The Upside

[Editor’s Note: Days after seeing this movie, the writer forgot about it completely. He didn’t even remember he didn’t finish writing the review and never posted it. Take that as another aspect of the review.]

What’s this? A serious movie, with some serious actors (and one non serious actor) coming out in January? But that is supposed to be a dumping ground for films! So what is going on with The Upside?

Well, first of all, they are sort of hiding the fact that this is a remake of another movie. They aren’t hiding that it is based on a true story, just the remake aspect. If you haven’t seen the French film The Intouchables, you are doing yourself a disservice, as it is pretty darn good, and one of the most successful French movies ever.

Another thing hindering this movie is the nice Hart sized controversy over anti-gay jokes and Oscars. Before the movie came out, Ellen redeemed him for all the gay people and said he should host, because he seems sorry. The issue with all of that of course is before then, there was no apology until he basically dropped out of hosting. And basically every time he “apologized” he came as a victim and people just trying to get him, never actually seeming sorry. So yeah. January. Dumping ground. Still true.

LAUGH
An American remake? You don’t say?!

Dell (Kevin Hart) is looking for work! Why? Because he is out of prison, and its an aspect of parole. If he doesn’t get a job, he at least needs signatures saying he went there to get one and wasn’t offered it, so that it shows he is trying. I mean, he wants a job. Because he wants money, doesn’t want to get into selling drugs, and has an ex-wife and son to support.

Due to a mix up, he goes into a luxury building thinking he is applying for a janitor gig, following the crowd of people applying for jobs. Really, it is actually to be a life auxiliary support for a billionaire named Philip (Bryan Cranston). He is quadriplegic, needs a live in to clean him, move him, make sure he isn’t dying.

Well, mostly that last part can be ignored. Philip is tired of this life, he has a DNR, let that death happen.

How does Dell get the job? Mostly because Philip is tired of this life, I just said so. He wants a change, and maybe Dell will be unqualified enough to get him killed, who knows. But of course, this mismatched pair are going to be doing a lot more together than they expected.

Also starring Tate Donovan as an annoying neighbor that we all hate. Boo hiss! And of course Nicole Kidman as the runner of the business for Philip.

chair
Finally, someone who can walk down the street with Hart and not look overpowering.

Speaking of overpowering, there are a few scenes where Hart is next to Kidman, who at that point seems like an Amazonian warrior with that level of height difference (as she is probably wearing heels). It is a nice extreme look and added comedy they were not intending.

The Upside is entirely just okay. It is told out of order, like the French film, and has a far different conclusion merely to catch those familiar with the French version off. But overall, it is just slightly more modern and more American. The friendship doesn’t feel as real, and Cranston just looks like he is there because he is supposed to be there. No one goes out of there way to make the acting seem genuine, nor a situation that totally happened.

This is a remake that tried to do its own thing, while still doing a lot similar with the original. It needs to pick a direction. Do we want to focus on the wife/kid direction? If so, good, go for it, but commit. About turning his life around? fine. But we got all of that in a montage and I guess his skill is fixing broken wheel chairs? Kind of odd, and came from nowhere.

The Upside is clearly forgettable, and in Spring, I won’t remember it at all, as it middles its way through theaters.

2 out of 4.

Movie Roundup – Online Releases 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 Online Releases 2018! Basically, things that started out on the internet, ideally a streaming website, because it is a loose theme, and I will take it.

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.


Online Releases 2018

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Can we go wrong with the Coen brothers? Yes, we totally can. But I can’t help but feel something wonderful when they continually try to do something different, or make the normal a lot more eccentric. This time, they went back to the former, while also going back to some of those old timey western roots, which are arguably their best movies. Except this time, it is straight to Netflix, and an Anthology movie with six short films instead. The only connection? Western.

This ends up working really well, even if I can say I didn’t love every part of the anthology. Unfortunately, the best and most fun was the first of the stories, and probably me least favorite was number two. I really enjoyed the one about the prospectors and the woman with her not dog too. When it works, it really works, and when it doesn’t work, it is still well made and a bit beautiful, if not full of fuckery. This is not a happy movie, and it can easily be watched in parts, and deserves praise for its individual shorts that work out amazingly well.

3 out of 4.

Ballad
None of these people share a scene with the others.

The Kissing Booth

On the other hand, Netflix has made it clear its strategy isn’t to appeal to just the best movie ever, but to instead go for all the demographics so that they all have something to watch, which is fair. Netflix having a shit movie doesn’t mean that Netflix is bad, I just don’t have to watch it…if I am a normal movie goer.

But this movie is something else, and it has crawled out of the pits of hell thanks to some teenage girl. Yeah, it is based on a book, written by a teenage girl, on some website, and now its a movie. An uninspired romance movie, that seems to rely on the kissing booth as a feature, despite not being featured too heavily in the grand scope. It features a love interest who is super controlling, threatening, and uses his fists to solve problems. Ah, what good values to instill in our youth.

0 out of 4.

Kissing
Help, help, I’m trapped in a 90s movie.

My Dinner with Hervé

Over on HBO, they also like to do movies, and shows, and documentaries. In this one, we have dudes as the stars, with one of them being one of their biggest stars of their biggest show. Makes sense. Peter Dinklage playing a biographical role, of possibly the most famous little person in history (before Peter Dinklage and Verne Troyer), Hervé Villechaize. Made famous for being in Fantasy Island and The Man With The Golden Gun.

Now, this is all according to a journalist, but it is based on the night out on the town with Hervé, where he also recounts his whole life story leading up to the point, his rises, and his many many downfalls. Dinklage does an amazing job of transforming himself, or what I know about himself, and this is an extremely touching tale of a childhood of abuse and sadness, while still trying to make something about it. It never seems to go deep enough into the sadder parts though, and probably skirts around important details. I just knew that it started off way better than it eventually ended.

2 out of 4.

DINNer
And that is also true about life, I suppose.

Slice

Slice might not technically fit this theme, because it came out on VOD, but hey, my themes are loose, and I want it in this post. Slice is the type of movie that is just so out there, it is hard to believe that it even exists. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, murder mystery, pizza store, witches, and such a strange plot and concept. It is the type of movie that when describing it you know will have a cult following and probably LARPing in the future.

But in all honestly, it just doesn’t work out well. The only redeeming factor is that it definitely feels original. It just is a weird mash of ideas that aren’t fully explained because it isn’t fully thought through. It is cool, it is weird, but it is definitely not good.

1 out of 4.

sLIce
Although, it made me want pizza, so good job there.

The Tale

Finally, another HBO movie (sorry Hulu), that I didn’t even know came out this last summer. I would have never known it existed if it didn’t get nominated for a Spirit award. I mean, it has a big name in it, and it is about sexual abuse when someone was a child. Sure, a fictional tale, but a tale that resonates due to how often similar “tales” have been told by other girls in relation to their coaches while growing up. Hell, the gymnastics scandal was in 2018, maybe even going on after this movie. It is very relevant.

Dern plays someone very vulnerable and stubborn at the same time. It doesn’t end with fireworks, but plays it in a more realistic way. More importantly, the girl who plays the younger version is amazing at her role. Her acting, in normal kid way, amplifies the creepiness of everything. It puts the viewer in a dark place and really helps bring the hate towards these sexual predators.

3 out of 4.

tale
These two adults are now on my despise list, well done!

Overall, steaming platforms put out a lot of duds, and some successes. And especially Netflix, because I will never catch up on on their new releases. Or, maybe I will, if I just keep the review format like this and not larger. But these ones caught my eye for some reason or another and I chose them to watch to review, and never got around to actually writing.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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 Zoë 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.

The Favourite

At this point in my career as a movie reviewer, I can no longer say I am unfamiliar with Yorgos Lanthimos‘ work. Now, his first few things? Sure. But I have reviews of The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and now, The Favourite, so that is a clear majority of his movies. I can still suck as a person for not seeing the things that got him famous that are apparently great in their own rights, but I am familiar with his work.

Lobster was absurd and social commentary. Deer was creepy and made me panic. And The Favourite would turn out to be just as different as the last two.

The one thing I was most curious about this movie going into it is that it was listed as a “Biography” on IMDB before hand, having never seen the trailers or anything. This…this is a real story? Or at least based on one? That is certainly nothing like Lanthimos’ previous work, so it is good to see him go in strange directions.

Wait
Waiting rooms with no magazines got me like

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is in pain and sad. She lost her husband, she has aches and hurts and she doesn’t want to rule England. She wants people to fix things and for her land to be in peace and to hang out with bunnies. Thankfully she has Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) by her side. Sarah has ambitions and smarts and wealth and is married to the main general. She wants what is best for Anne and best for England. She helps the Queen in every thing, including decision making, and is brutally honest with her. They might even be in love. That would explain all the sex stuff at least.

Things are going well enough, the two political parties disagree about things, and it is all terribly confusing, but whatever.

On the other side, there is Abigail (Emma Stone), who used to be a lady, but had some big problems with her family kind of ruining everything. But she is cousins with Sarah, so she wants to go to their castle and find protection. She is given a job as a very low level maid, not what she is used to, but it is better than nothing. However, she quickly finds that her talents can be better used and makes herself extremely valuable, with the goal of rising up the ranks.

Maybe even winning over the love of the Queen, and screwing over her cousin, who is definitely a b word.

Also starring Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.

Bow
But we are here for the ladies ya’ll, even if Hoult has magical hair.

Going into a Lanthimos film you will never really know what to expect. This film seemed to be an experiment in camera work, from wide angled to fish. Amazing camera work at that. Given a film that will have most people talking about the costumes and acting, it is very important to realize how sexy everything felt. It wasn’t like normal impressive cinematography, it had strange side effects, and there were a lot or risks with it. It helped explain the complex feelings going on in the kingdom at the time and the complexity of these characters.

Okay, now the acting. Stone. Weiss. Colman. All extravagant and showcasing some of the best acting of the year. Apparently Stone/Weiss are both going for supporting roles and will be nominated together in a lot of shows, while they are giving Colman the top acting role and you could argue for all three that they deserve some form of main actress. The men are secondary in this film, they are schemers, they are distractions, but it is about two women who both want power and will do a lot to make sure they maintain their power.

I laughed so much throughout this film, while cringing and hiding at other parts. It really goes to extremes in all levels, never super graphic, but a few intense scenes regardless.

What surprised me was how “accurate” it was to history. Now I am willing to bet none of these conversations are close, and I don’t even think Abigail was real. But we have the same queen, bad health a lot of her life, lady Sarah, changing political allegiances, war, and it had the number of miscarriages correct (which during the movie just seemed like an absurd/uncomfortable joke). Again, I put accurate in quotation marks. It is clearly not accurate, but it is also very much inspired and not drawn out of thin air.

Basically, everything that The Favourite tries, it accomplishes with gold and blue ribbons. Even the jarring and uncomfortable ending makes a lot of sense for this movie. The Favourite came out of nowhere for me, and I could never have guessed it to be so brutal and enjoyable. One of my must see films of the year, and certainly one of the top.

4 out of 4.

Green Book

There were quite a few Green Book screenings in the Houston area leading to this films release. The first one was still in October, I just didn’t feel like going to see it then because it would have been my third film in three nights, and I knew there were more. The second screening was at a location I disliked, so I passed on it. The third one ended up being during the day on a Monday, and that is silly. So screening number four? Well, I almost missed that one too.

You see, that was the same night for screening Creed II and Ralph Breaks The Internet. Both of those films are the kind that draw in clicks to your website, but I didn’t love Creed so it didn’t bother me, and I really didn’t think Ralph 2 looks swell.

And in my past, skipping a film four or more times usually comes up to bite me in the ass. Like I would have loved it, or award nominations and I am sitting around like an asshole who hasn’t seen an obvious award favorite. I don’t need to be an asshole, I just need to see this movie finally!

Eating1
I also need to learn how to look good in yellow.

Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is one of your typical Italian Americans living in NYC in the 1960’s. He has a loving family, a very big extended loving family, and he knows everyone around town. He also has a bit of an anger problem, and a fighting problem, so he uses his skills to make sure that people don’t ruin events. He works at a fancy club and makes sure that other customers don’t have a bad time. Thankfully, he is not involved in the mob.

But he has to find work for a few months as the club closes down for renovations. The mob wants him, but he doesn’t want to get involved in that stuff. He gets a job opportunity to be a driver for some doctor. It turns out this doctor is a musician, a black musician. Dr.Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) has multiple PhD’s, is a classically trained pianist, and has made several records. He lives in Carnegie Hall, that is how seeped in the musical world he is. But Shirley wants to branch out, he wants to go on a tour around America, for less money, but to help change the world. He wants to go down south, to the racist epicenters and showcase his own talents.

Dr. Shirley is not a dumbass, and that is why he needs a driver who can handle specific situations. A driver who can guarantee him access between venues, to deal with the racist whites, and to help out along the way. And I guess Tony Lip is that guy.

Also starring Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, Iqbal Theba, and Mike Hatton.

Eating2
Are you sure they drove around? All I see is them eating.

Green Book is destined to be a favorite film amongst movie goers this season. Coming out in Thanksgiving is definitely a good call. It might not be a family favorite, given the R rating from language throughout it, but people will enjoy the story. It is a different sort of heartwarming tale.

You know. Racist white guy getting over himself to realize this black boss is a good person as well, and he can learn from him, and teach him, and they can grow old and happy together. Even if he is black!

And that is really where my issues from this movie come from. It almost treads into the white savior problem of these films. First of all, yes this is a true story, and yes, these people were friends for the rest of their lives until they both died. That is totally fine! What seems odd though is that despite all of the recent trends, they decided to make this movie from Tony’s point of view. Tony is white and an American people can relate to, in order to see the film. But this could have been a very different film about a musician, who has all of these skills and degrees, still having to deal with a very racist world in the 1960’s (versus our regular racist world now).

We could have saw him have the decision to do the tour, and then put out the ads for a driver, do the research and let the white guy be mysterious. Let the white guy be off putting and odd. There is no real reason why it couldn’t be like that, given that it is just about these two individuals. They just had to make the black man the mystery and the strange thing here, when both individuals could have been the case.

Telling a story about an individual getting over racism is fine, sure, but it is one we have seen over and over again. The filmmakers have still not gotten over their ability to tell stories in ways that actual resonate with people of color to tell their story, but instead, piggy backing off of the white narrative.

Overall it was just disappointing to see it like that. A film that could have taken some risks and chose not to take any. In terms of acting, Ali and Mortensen are both phenomenal. They are worth the price of admission. I just can’t help but imagine how much better it could have been if it worked to address the social concerns in a more proactive way.

2 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.

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