Movie Roundup – Mainstream 2018 Part 1

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Mainstream 2018 (Part 1)! Basically, the popular movies I had missed, and need to really review, or else.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Mainstream 2018 Part 1

Alpha

In the face of this movie, I expected the worst. I thought this movie had to be a typical January release, something similar to
10,000 BC. But alarmingly, it came out in September, and when I finally got to see the movie it mostly met my expectations. It was surprisingly not amazingly bad, just regularly bad.

Gross CGI landscapes to recreate the before time, and a pretty uninspired storyline about the bringing together a “dog” and a man. The other sad aspect of this movie is that people might watch it and go, “Oh, so that’s how it happened! Domestication!” and take this movie as fact. That would be a shame. And I don’t know if people actually say that, because I barely know people who have seen it, but this straw man stands in my mind. A forgettable film, like most dog films.

1 out of 4.

Alpha
Waiting for Mufasa to show up takes forever.

Crazy Rich Asians

When I first heard this title, I really assumed it was sort of a joke. I didn’t know it was based on a book of the title, or why it was called that, but it just felt off. I thought it would be some sort of exploitative film that was a comedy no one would watch, and hey, it feels good to be wrong. A romance more than anything, this is a film about an outsider being brought into the world of ridiculously rich Asian people in Singapore. So we get all of the wealth, luxury, and snide comments with some back stabbing.

On its whole, it could have been a forgettable romance film. But the lavish sets went all out to display a lifestyle most of us can only dream about, while also bringing in new cultural elements to American cinema. Having the lead be the mom from Fresh Off The Boat was great, and showed she has at least some range. The ending teared me up too. And damn it, it is great in general to see different people on our romance movies. Bring on this wave of Asian-American films, damn it.

3 out of 4.

CRA
Out of the three adjectives in the title, I’d prefer the middle one myself.

Mission Impossible: Fallout

“More Mission Impossible? I thought we were done with those,” said no one really ever. Or at least said people who hadn’t been watching them. I will go on record and say the only one I didn’t get enjoyment out of was the second one, and that one has a lot of stranger things going on. I just didn’t see them until I was already an adult, so it took me awhile to appreciate them. Because lets face it, there isn’t another successful American action franchise that is going into this level of detail and craziness for its stunts. It wants Cruise to do most of the work.

He is never going to be the level of some of our older or past martial artist stars, with the long choreographed fight scenes, but its at least a step in the right direction. This film is still exciting, but overall, it feels uninspired. It just isn’t as good as the last two modern MI movies. The stunts aren’t as sexy, even if they have bigger overall stunts. It doesn’t fill me with as much awe, and the story line just gets excessive as it attempts to continually top itself. The ending also feels really clunky and I never really feel that sense of dread that it is going for. A good attempt at an action movie, I just expect a bit more now from the franchise.

2 out of 4.

MI5
The biggest stunts are helicopters? Eh, I’ve seen helicopters before.

Ocean’s Eight

I am a huge Ocean’s Trilogy fan, and a huge Steven Soderbergh fan, and so even if the director wasn’t really involved, I was hoping to love this one. Heck, the stars are there too, with a lot of big names.

I will say it feels gimmicky, and not equal, to just go the opposite direction and make it an all female cast. It doesn’t feel natural, just like an all male heist would be with the large numbers (which is why technically the two sequels had…one woman in on the heist). In the movie, it does seem to make a lot more sense, given just the nature of the crime and the talents they needed to pull it off, so that is the good news. The biggest issue overall is just that the movie feels forgettable when it finishes. No one person stands out in acting, and the various twists to show how it was pulled off are for the most part guessable, especially thanks to the title.

I still hope they can do more. Go for it. Just lets raise the stakes.

2 out of 4.

O8
Yep, eight people, like most of the advertising, spoiling a twist.

Tag

Finally, a film people maybe thought initially was a joke. A high budgeted comedy (and slightly action?) movie, about people playing tag, that has gone on with very specific rules for decades, and one person who never, ever gets tagged. So many stars, so little time, and such a ridiculous concept (based loosely on a real story). I wanted to enjoy it and was intrigued by the trailer. But like a lot of modern comedies, I think it really just needs a group of people or slight inebriation to really fully enjoy.

I’d prefer a comedy I can find historical alone, and this is clearly one meant for you to enjoy with your own group of friends, which is fine, but limited. Again, with a large cast, no one really feels like a standout, and some people seem to be doing the same sorts of character they are always type casted into. The ending also went a really strange place. Unexpected, sure, but something that feels almost like a complete genre switch.

1 out of 4.

Tag

Mainstream movies may be a broad title, especially when you compare them to the other quick themes I put together, but hey, its my themes suck it. I originally would have done genre, but too many films are multi-genre that I didn’t want to deal with that hassle.

Movie Roundup – Animated 2018

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Animated 2018! Basically, all of the animated movies of 2018 that didn’t get their own review.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Animated 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

First up is the only third film in a franchise in the group, but there are a few unnecessary sequels as well. And in terms of unnecessary things, this is near the top. This film doesn’t relaly have any redeeming qualities. It is very clear right from the get go what a twist would be, so instead of milking it, they give it away early as well.

The real twist is tricking you to give money for this terrible, terrible movie. The ending features a several minute long dance battle, from various artists, and then an even longer Macarena dance party. Yes, that Macarena. Were they paid to have it featured so prominently, has it been too long outside of our pop culture sphere? It seriously had to milk this scene so hard, as each main character needed to be shown doing the dance, and then group shots, and then tons of tourists, and every person everywhere, with extreme body movements to highlight their awkward appearances. It was one of the worst endings of a movie this year, so well done Hotel Transylvania 3. Please stop now.

0 out of 4.

Group

If only Van Helsing was successful hundreds of years ago, none of this would be here today.

Incredibles 2

Next up is a sequel people have actually been wanting forever, and Brad Bird said only when he had a worthy script, and apparently that meant 14 years later. Real time, not the movie time, as it takes place right after the first movie. And I honestly thought he should have waited longer. This film just feels so uninspired by me. I really didn’t need to see moments after they finished the first film, leaving me at the same exact point except we have a baby with changing every power nonsense. I could have used years later, more developed.

This plot feels too similar to the first. Still people are afraid of supers, but instead of the man going out to fight, its now the lady. The plot twist was once again obvious, so it didn’t do much for me. In 2004, Superhero movies were shit, so The Incredibles stood out as a beacon of hope for things to come. Now Superhero films have been able to elevate their game, bring a whole lot more exciting things, and this film more or less stayed the same. My mind checked out by the end, and it felt like too little too late.

2 out of 4.

group

Babies are hard to care for. Hialrious!

Ralph Breaks The Internet

This sequel is a lot sooner after the first film, to maximize off of its success. However, this felt like a rushed piece of movie that relied on current style jokes only to work, which is going to doom it in the long run. This movie is by Disney, who wanted to flex their expansive collection and throw in all of the princesses and more in an internet hub world to make people giddy, almost as counter to Ready Player One , another nostalgia heavy film. Except this one combines nostolgia with extremely current, so we get memes, we get current popular websites, and it is going to do what many modern comedies do: fade into obscurity in a few years.

It is still nice to look at, and the ending is totally weird, but honestly, they made Ralph into such a shit in this movie. In the first film, he was tired of being a bad guy, who tried to do the right thing, but from his good intentions some bad still happened. In this film, he becomes selfish and straight up almost gaslighting Penelope into staying, and going out of his way to be a dick, whcih causes the problems. He felt like an extreme nice guy. “I did all of this for you, and now you want to leave!? Love me!” These are not the traits to be highlighting in our animated heroes, even if he learns his lesson. He still needed to not be such a dick.

2 out of 4.

group

Ha ha ha ha screaming goats ha ha manipulation ha ha ha free will.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

This movie is an awkward one, as it had a small release, not a big studio, and looked like absolute shit. Letting us know it is based on a true dog from World War I doesn’t make this feel any less uncomfortable the whole time. In highlighting what a dog did, with most likely extreme examples that might not have happened, we downplay the hell out of actual soldiers in the war who died. I don’t know if anyone is still alive from that war, but I know they would definitely not like this movie iteration.

It was a terrible war, and not saying we can’t make kid versions about the war. But it didn’t do a good job of really informing the details of the war, so it isn’t really educational. Instead, it is a super pup movie, who has a soldier friend, who saves everybody. It is so soft and basic it just feels like a waste of time. Cool, at least one dog in a war was given the title of sergeant. Please don’t trivialize the war at the same time.

1 out of 4.

group

Yo dawg, just no.

Sherlock Gnomes

For those of you who did not see Gnomeo and Juliet (which I will assume is everybody), it was lawn gnomes, but the Romeo and Juliet story line. And for whatever reason, they got Elton John on board with it, and a lot of his hits were either background, or the tune of his songs with different lyrics. It was uncomfortable. So yeah, let’s do a sequel. But a different story. Completely unrelated, except also being British in nature.

Now, if you are like me, you assumed okay, new story, new hero and will just be gnomes. But no, they think we really like the pair from the previous movie and it is still really about them, with also a mystery and extra characters. And despite the first being a big movie about their romance and getting together, this one is also about how Gnomeo is a shitbag who won’t let his woman do her own things, so he has to be insecure and they should not be a couple. More bad things for kids, really. Also, what the fuck is this Shelock plot line. I haven’t seen Homes & Watson yet, but this has got to be the worst year for that poor detective in hundreds of years. Straight up I will let you know, at some point, Watson is found to be part of the bad guy plot as well, because they want something new. Get out of here.

Oh yeah, and still, Elton John music.

0 out of 4.

group

Here are four characters no one ever has, or will, care about.

Smallfoot

This is one of those movies I had completely dismissed before watching it. It looked like an Illumination movie, and they are generally godawful always. But it isn’t that! It is Warner Bros, who is known for Lego Movies and Storks (and that’s it right now). Knowing Storks, I wasn’t excited either. But strangely enough, Smallfoot had a lot going on for it. It had pretty good lead acting and some fun characters. It dealt with a serious topic about dealing with religious doctrination, from many angles. It didn’t say blindly follow, or screw all of it and get rid of it. There were layers to the plot.

I didn’t know it had songs in it either, so when they started I was a bit turned off, but for the most part they are really great. Even when one had to take the riff from Under Pressure, it completely ran with the premise and made it into something wonderful. Shit, the music was dope. I laughed. Now the ending did have a lot of problems, it got clunky and a bit off. But for the most part, Smallfoot is a solid film and better than most of the animated films this year. I’m looking at you, Disney and Pixar.

3 out of 4.

group

Who really has the small feet in this situation, WB, Disney, or Pixar?

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

And finally, we have a movie that came in a summer and I actually heard a lot of good things about. I heard it was hilarious. I heard I didn’t need to watch the show to like. I watched the first Teen Titans a few times, and it seemed quality. The Go version looked like, and maybe even smelled like trash. And it turns out, their movie seems to go with my preconceptions of the show.

Let’s make this clear. I didn’t laugh once. It had a few fart and potty jokes in it. It had a group of five people but it could not at all let them all be the stars, despite it being a team film. Clearly, a movie about Robin wanting a movie about himself will be more about him. Fine. But the other four are barely used. Cyborg is used a lot more, then Beast Boy, and our girls are rarely mentioned or get a line it seems. It is also a surprise musical, with some tunes being nice.

But what makes this movie insufferable is its over reliance on meta humor and current meme standards. We get it. Its a movie about making a super hero movies. We got superheroes in it, and they are hilarious. It just went all these terrible directions and never felt like something I would ever want to watch. It is like an idea someone made on an internet message board, and for whatever reason, a studio executive was drunk and actually listened to it. Yeah, a movie about making movies. But fart humor. And not showcasing all of the members of the team. And repeated jokes. Yes. God awful.

0 out of 4.

group

God awful.

Overall, I am not surprised that three of these films got the lowest rating. I am surprised at how much I disliked Teen Titans though, could never imagine that poor of a film. I figured Sgt. Stubb would have been worse. I am surprised at the mediocrity from our big studios and how good Smallfoot ended up being.

Some of these films will make the worst of the year list, none will make the best. If you wanted quality animated films from this year, from America, check out Isle of Dogs and Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse.

Vice

Adam McKay shocked the world when in 2015 he moved away from his normal brand of movie directing, and instead gave us The Big Short. A true story, that is funny, terrifying, and well acted? What is this? The Big Short ended up being my favorite movie of the year when I made the list (but since then, I know for a fact that Steve Jobs is my real number one after a few years).

So the big question is, can he do it again?

This time his attempt is to go slightly further back in history and give us a movie about Dick Cheney. A hated, loved, and not fully understood politician who was Vice President under George W. Bush. Of course the title has a double meaning here, McKay is hoping to tell this story in a similar way. Narrator being a character, lot of various plot lines, and frankly, weird shit going on.

A funny movie, that is also maybe going to make you sad/angry/scared. Seems like a good idea for a slam dunk.

Watch
This is the face republicans will make watching this movie.

Dick (Christian Bale) grew up as the type of person who was going to go nowhere. He had a basic job, and spent most of his money getting drunk at night. This lead to some DUIs, barroom fights, the normal stuff. But his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) wasn’t putting up with his basic bitch problems. She was still in her prime and could have any man. It was time for him to put up, or shut up, and save this marriage before it was too late.

And apparently, he still had some fight in him.

He eventually got himself a job as an intern in DC, where he met Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), who was a big Republican at the time, and who knew how to play the game. Cheney quietly learned the same tricks and I do mean quietly. He wanted to have the power, without showing it off. He wanted to do without saying and just become great. He wanted to maybe become president one day, and every little bit was just a step along the way.

And Cheney also didn’t care what he had to do to get it. He learned of many legal loopholes about what the president can and cannot do, along with the vice president job. He became CEO of Halliburton, raised a lesbian daughter, and shot a guy in the face who later apologized for getting shot. He clearly is a man with a story, even if that story makes him out to be a total shit bag.

Also starring Alison Pill, Bill Camp, Don McManus, Eddie Marsan, Jesse Plemons, Justin Kirk, Lily Rabe, LisaGay Hamilton, and Sam Rockwell as George W., with Tyler Perry as Colin Powell.

DIck
Somewhere in there is Christian Bale.

Vice is a polarizing film because it goes hard after Dick. This is not remotely a fluff piece. He is the bad guy of this story. Even if you think it is going to talk about how he is a go-getter, who works hard. No, he is bad. A mastermind. Explicitly working to gain power regardless of precedent. Now, whether all of this is factual is the question. What matters is that a lot of it IS factual, even if the motivations we have to more guess about.

It also is extremely unique in its story telling, so much that the message can get easily lost. After all, there is a lot going on, and if you don’t believe anything happening, you might just call it a silly movie.

The acting is what we really have to talk about here. Bale completely transformed himself. Outside of young Cheney, he looks completely like a different person and it is easy to forget he is even inside that body. His transformation is this year’s Darkest Hour. Adams and Perry are limited in their roles, but do outstanding jobs. Carell has done better in other roles, but still carries his own weight here. Rockwell is a natural fit for George W. and should play that character more often.

Vice, on its own, is basically an insane film. It definitely isn’t as good as The Big Short (I think…?), but it is a film I feel like I need to see 2 or 3 times overall before I fully can grasp its scope. I am annoyed at myself for having to write this while only seeing it once. It is definitely going to be deserved of acting praise from Bale, but I am not sure what else it might walk away with for rewards.

Either way, McKay, hats off to you for trying new and polarizing work.

3 out of 4.

On The Basis of Sex

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a real life BAMF, who should one day be immortalized somewhere with a statue. At least one, hopefully ten. We should have advancing science to have cloning technology be figured out in the next 2 months so that we can make a younger version of her so she can continue her righteous crusade.

First of all, if you have not seen RBG yet, you should. It is on Hulu, it is one of the best documentaries of the year (although it shouldn’t make you cry like some other top ones). It is very informative, goes over her whole life, big battles before the Supreme Court, and is a perfect companion piece to this movie, On The Basis Of Sex.

This movie is about Ginsburg before she was in the Supreme Court. When she had to deal with normal lady struggles at the time, while still trying to be badass.

And it will go into the details that the documentary mentioned, but couldn’t spend a lot of time on because she had decades of cool things to talk about.

COUple
Like how to look imposing when standing next to a giant male model.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) has always been a fighter. That is how she fought her way into Harvard Law School, probably the best place to learn law in the 1960s. It only recently let in women, but they clearly did not like them there anyways.

Despite being the top of her class, she continually ran into oppression. Her husband (Armie Hammer), a law student above her year, developed cancer. With a baby at home, what’s a girl to do? I don’t know, go to both of their classes, take notes/assignments, take care of a husband and child, you know, superhero stuff.

And despite being amazing, and everyone knowing it, she still couldn’t get a job. Top of class? Still a lady. She had to settle for many years, teaching instead, until specific case opportunities came her way. Things that no one wanted to touch, that dealt with gender rights and equality. Hey, these seem like topics she wants to fight too! You know, because of her constant issues.

This is the type of case that needs to be fought all the way to the Supreme Court, to help change the law of the land. The first of many cases she took there before finally getting a seat herself.

Also featuring Jack Reynor, Stephen Root, Cailee Spaeny, Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston, and Justin Theroux.

TEeth
Don’t be fooled by her degrees, she still knows how to party.

Jones does an amazing job playing an amazing woman. From the way she carries her face, the power in her little frame, and her voice, it is like looking into the clone machine that I asked for earlier, but with better quality lenses than my poor eyes can normally handle.

As a general rule of thumb, I will always watch a movie with Hammer in it, and he does a swell job as well. The movie does a fantastic job of displaying both the subtle and non subtle ways he has privilege over his wife, and his ability to deal with issues and get certain things passed.

Unfortunately, this film suffers a bit in that it really feels like telling a story in which case she is not able to do things on her own, which she does dozens of times in her life, but instead focuses on the moment where she needs that ally to get her to the next step. It is like my criticism of Marshall, focusing on a story where they can get a white male lead in, despite having an amazing person to talk about. Nothing wrong with Hammer’s character, because this is a role where he is the husband and partner in the case, but it still makes me question why not talk about those other cases more when she gets to actually be the star.

Unfortunately, this film is not as good as the documentary on the similar subject. The acting is great, but the story is a beat weaker. We have villains who just are out to get her because she is a lady, which seems like a gross simplification of what she was up against. Film took a lot of history for granted, and turned things into more silly feeling situations.

That does not mean this film is not entertaining or something you will sleep through. I liked it! I was just disappointed it didn’t develop into the Oscar contender I was hoping for.

3 out of 4.

Mary Queen of Scots

As a history major, I tend to love a good historical biopic film, that goes for realism, truth, and has amazing set pieces.

At the same time, my focus was on Ancient History, and I tried to avoid any of that medieval nonsense, mostly because I do not care about British history. I got enough of that growing up. I want old stuff or other cultures. I just don’t want to get bogged down in the King and Queen dramas. It is why I still haven’t seen The Crown.

But Mary Queen of Scots is a famous story, one that I know next to nothing about. It has to be famous, it rings true, but honestly, never looked into who or what it was. Did she behead a lot of people? Did she inspire Braveheart? I don’t know!

I do know that with the leads being several ladies, we still might get some dope gossip though.

Mary
On first glance, this does not answer the Braveheart question.

First of all, this film takes place like 250-300 years after William Wallace, so they are unrelated.

We are going to talk about Mary (Saoirse Ronan) who became Queen of France at 16! Nice. Two years later her husband died, and instead of remarrying and living back in France, she went back home and decided to rule there again. Now, due to some legal loopholes, she has more of a right to the throne of England than her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).

But Mary cannot just go and waltz in, demand the crown, and everyone is cool with that. So instead, she goes to Scotland, to work with the people there to set up a rule, to be peaceful with their neighbors, and basically bide her time. If Elizabeth cannot get an heir, or dies, it will be Mary’s turn (or her own children), so let’s be civil and wait it out.

It is not civil. There is some warring, some backstabbing, some dead loved ones and imprisoned things. There is a lot of betrayal and a whole lot of politicking that will get you lost.

Hey. As long as you still look noble by the end, right?

Also starring David Tennant, Gemma Chan, Guy Pearce, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Adrian Lester, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Simon Russell Beale.

Queen
Royalty is the epitome of being a strong independent woman who don’t need no man, unless you need an heir to keep it strong forever, in which case you are vastly dependent and sad.

When I say get lost in the politicking, I really mean it. This is a dense cast with a lot of characters who have lines and I guess are real people in history. And it is not like the movie pops up with subtitle cards to fully explain everyone’s role and their motives. You have to pay attention, try to gather what matters and what doesn’t and by the end, I still didn’t fully grasp who/why everyone was, why things happened, and the real ramifications.

This might just be a historical movie for those already down with the history. And there is nothing wrong with that, technically, but it does mean it will have issues finding a larger audience. Movies should be made for all sorts of people and a certain level of intelligence can be a requirement. It just means I am left talking about how pretty the movie was and well acted, without being able to comment a lot on the plot.

Needless to say, the movie was very pretty and well acted from our leads. I was especially surprised by the makeup department and their ability to make Robbie look a whole lot less attractive.

For my money though, I could never imagine wanting to watch this movie again. It is 2 hours that feel like 3, no matter how pretty it looks.

2 out of 4.

Anna and the Apocalypse

Every year I have a most anticipated movie of that year, and I try to make it pretty obvious when I first hear about it. For example, last year my most anticipated film was The Greatest Showman, and I was excited for around 18 months until I finally got to see it.

For 2018, my most anticipated movie was Anna and the Apocalypse. I first heard about it in 2017, as a movie screened at Fantastic Fest. So it was an already complete product, it just needed a distributor, and it needed to find a time to release.

Apparently that time was a whole year later. I don’t usually have a theme of my most anticipated movies coming out in December, it just happened to be true these last two years. They aren’t always musicals either, but again, it can happen.

But this film just had everything for me to get hyped on. Accents, comedy, music, and zombies. What else is missing?

Ignore
This is me ignoring the people who hate this movie on the premise alone.

Another day, another pile of classes, and another set of dicks to deal with. That is what most high school students think. Anna (Ella Hunt) wants to get out of her small town in Scotland, and see the world. More notably, Australia, that would be cool. She lives alone with her dad (Mark Benton) who is also the head custodian at the school, which isn’t as awkward as it sounds. It is totally cool in Scotland. He knows she has ambitions, but he doesn’t know she is already buying the tickets to leave.

Life is relatively normal for her though otherwise. She has an ex (Ben Wiggins) who disgusts her and is now a school bully, she has a best friend (Malcolm Cumming) who likes her, but not too mutual. She has some friends who are madly in love (Marli Siu, Christopher Leveaux ) despite weirdly paired, and an American friend (Sarah Swire) and she is from America! Hell, we even have an assistant principal (I don’t remember what they call that spot in Scotland) character (Paul Kaye) who wants to ruin kids lives and rule the school! A smorgasbord of fun.

And even though they are alone in Scotland, it is not far enough for the Zombie plague to reach them. That’s right, zombies!

Getting away is a good idea, but when friends and family are separated, the first goal is to find them, then figure out a way off. And yes, these zombies are pretty typical. And as far as I remember, none of them end up singing. You need to have a warm body to sing.

Head
Working lungs are good too. And a head. Yeah, definitely a head.

Alright, going into a movie that is my most anticipated of the year AND a musical? Well, that means I will have some biases. Thankfully these biases I am aware of and only have a small effect on the film. Because darn it, this film is not a 4 out of 4, no matter how much I want it to be. It has issues, it has plot problems, it could be better. But it is still really dosh garn entertaining.

Now, most of the songs in retrospect sound very similar. Just in their poppy, very fine tuned comb way. That bugged me when watching it. There are some clear standouts from the movie. Hollywood Ending is fantastic, it is their favorite too given their push to get people to hear it and made the lyric video. I enjoy Break Away, Turning My Life Around, and Human Voice. Other songs like the Chrstmas/Fish Rap aren’t as good with repeated listens, and I never really enjoyed the songs with Kaye singing. That included the ending songs. They just didn’t mesh well. The song with Wiggins is downright terrible, and another one they are trying to push, but it left a sour taste and never felt like it would end.

And I listened to the soundtrack a lot, it can easily get in your head, and I want to see the movie again thanks to the music and the way the songs occurred.

It is really easy to get attached as well. I did cry twice in the movie, because you know what? People are going to die. Despite the claims of not a Hollywood Ending, we still get a drive off into the horizon, with not the cast of characters I would have predicted. Zombies are used only when needed as plot devices to further a script, and that does include killing characters. And unfortunately, the ending is a big mess. I mean the entire time they are at the (final place, is this a spoiler?) school, just didn’t go well.

It is still enjoyable, a tow tapper, and a film I will add to my collection of stranger zombie comedies to watch when the mood hits me.

3 out of 4.

Mary Poppins Returns

54 years has to be some sort of record when it comes to having a sequel for your movie. I am talking about movies that have never been rebooted, or turned into an animated series, or given sequels decades ago but here is another one to ignore the rest, or a prequel in a different format. And you know, a sequel, done by the same company who has always owned those rights.

When they first announced Mary Poppins Returns, with the main leads, I was actually excited. Blunt killed it in Into The Woods, and her look could clearly pull off the same character. And of course Miranda is amazing in everything and could handle the goofy singing and dancing sidekick.

But I did quickly forget about it, and haven’t really cared about it coming out since the announcement. The idea seems swell, but maybe the real world is too annoying and dark for me to really escape for two hours and watch British kids learn to use their imagination or whatever.

KIDADUlts
And British adults learn their imagination never really left.

Many years ago, Mary Poppins magically appeared and fixed a family, then flew off, never to be seen again.

Until now. Decades later. Same neighborhood, house, and…family? Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now older. Ben is living in the same house, with his three kids (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson) and Jane has her own flat, but she is around frequently to help out. Michael was married, but she died, and this has put a big strain on their house. Finances are bad for that reason, but also because the whole neighborhood is in a financial crisis, of which it is hard to even find work.

So things are kind of shitty, and you know what, the bank is going to reposess their home probably. That means bye bye childhood, hello sadness and stress. They need help. And the kids aren’t being kids, they are just acting like tiny adults. Boo!

We need Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to return! And with the help of her new compadre, a fast talking lamp lighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), they will get the damn job done.

Also starring Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Noma Dumezweni, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Jim Norton, and David Warner.

JUMP
Jumping into the pits of hell is a unique twist in this film.

Mary Poppins Returns is an unrelentingly optimistic look at life, sorrow, and pulling yourself up by the goddamn bootstraps to make yourself smile.

Something sad? Fuck your sadness, let’s get happy!

This movie felt a bit weirder, as there is a notable “villain” character, while the problems of the first film seemed to just deal more with priorities and not being family enough. This is a fine family in terms of love, just they have lost their way, and also, someone is out to get them. I don’t think it needed to be so mean spirited for a Poppins movie.

For the songs, there is only one song I really loved, which was A Cover Is Not The Book. And it is definitely a song I like more with the video, and not just the song. Most of the other ones just feel adequate, or extra. A fair number of reprises for the songs is a good use of their time at least. I absolutely hated the Streep song and the whole scene. It was a one off just to get her in there and act silly, and clearly it is a reference to the first film, but also, it did nothing for me.

This film relies heavily on nostalgia to sell. We have various versions/scenes that are clearly just throwbacks to the first film, to have similar antics, and that is more lazy than exciting. Because of better special effects, everything is a lot more polished, and thus feels a bit more fake when it comes to the more spectacular dance scenes. When we have the lamp lighter army doing their song and dance (because the last film did it with chimney sweeps), it just felt too cut heavy and small, like you could see the size of the set and didn’t pull me in.

It should be noted, that Blunt and Miranda still knocked it out of the park, and they are reason enough to see it. This is the film you want if you just need to smile and have a pick me up in these times of misery. It isn’t the best film, it won’t probably change any lives, but it can be a good escape, despite its issues.

3 out of 4.

Ben Is Back

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Ben is Back! And tell a friend!

Speaking of Ben, Lucas Hedges is also back, ready to rock out another amazing performance. Starring in too many Oscar nominated films last year wasn’t good enough for him. He needs more, again, now.

And for this film he has the help of other award winning actors and actresses, because he is tired of helping others win stuff.

SHRUG
He is doing his best here to look like he doesn’t care about awards.

Holly Burns (Julia Roberts) is a hardworking woman, who wants to make sure her home is safe, her community is happy, and that everyone everywhere is just happy. An extreme housewife like role, you know? Her daughter (Kathryn Newton) is almost done with high school and a great singer. Her other two kids with her new husband (Courtney B. Vance) are well behaved and free spirited, not yet ready for life to strike them down.

And then there is Ben (Lucas Hedges). He is in rehab, for not the first time in his life. When he comes home, bad things happen. Things go messing, questionable people come around, and of course we get a relapse, and when people are on drugs they are wild cards.

Will this time be different? Because surprise, Ben is back! Unexpectedly, for Christmas. Did he have permission? Is he done with the program? Has he actually gotten better this time? Or will his life spiral down, causing more destruction just like the last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.

Also starring Rachel Bay Jones, David Zaldivar, Michael Esper, and Jakari Fraser and Mia Fowler as the little brother and sister.

cAR
This is how happy people drive their cars.

Ben is Back is about two people. And Vance is really not one of those two. He is fine in the film, but very limited, just like the sister character played by Newton. This is about a mom and her addicted to drugs son. This is about Roberts and Hedges.

First of all, I finally have an answer to why Hedges is in so many amazing movies the last few years, coming out of nowhere. And no, the answer is only partially because he is an amazing actor. It is because of his dad, Peter Hedges, a writer/director, who also wrote and directed this movie. He has some Hollywood connections and probably some acting money. Hedges delivered a hell of a script, taking place basically over a single day before Christmas. There is so much tension in this family, so much past alluded to and shown on the screen, and it hard to not feel anguish for the characters. That is both Hedges and Roberts. Rarely do these films give us a fair side to the addicted person, despite it being a disease.

And holy shit, Roberts is great. She is a ticking time bomb, trying to hold so many things together, to keep a straight face, and do what she thinks is the right thing. In the face of despair she is trying to smile her way through it because that is what her character must have been told and learned growing up. She is an island and a ball of emotion. She is everything in this film.

This is a movie about two people, and it is about two amazing acting performances.

4 out of 4.

Mortal Engines

Peter Jackson‘s name is super attached to the project Mortal Engines, despite it not seeming like a project up his ally.

Okay, it is based on a book, and he has done quite a few movies based on books or other sources.

But it also looked like a CGI hellscape of a movie. Practical effects were Jackson’s bread and butter in the early 2000’s, outside of some monkey business. Sure, he Hobbited it that aspect up in the future, but there was some attempts to not make it one big green screen, right? Right?

Well, needless to say, this movie isn’t actually Peter Jackson’s baby. He isn’t the director. He is one producer and one writer of the screenplay. He is just a big name and probably involved himself very little in the project. Whew. That was a close one. Can’t have too many duds in a row, or else no one cares about your past.

Spyglass
This is our main character trying to find Robert De Niro‘s dignity for similar reasons.

Mortal Engines takes place some 200-300 years in the future. Instead of sleek future design, we had to go a bit dystopian, and a bit steam punk. Of course some resource concerns exist, and apparently that lead to bigger and badder weapons, which wiped out a lot of technology. Now that is a thing of the past. And instead of resorting back to a feudal farming society, they realized that having a farm is lame, and they needed to be more nomadic. And when you are a nomad but the Earth is too big to wander, you just gotta take your whole house with you. And city.

And uhh, we have cities with giant wheels now, moving across the landscape, in search of places to temporarily settle, to get more resources and then, move, or whatever. And the bigger the city, the more resources they need, so they can’t just like, sit still and gather up enough to move. So instead, they invest in bigger stronger wheels and straight up try to “Eat” smaller community city/town/buildings. They can convert the people into new workers and citizens, and tear up the building material to burn into fuel.

Okay, so this is terribly inefficient. These predator cities can’t possibly survive like this unless they are munching up settlements all of the time. And these settlements are sparse. There are some settlements that don’t move, but they are behind a large wall in a pass, separating let’s say Europe and Asia, with big boom makers, so they can’t get close. Or can they…

Anyways, most of this plot is world building, because that is really the most important aspect, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

In terms of plot, we have Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) trying to kill famed London Energy Guru Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Why? Revenge. Sweet. Sexy. Revenge.

Also starring Colin Salmon, Jihae, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Robert Sheehan, Ronan Raftery, and Stephen Lang.

Terminator
“Excuse me, did you forget to drop me off in the 1960’s on your way to the future?”

Absolute garbage. That is a nice way of putting Mortal Engines. A CGI slugfest of nonsense.

Mortal Engines is what happens when you take all of the good to excellent parts of the last decade of teenage dystopian films, then throw them out the window, filling the gaps with terrible B- or C-movie plot, bad acting lines, no worries about making sense, and even more terrible plot lines. It is like the creators of Sharknado saw a book, bought its rights, and then realized Sharknado might be actually more plausible so didn’t try to make sure this movie made sense. It is what happens when you live in a green life, with a green house, green car, green girlfriend too, and then it is totally a good idea to have probably no real sets at all in your movie. It is what happens when you assume to be a success, you just need some ridiculous premise and it will make people thing you are edgy, fun, and new.

I can’t talk enough about how much of a dread this movie ended up being. At over two hours in length, it certainly had a never ending feeling and my mind certainly believed it was three hours plus. It had the nerve to both feel not fully fleshed out/rushed, and yet too long. At no point can people derive an emotional connection with these characters, as so much of the plot needs to be told in needlessly polished flashbacks from our main character. Thousands of people die in this movie, and there is barely ever a thought about them. Characters only show up at the perfect time because of poor writing, without any chance of appearing natural.

Mortal Engines has no redeeming qualities, and when you try to analyze aspects of the plot or story, it will either break apart or just completely get even more confusing. I assume this is a series, and more books/movies will maybe clear some things up. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with a standalone movie (Which had no sign of a sequel set up either).

And what in the flying fuck is up with the Shrike robot? I barely understand how they even exist, and just have to accept their near god level power. And it mostly implies it is a bad guy, despite clearly doing a good thing, until the very end when we are supposed to suddenly flip our switches and feel sad? The graphics and voice behind him were also, seemingly, left behind somewhere.

I spent most of the time with this movie trying to fight off sleep, and writing down lines that were delivered extra terrible/cheesy. That, and counting down the minutes until I could get out of the theater and try to put this movie behind me.

0 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“At least the DC animated films are great!” says some internet people when it comes to the great movie comic wars.

And sure, that might have been true. I haven’t seen like any of them. Except The Killing Joke, which apparently was an exception to that rule.

But why not some Marvel animated films finally? Not Marvel Studios, but at least one of their superheroes. Sony has had a lot of terrible ideas lately on what to do with this franchise they own, and they figure, screw it, why not just throw a bunch of Spider-people in a movie and hope it works. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. People not familiar with Spider-man will probably think it is a joke.

A joke eh? Let’s get those joke people to do the movie, they do solid work. You know, The LEGO Movie guys, yeah! Well, at least Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are producers, and that might lead to a solid product.

Basically, this might be the first good move Sony has made besides teaming up with the MCU to get some of that ad money.

Woods
An idea that is maybe crazy enough to work. Like two spiderpeople.

The movie begins with an intro by our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine), who goes over his past decade plus of success. He has a wife, has saved the day countless times, and apparently, he is the same one from the Sam Raimi films. Fun!

But this movie is only a little about him. Really, it is about Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young man who is still in school, with a lot of emotions. He lives in the hood, but goes to a nice school. His dad is a cop, but he wants to be a graffiti artist. His uncle is really cool and helps him, but might have some law problems as well. And he is just extremely emotional and nervous, despite being a smart kid.

Needless to say, he likes Spider-Man too. Everyone does. And Miles gets bit by a different fucked up spider. Not the same one, a different one. One that grants similar, yet different abilities.

And thanks to some villains, they are making a big dimensional portal vortex thing, because they want to mess up the multi-verse. Or change the past. Either way, this brings in a lot of confusion, unwanted death, and some more power/responsibility things.

Featuring other various Spider-men from different dimensions, like SpiderGwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson)!

Also the voices of Zoƫ Kravitz, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schrieber, Lake Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Mahershala Ali, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Gwen
Two is not enough. We need diversity. Ladies. Cartoons. Animals. Time travel. All of it, damn it.

Hands down, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is one of the better superhero films of the last decade. I didn’t say animated films, I said Super-Hero. That is compared to all of the Marvel movies, to all the Fox, the DC, the other Sony ones. At least decade.

I am not saying it is better than The Dark Knights or the early X-Men films, but it is also better than most of the super hero ones in the 2000s.

Now, sure, that is a bold claim for animated films this year. I don’t know if I like it more than Isle of Dogs, but probably, I’d have to watch it again.

Why is this film great? It is just such a game changer and tries so much. It has emotion (I cried), wall to wall comedy, and fantastic fight scenes. Plenty of character development, especially this serves as Morales’ introduction to movies. I assume a lot of people still were unaware of him before this film, and it is a fabulous introduction.

When I say it tries so much, it is not going the safe route. The animation at first was off putting, very out there, reminding me a bit of the Spider-Man: The New Animated Series that premiered on MTV in 2003. But after a little bit, it was easy to go with the flow, and accept the weirdness of the animation. It was also a nice cross with actual comic books, and really immersed the viewer.

The voice acting was great with the large cast. They have award winning actors in roles that suit them, Cage being the best PI Spider-Man ever created, Mulaney with his regular awkward voice handling the pig, and more. Everyone completely morphs into their role. Even though Moore isn’t as young as Morales, it never felt disjointed and I hope he can voice this character for awhile (and be given more roles in more projects!).

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the gift that keeps on giving. For Spider-fans, you will be blown away. For comic fans, you will appreciate the story and craft. For animated fans, you should be stoked that there is something that isn’t another Disney/Pixar sequel. And for everyone else, well, hopefully you like to laugh.

4 out of 4.

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