Table 19

Ah, Anna Kendrick. She had six movies come out in 2016, and I was disappointed in the five I saw. I am sad to say The Hollars, which looks great, I still haven’t gotten around to.

I used to love Anna Kendrick, since I saw her in Rocket Science and Up In The Air. But her choices that don’t involve singing in the movies have been bad choices, and that really just sucks.

So on that note, I wasn’t rushing to see Table 19. For a lot of reasons, but even the Anna Kendrick appeal was losing its lure on me. At this point it just feels like I should just wait until Pitch Perfect 3 before trying to trust her again.

Camera
And then Kendrick might have more than one person following her around for paparazzi.

Ah the joys of a wedding. What a splendid time where people come together to laugh, sing, dance, be merry, all in celebration of the love of a couple!

Except for those who feel like they had a pity invite or shouldn’t be there. Or maybe people there for alternative reasons. Or maybe you are just Eloise (Anna Kendrick). A month ago you were the bridesmaid, but you bailed out of the wedding due to an awkward situation. You are great friends with the bride (Rya Meyers), but you were also dating her brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the best man. And a month before the wedding, he broke up with you over text. Oh yeah, lot of confusion now over what you should do. ‘

But Eloise still shows up! She decides to come anyways, for her friend, and maybe for rekindling love, but it is awkward. And she is now put at Table 19, with the random people who they couldn’t put anywhere else. The people who came but really, why?

Like Jerry (Craig Robinson) and Bina Kepp (Lisa Kudrow), who own a diner, have a lose connection to a family member of the bride, and sort of hate each other. There is Renzo (Tony Revolori), a high school student looking to just get lucky, who is young and unaware of how to be social. We have Walter (Stephen Merchant), a cousin who is awkward and a criminal. And we have Jo (June Squibb), the bride’s first nanny who they love so dearly, maybe.

Eloise now has to exist in misery with this group of strangers who have issues, while hoping she doesn’t also accidentally ruin the entire wedding.

Also starring Andrew Daly, Amandra Crew, Charles Green, Jay Klaitz, Margo Martindale, Richard Haylor, and Thomas Cocquerel.

Freaks
Oh my god look at these freaks and weirdos.

Table 19 is a shocking film. Not in the extreme graphic language, violence, or nudity way. Not in the amount of laughs that it provides. But how different it was from its advertising, which most people would assume is a comedy with a bunch of weirdos, doing weird stuff. But it was hardly ever funny. There were some amusing bits, but it was extremely lacking on the actual humor.

Yep, we have a drama comedy that is more drama, with a bit of romance. It just drives the film into the average territory as it goes for several genres without excelling at any of them. If you have read certain films this year that I have reviewed, like Get Out or Colossal, I praised them for their genre bending. But the difference between them and Table 19 is that when the genres change, each the movie is awesome on each level. Table 19 is just middling, where the shifting doesn’t help it but hinder it.

Sure, it is realistic. But a lot of the story lines feel like missed opportunities. Kudrow/Robinson story felt like it didn’t help anything, Merchant’s story didn’t feel finished, and Revolori’s plot was just disappointing. The only other character to have a decent story was Squibb, who really brought the whole film together.

Table 19 has some cute moments and the occasional laugh. But the selling points of the film are how Kendrick and Squibb carry themselves throughout the movie, the realism they bring to the whole thing, to give the film a little bit of heart.

2 out of 4.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Third times the charm?

Well, that is a weird phrase to apply to this situation. But it is one I have heard quite a lot.

After all, this is our third Spider-Man actor in 18 years. The problem with that phrase is that it implies the other times were not charming. But damn it, most people still talk highly about Spider-Man 1 and Spider-Man 2, especially the sequel. Just because the third one was a dud doesn’t taint the whole.

And for The Amazing Spider-Man? Shit, I liked the first one, and the sequel was disappointing, but Andrew Garfield was still pretty good as a Spider-Man.

People have just really wanted Spider-Man to go back under some amount of control to Marvel, so that we can see him interact with other heroes. Which is fair. But I want Spider-Man: Homecoming to be just a great movie on its own right, not flashy with in universe references.

Boat
I also hope this Spider-Man can just hold everything together.

This film begins with the events of Captain America: Civil War, from Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) perspective. To see how he got to Europe, his sweet suit, and his life afterwards. His life is to be put on hold, waiting for a new “assignment” from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) as his go to man to report any issues or problems.

And this keeps Peter busy. He patrols the streets of Queens in the afternoon/evenings after school, under the guise of a Stark Internship, so that his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) doesn’t get too concerned. This does put a strain on his social life however. He cancels most of his extracurricular activites, hangs out with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) less, and he is even about to miss parts of the Academic Decathlon! Besides being smart and enjoying it, it annoys him more because it is run by Liz (Laura Harrier). But don’t worry, Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) still picks on him.

Speaking of busy, eventually he runs into some thugs who are selling alien technology weapons they made! Turns out when NYC was fucked over by aliens those 8 years ago, a lot of alien tech was lying about the city. Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) was in the salvage business, but Tony Stark in an effort to help the city made his own special Damage Control division that won a government contract to clean up any superhero mess. This puts Toomes out of business and enraged about the rich getting richer. So he decides to keep some of the tech, and with his small band of workers and tinkerer friend Phineas Mason (Michael Chernus), they decide to take salvage and turn it into cash in the form of new, high tech weapons. Hooray for capitalism!

Spider-Man cannot let this happen on his streets, as innocents will get hurt, and apparently this is not a problem that the avengers have to worry about. Oh well, I am sure he can handle some thugs and alien weapon technology and gear no sweat!

Also, unsurprisingly, starring a whole lot of other people! We got a whole lot of classmates (Zendaya, Abraham Attah, Angourie Rice, Tiffany Espensen, Michael Barbieri, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Thugs (Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Mando), and others (Donald Glover, Kenneth Choi, Hannibal Buress, Martin Starr, Jennifer Connelly).

Keaton
If you think that list is big, wait til you see Keaton’s personal trainer list!

There are a lot of praises I could sing for Spider-Man, and a lot of them come from story and plot decisions. It isn’t an origin story, because he already exists and we already know it. It does not mean that we don’t get Spider-Man doing things for the first time.

For instance, his first real villain in The Vulture, outside of just petty criminal stuff. We find out that he is not the wall crawler swinging through Manhattan like previous films, but mostly in the much smaller building complexes of Queens. So we have his first time at extreme heights, and we get to see how he handles fighting crime in a suburb, without the ability to swing around with ease.

Speaking of villains, they knocked it out of the park with The Vulture. We get a backstory for Toomes, reasons for his life of crime, reasons for why he feels he is in the right, morally gray shit, we got it all. They gave us what we have been wanting, and it is an excellent villain.

Holland is still good as Spider-Man, but we already knew that from Civil War. The large swaths of side characters fill their niches and no one really feels wasted.

And finally this Spider-Man tries to be very different from the previous iterations. No Gwen Stacy or MJ right away to get you all romantically fluttered, we get LIZ. We get a diverse looking school. We get nerds and a neighborhood that feels like a goddamn neighborhood. And a lot of the characters are new just for this film, with plans to take this film in its own direction, regardless of comics. I give it props.

But strangely enough, I barely laughed in the film. I did a few times, but I was alone. The movie theater was silent, it was no where close to being as wise cracking as I’d imagine a Spider-Man movie to be. I also think it relied too heavily on Iron Man/Happy characters to make sure everyone knew it was fitting in.

And Spider-Man’s suit? Well, it was a bit annoying. Turns out it is super high tech, and most of the known Spider-Man powers aren’t actually his, but suit based. Like Spider-Senses. I am not sure what powers he actually got. Some super strength and acrobatics skills, with some sticking to walls?

It is a decent film, just again, not as great as I had hoped it would be.

3 out of 4.

Dope

Sometimes when I like to pretend that I am cool, I use words like Dope and Chill. I will admit, when I first saw the screening listing for Dope, I honestly got it confused with the Straight Outta Compton movie coming out, figuring they renamed it for some reason. (How White am I? I spelled that first “Straight Out Of Compton” because I really didn’t know).

I mean, could there really be two movies about black youth in California, despite being very very different topics, in the same summer? It is strange to say but it is actually hard to believe that.

But I am excited. I am all for diversity in my movie watching. And since I know absolutely nothing about Dope going into it, I feel kind of excited at what it might be about. Hopefully the references aren’t too hip for me.

Gang
The trio is basically a themed gang from The Warriors.

When the movie started, I knew I was immediately wrong with any preconceptions I had. I honestly thought it would be set in the early 90’s on the poster alone, but it is actually a modern day movie about some kids who just really liked the 90’s music scene.

Malcolm (Shameik Moore), Jib (Tony Revolori, of The Grand Budapest Hotel fame) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) are loaner geeks who have banded together to form a friendship. They are from a generally poor neighborhood and don’t really want to become gang bangers selling dope and going to jail. So they start a punk band and avoid getting into trouble to get into college!

That is until the night of Dom’s party (Rakim Mayers aka A$ap Rocky (I don’t know what to call him?)). Sure it may seem strange for them to go to a party of a thug dope dealer, but they want to live a little bit during their senior years before it is too late. Plus, Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) promised to dance with Malcolm if he showed up.

I don’t know what they expected, but the party of course was full of drugs, booze, and hot tunes (I could rap, probably). They have a pretty awesome night! Until the cops show up, raid the place, and the next thing Malcolm knows, his bag is full of drugs and a gun that he doesn’t notice until the next day at school. Yeah boyyy. Now he has to deal with this dope, not knowing who to trust with the information. Sketchy phone guys? Some mysterious AJ? Sell it on his own? Shit, he has Harvard to try and get into. And he doesn’t want to go to jail so dang close to getting out of the hood!

Also featuring the talents of Chanel Iman, Quincy Brown, Roger Guenveur Smith, Blake Anderson, and some narration by Forest Whitaker.

Donuts
Please be a punk song about donuts. Please be a punk song about donuts.

Dope is the first movie I have seen from director Rick Famuyiwa, who also was the only writer of the movie, and if his past films are of any comparable quality then I should probably check some of them out. It should also be noted that the main producers was also our narrator, Whitaker, and an executive producer was Pharrell Williams. So despite its relatively unknown cast, it had some star power behind it. Although it should be noted, the narration was only at the beginning and felt quite excessive and unnecessary. Didn’t match the rest of the film.

But let’s go back to that cast. I was personally happy to not recognize any of the main characters (outside of the Lobby Boy). For our lead, the only movie or show I would have seen him in was Joyful Noise, where his character name was “Our Lady of Perpetual Tears Choir Master”, so I can’t even tell you if he had a speaking role. Moore blew me away, in all honesty. Everything about him felt sincere and real. Moore conveyed so much throughout the film through facial expressions alone, which is especially helpful since he didn’t play a smooth talking confident character for the most part. He was relatable and he was awesome.

The film was also surprisingly up to date with current technologies and they do a good job of introducing concepts that not a lot of people know about. Dark web stuff. It makes a lot of sense that this is the first movie that is allowing tickets to be bought via bitcoins.

Favorite part about the film would be just how realistic the portrayal of modern hood life is like. It isn’t just gangs, just drugs, just poverty. There is a lot of hope and a lot of people just trying to fit in. None of the characters were extreme stereotypes, providing some slightly thought provoking conversations despite the urban language throughout.

Overall, Dope is a surprisingly funny, realistic and a feel good movie that came up out of nowhere. I am not going to listen to MC Hammer today out of respect for that.

3 out of 4.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Hah. Wes Anderson. For those that don’t read every post I make, Wes Anderson is a strange guy for me. Every movie I reviewed for the site that he directed, I have love love loved. But that was only two movies. The other one I saw I just didn’t really get, and thought it was weird. Yet still, I was excited for this new one.

So excited, I am pretty pissed off that they forced The Grand Budapest Hotel to be a limited release. It broke some records for its release. Like, most money gained from a super super limited release. But only two cities? That is crap. There is no reason for that. I am lucky I even got to see it so soon as I had to drive three hours to see it, weeks after its “release date”. Maybe I am more annoyed because it wasn’t even advertised as a limited release, so I have to imagine it was just a last minute change.

Camera
But I guess I expected Anderson to be a dick if he could, so there is that.

This story in a story is about The Grand Budapest Hotel, as you might have guessed. It used to be a…grand old place, but recently, it has gone under some bad times. The clientele is no longer the elite, the staff is no longer extremely efficient, and really it is in shambles. That is why a young writer (Jude Law) is so interested to meet its current owner, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), to hear his story about he acquired the hotel and his vast fortune.

M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is a man amongst boys. He used to be the concierge, a god amongst men. Working morning to night, every day, he made sure the rich guests felt welcome at the hotel and would do anything to please them. Including the extremely rich Madame D (Tilda Swinton) who stays at the hotel for weeks every year.

Well, she dies, mysteriously. Also, her will was changed last minute as well it seems. Apparently M. Gustave was left her priceless painting, pissing off the ungrateful and evil family. Now, they also think M. Gustave killed her!

It is up to the help of his Lobby Boy, Zero (Tony Revolori) to help prove his innocence, get him out of jail, and in general, save the day!

Also featuring a shit ton of people. Here they are, roughly, in order of importance: Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldbloom, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson.

Escape
This scene represents birth.

Ahhhh, quirky Wes Anderson movie!

This one took a little bit to get going, trying to figure out just what the movie would be about. It takes place over three time periods, technically, so the story needs time to get started.

But when it does? Man. This movie was hilarious. Ralph Fiennes, although I don’t know how to say his name, is a terrific actor and a charismatic character in this film. You can’t take your eyes off of him whenever he is on the screen. And it works so well. Much laughter, much ridiculousness.

This film has a lot of Anderson standards, with his camera work and use of colors.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is also a bit more crass than his other recent movies. Some nakedness, some death scenes, all a bit extreme. But I think that made it a little bit better.

Definitely as good as the trailer made it seem to be, and one of the best early movies of 2014.

4 out of 4.