High Flying Bird

It has been a good long while since I received a Netflix movie early for a screening, not including the Mowgli one, as they played that in theaters for us. When I got a notification about it, I was excited, but I admit, I assumed it would have been Velvet Buzzsaw.

Instead it was for High Flying Bird, which I admit I would have probably ignored on description alone, if not for two reasons. First, obviously, I need to review it if they ask, so they can ask me to review more (makes sense!). And two, it was directed by Steven Soderbergh! As a general rule of thumb, I should watch everything that this man creates, as I will like or love them more often than not.

Now I do recall that he said before after doing Unsane that he will film all of his future movies with iPhones, or something to that regard, which did give me hesitation. It gives it a unique feel, that sort of fit with Unsane, but might not work for everything.

Fist
We will get to the issue of him doing a movie about race politics as a white dude, later.

Ray (André Holland), not Ray Ray, is sports manager/agent/pr man for namely basketball players, at a hard time to be an agent. Because there is an NBA lockout going on, and if most of their clients aren’t getting paid, then they aren’t getting paid. This isn’t great for job security, morale, or anything, and the lockout has been going on for months.

Ray’s newest client is Erick (Melvin Gregg), who was recently drafted number one overall! However, being drafted doesn’t mean shit. HE hasn’t received a paycheck yet, despite needing to move and figure out how to pay for bills and promises he didn’t expect to worry about. He is getting into trouble, and is in a weird spot with his own job. He has signed a contract, but it hasn’t been able to get processed. He has a team, but he really doesn’t have a team. Grey area can suck.

Ray wants to end the lock out, and decides on a strange plan, involving his unsigned yet signed talent. It is something that can put his own job, his player’s job, and a lot of people out of business. But is it crazy enough to work and get these men back to playing ball?

Also starring Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Sonja Sohn, Bill Duke, and Kyle MacLachlan.

dinner
This restaurant is so fancy, they even look whiter just by being in here.

Some of the topics in this movie deal with slavery, and how modern things can be attributed to past slavery notions in the USA. It also has a majority black cast, all done by a white director. It is however written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote Moonlight, and is clearly not white. It sounds to me like the idea for a story was met, and they just brought in a director who wanted to just do all of his filming with phones, let him do his directing/cinematography thing, while giving pretty important input that he couldn’t possibly fully understand.

And that is probably fine. A team of white people didn’t put this movie together. It is a story that is set in a realistic setting, with realistic people, circumstances, and realistic conclusions. It is sort of a fantasy in terms of how quickly it all concludes at the end, I honestly thought there would be at least 15 more minutes.

Overall, the film is under 90 minutes if we don’t include the credits, and has a lot more set up than the conclusion really deserves. It is rushed, and despite all of the set up, we still don’t get a set up to fully explain Ray’s idea, or elaborate on how things will go down. The ending plays off like we were watching a heist movie, and we have to see how Ray did it, but of course on a much smaller scale than a heist.

Not enough gets to actually happen in the film for me to love it, but the ideas are there. The acting is believable. The camera work is unnecessarily weird and I never really get fully immersed in that choice. High Flying Bird as a movie just is unable to reach as high as its title would imply.

2 out of 4.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Apparently The House with a Clock in its Walls was a book. I haven’t heard of it. The author really loves it, and made a whole bunch about these people. Studios be trying to get all pseudo famous books into movies, because the scripts are halfway made and have a following.

I don’t know it, nor do I care. This title is unforgivably awful. At no point does this scream out sexy, fun, or cool. It sounds god awful. This is about magic? This is the least magical sounding title of a movie ever.

How anyone saw this title and wanted to read the book is beyond me, but at no point is this one I would want to watch without being a reviewer. This is a film that I would skip on principle alone.

Goggles
Why the fuck is this kid wearing goggles? To show he is whimsical?

Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) just lots his parents, in some sort of car accident. Now he has to move to some place in Michigan, to live with his Uncle John (Jack Black), an eccentric man that his family never talked about and whom he never met. for many wonderful reasons. He lives in a mansion. It is weird, and decorated with Jack O’Lanterns.

And shit, inside the house things move around and are a bit spooky. Why? Well, his Uncle is reluctant to tell, so we have to let things be a mystery for a while. Maybe he is a murderer, and he will kill Louis one day.

There is also a purple loving neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), no relation to the Florida vigilante, who is hanging around, also involve in some sort of shenanigans.

Alright, okay, they are warlocks and witches. Not bad ones, not necessarily good either, but certainly not evil. And Louis is showing promise so, shoot, he can be one too.

No, this is not The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This is the Warlock’s apprentice, damn it.

Also starring, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Lorenzza Izzo, and Vanessa Anne Williams.

Old people
“Hey, we’re cool, we’re hip, we know magic!”

To be honest, it has been a good while since I fell asleep during a movie in the theaters. The last one was probably Deadpool 2, I know, how dare I do that thing.

Well, when a movie is boring, its boring. I know I missed full scenes, because they referred back to them later in the movie. “What cemetary scene? A blood what?” I think to myself. Oh well, not important. Because of how slow the film decided to start, really going hard after that old time asthetic, we had to watch character development scenes that really don’t move the story forward.

At no point would I say are the school plot points really useful for this story. People don’t like him because he is new. Normal stuff. People don’t like him for being a nerd? Hard to say. Really, they don’t like him for wearing goddamn goggles. Take that shit off your head. Which another character even points off, but nah, need those goggles on.

The school scenes are all just to set up future movies that probably won’t happen. Even the normal plot line of finding a friend didn’t work out, defying no tropes along the way.

The movie feels overly polished and CGI heavy when we get to the magic aspects. The ending isn’t fun or exciting. It mostly feels like convenient moments after convenient moments to get to what they eventually call an ending.

Eli Roth tried to do a family film. I shouldn’t be too surprised at the low ranking, since he has been disappointing me with his R rated endeavors recently as well.

1 out of 4.

Inside Out

As this is my intro, instead of talking about Inside Out (and how sad I was there was no 2014 installment), I will just talk about the intro to Inside Out, a short called Lava.

Lava is about love, volcanoes, and tectonic shifts with hot spots. HOT SPOTS.

Obviously some liberties are taken, but it tells a wonderful love story, to great ukulele music, featuring real Hawaiians, and it will win Best Animated Short this year. You are hearing it first. It is better than Frozen Fever. It is better than Feast and Paperman.

Emotions
It united all of my emotions into the orgasm phase of existence.

Fine, fine, back to the movie. Inside Out is really about a girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), growing up and trying to find her place in the world. She has a loving mother (Diane Lane) and father (Kyle MacLachlan), and enjoys the long winters in Minnesota where she can play the greatest sport ever made: Hockey. But all of that is about to come to a comical screeching halt, when suddenly they are moving to San Francisco for some “work reason” that is stressful and new and different.

To find out what is really going on inside Riley’s head, we have to go inside her head. Heyy brain stuff! That is where her emotions live! Right when she popped out of the womb and opened her eyes, she giggled and laughed, because Joy (Amy Poehler) was her only worker. It was almost instantly followed by gloomy as fuck Sadness (Phyllis Smith). As she got older, she gained more emotions, including Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

Together, working in harmony, they can make a fully functional girl. An honest girl, with friends, and family, and hockey, and a goofy side, all making up her core memories. They also work on putting her memories into long term and bring back appropriate memories when appropriate.

But with a half cross country move to a smaller house, no friends, no frozen lakes for hockey, whats a girl to do? Well, apparently have her emotions go all crazy and bad things start happening to her right when she needs them to work together the most. Of course!

And where the heck is her old imaginary friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind)? He is important, damn it!

Food
“Bing Bong is dead now, sweetie, so eat your imitation Chinese food please.”

Did I mention how good Lava was? Five out of four stars. I want to buy a Blu-Ray with it on it, just so I can get a digital copy and watch it with ease wherever I go.

The good news is, Inside Out was also awesome! Given its subject matter, it should come to no surprise that my emotions were all over the place. Thankfully Anger didn’t really show up, but maybe I did have a little bit of Disgust and some Fear. But hey, the Sadness came into full fruition too. I cried three times during this screening. Once for Lava, twice for this movie. Using literal emotions, it did a fantastic job of controlling my own emotions to make it an overall wild ride.

The film starts out cute, gets happy, stays happy, then gets into the sadness/fear territory, but by the end, it returns you back to the cute/aww feels by the end. A perfect journey, basically. The voice actors did a wonderful job, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling in particular felt perfect for their roles. And of course Phyllis Smith, a wonderful choice for Sadness, who I assume they also based her design around.

The “hero” of our story in young Riley is a nice change of pace. She is a normal girl and one that most people can probably relate to. Not to mention she plays Hockey, which I must again note plays a significant role in this film. Hockey is slowly creeping its way more and more into mainstream, and I thank Pixar for doing something different.

Last but not least, this movie is for everybody. There are plenty of jokes and fun parts for the kids, but also of course a lot of higher concepts for the adults out there. When dealing with the brain, you should be prepared to use yours, for at least a little bit.

4 out of 4.