the song (which feels unoriginal and uninspired), just to prove that people like it.

The whole thing is incredibly average and standard as a biopic. This feels like a disservice to a band that was anything but average and standard. And because of that, I disliked it even more. This movie played it safe and boring. I, for one, will be ready for the better film in twenty years.

1 out of 4.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

I saw a trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, I was astounded by the screen in front of me.

I honestly didn’t know this was a movie coming out, and my first impression was, “…is this another goddamn Alice in Wonderland movie sneaking its way out?”

I have an easily hate relationship with those two movies. Alice in Wonderland was telling a story so awkward, because it decided to be a secret sequel, and Through the Looking Glass is just legit one of the worst films I have ever seen.

This film just seemed to be equally CGI heavy, with a British slant, and some sort of fantasy uncomfortable world.

But why a CGI fantasy movie about the nutcracker? Was there clammoring for a nutcracker based movie? I mean, it seems to only be loosely based on the play/ballet as well. It certainly is not going to be a ballet showcase. So, a serious non dancing version of a famous dance? Like…Why.

That would be like taking a Tony award winning musical and turning it into a not really musical movie. A very poor decision.

Group
Speaking of poor decisions…the agents of these famous people!

This yarn is about a girl named Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who is really smart and charming in her own way. The kind of girl that boys will chase later in life when she is successful, not when boys are stupid and in school. Her mom died in the last year, and that made things really sad. She has an older sister (Ellie Bamber), a younger brother (Tom Sweet), and a dad (Matthew Macfadyen) who is trying to keep things normal by avoiding the issue almost completely.

So they are taken to a big Christmas Eve ball party for their British aristocratic friends and neighbors. Clara had received an early present before the ball of an egg with a lock, but no key. Her mom had left it for her before she died. Clara is more focused on the key than silly dances.

And sure enough, thanks to the plot, at some point Clara wanders into a different wintry world. No, this is not a world with lions and witches and wardrobes. This one has nutcrackers, mice that seem extremely intelligent, toy soldiers, and sugar plum fairies (Keira Knightley). A world of four lands that have come together to be swell together, or something. A land that her mom used to be the queen of and now it is her time to lead! Once she gets the key and fixes a few issues of course.

Also starring Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and also Jayden Fowora-Knight as a major role, his second role after Boy Playing Tennis in Ready Player One.

Rats
“Go my rat minions! Go and steal the cheese!”

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms…first, the title is terrible. Honestly, why did they not just call it The Nutcracker? That is good, iconic enough, and can get those ballet people in. This title is too hard. THE nutcracker and THE four realms. The first THE could be cut out and it works better. But they wanted the play title too badly. And the second half? The four realms? That does nothing for anyone.

Alright, this is a movie about the nutcracker and four kingdoms. Will we have very location specific places? Different worlds? One of candy, one flowers, one of ice? Yeah, probably. But guess what. Most of the film that takes place in our magical land, takes place just at a castle and one of the realms that is now forsaken.

I have no clue if the “castle” is actually one of the realms or not. Because we don’t do a damn thing with the other 2-3 realms. Why the fuck is the title and advertising focusing on four realms, when we don’t even get to play in four realms? What are they setting up? What is the point?

And the point is nothing. There seems to be very little point in this movie. I guess it is about a young girl who has to use her daring and smarts to save the day. Save the day of a fantasy kingdom that has relatively low stakes. And that effects her regular life about zero. Where no one is close to dying, and everything just feels…flighty.

Speaking of flighty, the only strong connection to the Nutcracker ballet (besides aspects of the story) is the soundtrack, which features music from the nutracker. Some of it is obvious, a lot you may not notice, but they did not fit the story that great. If the music takes out of the story, then it might not be doing its job.

Near the end, a scene with a giant robot fighting toy soldiers (sigh, yes) spliced with other action shenanigans ends up feeling dead. It felt like an unfinished movie. There was no sense of dread or suspense, and it just didn’t feel like it matched what was supposed to be an intense scene.

And you know what? To top it all off? There was a small dance scene to music, where the characters involved were dancing a waltz. But the music was not a waltz song. Come on guys. You’re not even trying.

This film is forgettable, regrettable, and probably something that Disney is really going to bury in the future. I expect no sequels, no great toy tie ins, and just a lot of disappointment from everyone involved.

0 out of 4.

Bodied

With a film called Bodied, I really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, it seems like a horror film, doesn’t it?

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies) was a comedy/romance, so this could be going in that direction.

Or maybe like, an action film? Or a boxing film. That would work.

But a street rap battle film? One that is sort of a musical, sort of a comedy, and sort of a anger inducing suspense? All in one?

Well, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.

Crew
This is not a group of people waiting at attention.

Way back in [Current Year], a man was trying to turn his love of street rap battles into a dissertation for college. That man was Adam (Calum Worthy) and he was extremely white. How white is he? Well, he wants to write scholarly about rap, that is one thing. Adam so white, his dad (Anthony Michael Hall) is a professor at a university, and is like, the best professor at poetry and stuff. Adam so white, he feels bad about his whiteness. Adam so white, he cannot come up with a good nickname.

Adam is attending one of these street rap battles with his uninterested girlfriend, Maya (Rory Uphold), when he gets to have an interview with Behn Grymm (Jackie Long), his favorite rap artist. Adam knows everything about the different rapper’s rhyme schemes, how they can build up a diss, and all of that. The only thing missing is actually competing in the rap game.

But Adam is white. Super white. If he jumps in, and is successful, he doesn’t want to seem like a culture vulture. Even if it is his dream, it would shame in from his family and friends, all of which are very liberal (like him).

Despite this, Adam gets challenged on the streets, and despite being awkwardly white, he destroys the playa who tried to front and becomes somewhat of a viral sensation. So what is a white boy to do? Follow his dreams and throw away his family and former friends? Or go abck to his paper writing and always wander what if?

Or maybe a third option. Follow his dreams and throw away his family, former friends, and new friends too! A weird option, but an option nonetheless.

Also starring Jonathan Park, Shoniqua Shandai, Walter Perez, Charlamagne Tha God, and Dizaster.

Argument
Adam so white, he doesn’t respect people’s personal space.

Bodied is a hard film to sell and a harder film to describe. It is the type of film that seems to have way too many problems associated with it and to be a disaster. And maybe because the film is constantly on the edge of disaster is why the movie works in the first place.

My best description of this movie is like watching Breaking Bad. Not the entire series mind you, but the end of season four. Walter White had done some desperate things things in the show, and despite them being deplorable, they seemed to still be related to his general survival. But by the end of season four, you certainly know that things have changed by now. This is not the man you remember from season one. He is a bad guy, and you have been sort of rooting for a bad guy this whole time. Bodied is like the first four seasons of Breaking Bad.

And yes, that implies it ends before the various arcs we get in season five. And that is okay.

Our main character is not the nice guy he claimed to be. This film tackles so many subjects in such a unique and fresh way. Like cultural appropriation, systematic racism and oppression, and what is fair and not fair. What it means to be a friend and what someone is willing to sacrifice to win it all. Thanos would approve of our main character.

I didn’t know that a film with so much rap battling and recklessness could hold my attention. But the two hour run time just flew by me and was captivating, despite being about a topic I never cared about before. I am so conflicted at the end by so many characters. My wife came to talk to me during one of the final rap battles, and I had to shoo her away because “this is important”. I was cringing and almost crying, not sure how I should be reacting to what was on the screen.

In the end, Bodied is unique, both in terms of plot and how it chooses to tell a story and make its characters feel fresh. it is a wonderful addition to film and something you should not overlook.

4 out of 4.

Halloween

Forty years ago, a slasher movie came out, by John Carpenter, and people really liked it. I don’t know if Halloween changed the game from movies in that time, but it was well liked, it had some long cut scenes, surprises, boobs, and a lot of scary scary moments. It spanned a lot of sequels.

Three weeks ago, I finally watched that movie, and hey, I liked it enough. It was fun and I was excited for the sequel. I definitely did not watch any of the follow ups, because hey, new Halloween said they don’t matter. This is a direct sequel, fuck the other movies.

Sounds good to me.

Mask
This killer is now super old, and his mask really shows those stress lines.

Forty years ago, some bad stuff happened in Haddonfield, Illinois. You may have seen the documentary about it. And since that moment, since Michael Myers was apprehended, he has been studied in psych wards for decades. He barely moves. He doesn’t speak. No one can figure out his deal. We even have a new scientist (Haluk Bilginer), protege of the old scientist, who has made Myers his life’s work to unravel. And the state is finally done with Myers, so they are going to transfer him to real prison for him to just be jailed and ignored, no more chance for study.

Back in Haddonfield, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is living life on her own, in a compound in the wood. She’s got gates, security cameras, hidden rooms, and a lot of gun training. She is ready for the big day she knows is coming at some point. It has ruined her life in more ways than one. Her daughter was taken away from her when she was 12 years old due to her training, and her daughter (Judy Greer) hasn’t really let her back in her life much sense. That daughter is now married (Toby Huss), raising her own daughter (Andi Matichak) and trying to become normal and not driven by paranoia.

Needless to say, due to events, Michael is breaking out again, and he is ready to finish what he started. His obsession. His reason for breathing heavily.

And the plot involves some damn investigative journalists (Jefferson Hall, Rhian Rees) trying to stir up some memories. It is not the fault of the local Sheriff (Will Patton) this time. Also starring a few other teenage sidekicks to up the body count of people we potentially may care about, like Miles Robbins, Dylan Arnold, Virginia Gardner, and Drew Scheid with the worst Hobbit face known to man.

Door
And fuck this door in particular.

Halloween starts out strong and keeps up the pace for most of the film. We get to have a similar score from the original film, similar opening credits, and a whole lot of intense moments that have nothing to do with people dying from kitchen knives.

It does have jump scares early on, of relatively silly things, that modern movies love to do with teenagers. They can be annoying. This Hall actor being a journalist feels like he really just wants to be Kenneth Branagh. I really hate the fat jokester friend by a lot. He has a hobbit face, and it confuses me, and I just don’t want him in this movie.

Michael kills a lot more in this film, and seems far more superhuman than he did in the first film. Ridiculous deaths, jaws ripped off and more. Would make sense from a more supernatural point of view, but I thought this was meant to be more realistic slasher film.

I still did enjoy most of the film. But the last act felt very rushed (minus one search the house scene). Things were cut quickly, scenes moved quickly, and it became harder to follow while also being less exciting overall.

Honestly, the ending pushed it into just average territory. It was a fine follow up and probably lead to adequate follow ups in the future. Hopefully Kenny Fucking Powers will be in those follow ups.

2 out of 4.

First Man

When I first heard about First Man, I didn’t realize it was a biopic on Neil Armstrong. I thought it was just a space movie with cool visuals, and would be about the first man on Mars or something like that.

The poster is just really sexy like that.

Despite not knowing the real topic, I knew I was really excited. Damien Chazelle has yet to disappoint, with his first two big breaks being, well, big breaks. Whiplash was breath of fresh abuse, and La La Land is goddamn La La Land, my favorite movie of that year.

So yeah, let’s try a real person story about a space man!

Group
A bunch of men that totally want to break out into dance, but can’t in this movie.

In the 1960’s, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) became an Astronaut for the NASA program. He was already a test pilot for other companies as an engineer, not a military man, and he needed to get a new start. His daughter, Karen, had died when she was two, of some cancer. That sucks. That sucks a lot. He needed to get away.

Not just from the fact that his daughter died. But other friends as well. When doing science in the sky, and reaching the upper parts of the atmosphere, things can go wrong. They HAVE gone wrong for Armstrong, but he generally keeps a clear head on these sorts of things and lucks his way into not dying.

Is he afraid of dying? Is he ready to die? Is he afraid if he gets too close to people, he will become a wreck should they die in an accident? His wife (Claire Foy) loves him, and is helping raise their family, and is fully aware of the many risks of space travel. But she supports him, even when he is hard to reach. Physically, and emotionally.

And of course, eventually, Armstrong does some pretty impressive historical stuff.

Also starring a whole lot of white people. Most of them playing real white people too, I assume! Played by Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbot, Ethan Embry, Ciarán Hinds, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham, Olivia Hamilton, and Corey Stoll playing the Buzz Aldrin.

Love
I assume this dance is not my tempo.

Chazelle started us out on his film trajectory by giving us people who wanted to achieve stardom at all costs. The next film also involved achieving stardom, but in a city full of stars, people who already made their life successful. And now, in this film, we still have that achievement desire behind the scenes, but instead of reaching a city of stars, it is a whole sky full of stars. An interesting path and one that is keeping Chazelle fresh by clearly trying very different things.

The most interesting aspect of this movie, to me, is that it isn’t really about the moon landing. It is called First Man. Why? Because it is about the First Man on the moon, not the successful events, just the person himself. Neil. Armstrong.

That might sound like a normal biographic movie, but I assure you, this one feels different. We see things from his point of view and mindset, without having to actually go into first person point of view. It is easy to feel the claustrophobic nature of the capsules. Of viewing the edge of space for the first time. To walking on the moon, to losing a child or friend, to having to make life saving decisions despite not knowing the right answer.

It is so damn personal and at the same time it is hard to connect to him. Armstrong comes across a very distant person, dealing with a lot on the inside and less likely to talk about his feelings or actually deal with the reality his job is creating. He is a humble person and a quiet person, not looking for fame, but looking for something else hard to pinpoint.

First Man is a great film, with terrific acting, and is likely to be a lock for several nominations, especially in the sound mixing areas this upcoming Oscars.

3 out of 4.

Bad Times At The El Royale

I have never had a bad time at a place called an El Royale. Just saying, for some sort of context. I haven’t been to any El Royales as far as I know. So neither good nor bad times have been had at any El Royales. I am an El Royale virgin. Or at least, I was before I saw this movie, Bad Times At the El Royale.

Alright, now that the nonsensical first paragraph, overall this felt like a movie that would be really enjoyable. I didn’t know what to expect, but I liked the cast of characters and thought it could have some really fun and interesting scenes.

After seeing so many duds lately, and great films, I needed something that would just be entertaining. I really wanted this to fill that genre gap in my movie watching schedule.

Dancing
It did fill a Hemsworth sized whole in my heart. And that is a very large whole.

At the El Royale? Well, it used to be a happening spot. Lively nights, plenty of guests, and a lot of raunchy shenanigans. This hotel is on the border of Nevada and California. So it has a more expensive and classy side and a gambling side. A side for all the types who may want to visit. Now the hotel is almost in rambles. The front desk is basically just one person (Lewis Pullman), who also is the cleaning man, the bartender, and everything. A one man show.

And tonight? There will be some guests. We have Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a potential singing star who has a secret. We have Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who seems to be losing his mind, and a man with a secret. There is (Jon Hamm), someone who really wants the Honeymoon suite, because he has a secret. There is the vulgar and unfriendly (Dakota Johnson), who clearly has a secret.

A lot of secrets, and a lot of bad stuff coming together. How are Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, and Nick Offerman involved in the plot? Well, that’s a secret.

Raining
I’M SORRY. DID YOU THINK THIS PICTURE SPACE WOULD BE GIVEN TO SOMETHING THAT IS NOT SHIRTLESS?

Did you know that Bad Times at the El Royale is over 140 minutes long? Shit, this might as well be a Marvel movie at this point. Now of course if a movie is engaging and fantastic, the time doesn’t matter. BT at the ER is in fact entertaining with some cool scenes. It has nice songs/soundtracks to encompass the scenes. It is told out of order from multiple perspectives to help unravel the mysteries and keep things fresh. It is really impossible to guess where it is going and how it will end. And yet, it also feels way too long.

Sure, different perspectives is fun, but that does mean we have to see some scenes multiple times. And there is a lot of backstory at times that are cool for building characters, and at the same time, not always necessary.

I really enjoyed Hamm in this film. He was a combination of some of his previous roles and it was definitely a good fit for him. Potentially it can be used as an audition for an eventual super hero! Johnson was acting like someone completely different in this film and it was refreshing. Erivo knocked it out of the park for me in the film, she was the real star, in so many talented ways. And hey, Pullman was interesting as the, well, lobby boy. I actually thought it was maybe Tom Holland pushing some boundaries for most of the movie.

BT at the ER is a fun film, a different film, a Quentin Tarantino lite film, and one that will please a lot of fans. Especially those of Hemsworth. It just needed a lot more editing and maybe a more focused outcome by the end.

2 out of 4.

The Hate U Give

I have heard about The Hate U Give at least two years ago as a teacher in middle school. I had not read it yet, but I did want to read it. I just never got around to it. You know, movies and all.

I knew I had to wait until after I saw the movie. Maybe it would be like this year´s Wonder, in terms of book lovers all excited. Wonder was decent, and the book was decent. I assume there were a lot of fears about turning this allegedly very great book into a mediocre or shit movie. It has a big uphill battle, but at least its subject matter has been making good strides in cinema lately.

This year we already got Blindspotting and Sorry To Bother You, but neither of them are from the kid perspective. Of course, if there are already great movies on similar topics, it has a lot to live up to.

The Hate U Give has a lot of battles to climb, so on its own, it is its own representation of race relations. Another way to examine this is the IMDB rating, which at the time of writing is a 4.6, weeks before it comes out. Why? Oh, almost 200 votes for 1/10. Either this movie is very polarizing, or you know, racism.

Stare
Pretty sure we all know what she thinks.

A few years ago, the Carter family had to have ¨the talk.¨ So Lisa (Regina Hall) and Mav (Russell Hornsby) sat down their three kids, Seven (Lamar Johnson), Starr (Amandla Stenberg), and Sekani (TJ Wright). The oldest are just in their pre-teens, but it is time. No, this talk isn´t about sex. It is about what to do if they are in a situation where they are detained or pulled over by the cops.

This is a real talk that black families are starting to have to talk to, due to the violence and targeting that is going on in our country. It is not a great talk, but for families that care for each other, who know they cannot always be there to protect them, it is necessary.

It is the type of loving family that Starr grew up in, full of knowledge and strength. And now she goes to school outside of the hood she lives in. It is a white school, with white friends, white boyfriends (K.J. Apa) who won´t ever understand what she is going through at home. She has to balance these two lives. But it is when tragedy strikes her life and her friend Khalil (Algee Smith), she has her worlds start to crash together, giving her a whole new insight to this thing called life.

Also starring Common, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Dominique Fishback, Megan Lawless, and Anthony Mackie as a bad guy drug dealer. Been awhile since he has turned south in his roles.

Hands Up
Hands up won´t protect her on its own, but that Carolina Blue shirt will help.

The Hate U Give is a powerhouse from start to finish. From ¨the talk¨ at the start of the film, to the different worlds, to the cop tragedy, to the protests, to the speeches, to the riots. It is full of emotion from unexpected places. My first cry was because the father was by his daughters side after a nightmare. She wasn´t screaming causing him to run in the door. No, she woke up panicked and he was already there. Just subtle clues to show that clearly he had fallen asleep in a chair by her side to protect her, to help her with the morning after, and just be a goddamn amazing father. And that is the type of stuff that gets me.

Sure, I did cry a few other times, not just a one and done deal. It is hard not to get wrapped up in the story. Hell, at over 2 hours it almost doesn´t feel long enough. I need more of the story, I need to be there to help comfort the characters, to rage against the machine or whatever it takes. I am definitely going to grab the book, and it is going to make me upset just like the movie.

And more importantly, it is going to get me more upset about real life. I am white, if my writing doesn´t make that obvious. I am a man, if you cannot tell with my boob tags. And this is the type of movie that can get people to see the other side of the fence if they come to it with any amount of openness.

Stenberg was fantastic in the lead role. She wasn´t great in The Darkest Minds, but no one was. She was good in Everything, Everything despite the fact that I didn´t like the movie. But she was outstanding in this film. She carries a lot of weight and emotion in her face. Hornsby as the dad is my goddamn hero. I hope I can one day grow into a worldly intelligent and caring man like him.

Just so much of this film is relevant, at this point, it is practically essential viewing. It deals with heavy topics that kids in their pre-teens can better handle unlike other films and will be seen in schools throughout the nation within the next year.

4 out of 4.

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