Film review: Mission Impossible Fallout

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It’s time to face facts.  Tom Cruise is the greatest actor of our time.  He’s done it all except win multiple Oscars.  And films are the one medium that doesn’t need hardware to measure success.  Tom Cruise bats .800 in my book, he’s almost as successful as Emily Ratajkowski giving me a boner.  Cruise’s filmography is as impressive as the lack of cleanliness in a Taco Bell bathroom: Mission Impossible series, Collateral, Risky Business, Rain Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Minority Report, Eyes Wide Shut (Nicole Kidman is just magical) and American Made to name a few.  Daniel Day Lewis is amazing but he doesn’t have the rewatchability nor financial successes that Cruise has.  Same goes for DiCaprio but I’ll accept Tom Hanks as a viable contestant.  Early critic reviews had described this latest installment of Mission Impossible as the “Skyfall” or “Dark Knight” of the franchise.  Is it?  Let’s find out.

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, a much more entertaining version of Jason Bourne.  Hunt and his perfect multicultural team of Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg drop the ball in the film’s opening sequence by letting plutonium get away from them while the Syndicate (callback from MI: Rogue Nation) is trying to create bombs to nuke the world and start from scratch.  I think we should just start calling this plot line, “The Thanos Snap.”

Hunt runs into Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), MI-6 agent who he battled with in Rogue Nation, as she’s trying to stop Hunt from transferring Lane (also from RN) to the terrorists with the plutonium.  Action ensues, a lot of action.  You know how every MI film has at least one insane action sequence?  The climbing of the hotel in Dubai.  Climbing up an airplane during take off.  This film has at least 5 of those, “get the fuck out of here” moments.  Why does this film work so well?  Those insane aforementioned action sequences as well as a fantastic plot.  Different twists as well as this the first film in the franchise that calls back to previous films.  Hunt’s wife, Michelle Monaghan, from MI-3 returns in a pretty cool story arc.

The ONLY “knock” is this clocks in at 2.5 hours.  Does it drag?  Not one bit.  But some people are sticklers on time.  But the action and plot skyrocket this film as the best of the franchise.  So yes, this is indeed the Dark Knight and Skyfall of this series.  MI: FO is a goddamn tour de force and I shall probably see this again in the theaters.

I give it a 9.5, this film is damn near flawless.

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Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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There are some franchises that motor on because of the success and quality of those films.  See: 90% of Star Wars films, Rocky 1-4 as well as Balboa and Creed, Indiana Jones Trilogy,  (I don’t acknowledge the 4th like no one recognizes the third Godfather), 75% of the James Bond films, and most of the Star Trek films/reboots.  And there are some franchises that people feel obligated to stay with no matter how mediocre or films have become and they still make boku bucks, hence another sequel every 3 years.  See: Fast and the Furious, Saw, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean.   What do some of these franchises have in common?  The first one is fantastic.  The second and third ones, meh.  By 4, you barely keep up with them and skip over them when they pop up on cable (I know, I just made myself look old by still having cable).  Sometimes, they manage to surprise the hell out of you by hiring new writers/director for the 4th or 5th and reinvigorate the franchise.  Fast and the Furious 5 is a perfect example, it brought me back in because it was excellent.  And then I sat through the next 2 oversized turds.  Guess what?  Now you’re hooked for at least 2 or 3 more films. And bang, you’re just like a vegan who came to their senses and started eating meat again.  

Let’s review Jurassic Park.  The first one, very solid but the book ending was MUCH better than the film ending but 8-9 times out of 10, that’s the case.  JP2, not great except the scene where the dino hunters ran through the field of velociraptors and most of them ended up looking like Jenna Jamison’s b-hole when she retired from porn.  JP3 was even worse, not even the pterodactyl scene saved this monstrosity.  And next thing you know, the franchise was shelved.  

But as Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum’s character in 2 and 1/10 films) says, “Life, ahhh finds a way.”  As does Steven Spielberg to jump start a dead franchise.  3 years ago, Jurassic World came out and ran roughshod through the box office like a T-Rex that just ate a Mexican village and is now looking for a bathroom.  What does that mean?  Fire up the sequel machine!!  JW recaptured the elements from JP and did it well with a bunch of cool nods to the first one.  It worked, even though it was just a blatant reboot of the first one.  But I dug it.  

Of all the previews I saw of FK, not one of them made me go, “Hmm, I’m looking forward to playing hooky from work to see this.”  But since I’m an (unpaid) film reviewer, I felt it was my civic responsibility to see this and comment.  FK starts off with the dino island in deep stegosaurus poop; a volcano is exploding and the dinos face extinction, sigh, again.  And of course, screenwriters Colin Trevorow and Derek Conolly, decide to make this one of the few social issues of the film.  Do dino lives matter?  According to Claire (one of the few attractive gingers, Bryce Dallas Howard), they certainly do.  She gets little resistance from persuading Owen (newly single Chris Pratt and who will be bedding GOTG nerds and film extras galore) to come with her to help save the dinos.  Financing the journey is Benjamin Lockwood (Jamie Cromwell) who apparently used to be partners with JP creator, John Hammond, until Hammond had the idea to make an amusement park with dinosaurs.  Standing in the way is Lockwood’s assistant, Mills, who has plans of his own for the Cretaceous creatures.

Here are several problems with this film:  

  1. What do people want to see?  Dinosaurs killing humans in cool ways with a little bit of gore. Yes, I know that a ton of little kids go see this but it’s rated PG-13 which allows them to get away with more.  When people get killed, it’s almost sanitary and really doesn’t scare you nor feel “real.”  
  2. This film DRAAAAGS.  The last 20-30 minutes should’ve been trimmed down, especially the scene you see in commercials where the dinosaur gets into the little girl’s bedroom.  The running time is just over 2 hours but it felt as long as the math section did of the SATs.  
  3. The plot fell into the same formulaic trap as some of the sequels did.  You know who’s dying within 10 seconds of the introduction of characters.  Asshole money- hungry assistant?  Surprise, he dies.  Overly aggressive and mean head of security?  Auf Weiderzehen.  Soldier who hits a woman?  Appetizer for T-Rex.  Just once, let’s see one or 2 of the good guys get picked off and not everyone making it home in time for dinner.  Let’s have the computer nerd get picked off.  Or the cute little girl.  
  4. Do we need a bunch of social issues in a popcorn blockbuster film?  I don’t think so. Do dino lives matter?  Should we let them acclimate into our world?  Is cloning humans acceptable?  And the last reveal was just plain lazy which ties into the ending.  
  5. You see 75% of Jeff Goldblum in the previews which obviously means he’s critically underutilized.  That character was great in the first and second films.  Maybe he didn’t want to do a full role but man, spread his scenes throughout the film.  
  6. JW hatched (I’m a cutup, I know) a hybrid dinosaur to mix things up.  So if it ain’t broke, Universal ain’t fixing it.  Yes, there’s another hybrid dinosaur and I immediately thought, “Ok, back to the well with this idea.”  20 bucks said the next sequel has TWO hybrids and one of them will involve a pterodactyl that looks like Kathy Griffin.  

I found myself over halfway through the film not really caring what happens next.  I honestly got bored through the final encounter.  I’m surprised I’m seeing more positive reviews than negative reviews for this one.  The poster should’ve had Spielberg, BDH, and Pratt holding bags with the $ sign while riding on the back of a Brontosaurus.  Because that’s exactly what this was, a vicious cash grab.  This film opened 60 million less than JW did.  But of course, it will be profitable and they’ll make another one.  Good luck getting me to invest me any more time in this franchise, I’m out.

I give it a 4/10.

Films that need to be removed from AFI’s top film list and films that should be added.

So here are the films I think that should be removed on the AFI top 100. I’ve seen 54/100. Either they’re not good or don’t hold up. The link to the list I’m referring to is in the comments.

Keep in mind that some of these films may be very good, just not amazing in my eyes. Some just don’t hold the test of time. And just because some of them have social issues doesn’t mean they’re great. Also, you may have enjoyed some as a child/teenager and it doesn’t mean you still have to hold it in high regard now. Lastly, I’ll define something as great if you have seen the film at LEAST 3 times and/or own it.

Here are the ones that should be removed:
1. Casablanca-solid but doesn’t hold up.
3. Citizen Kane- see above.
8. Schindler’s List- It’s very good but c’mon, you’re not re-watching this film. 
15. 2001-Hated it. Never saw this on drugs and if you need to be high to see this, it’s not good.
17. The Graduate-Good but again, do any of you own it or have seen this multiple times?
31. Maltese Falcon-solid but does it hold up? No.
34. Snow White-definitely doesn’t hold up. Not in my Disney top 20 and this has nothing to do with the animation.
35. Annie Hall-I know I’m in the minority but I hate this film. Just not funny whatsoever.
36. Bridge over the River Kwai- Good but not top 100
39. Dr Strangelove-Ambien, Aziz Ansari, or this. You decide.
42. Bonnie and Clyde-Mediocre at best.
50. Lord of the Rings-enjoyed it but definitely not top 100.
51. West Side Story-nope, nope, and nope.
53. Deer Hunter-it’s fine and I think the Russian roulette scene is what put this film on the list. Otherwise, it’s nothing remarkable.
62. American Grafitti- absolutely boring, couldn’t finish this film. Put Diner in this same category except I finished Diner…begrudgingly.
64. Network-fine but not top 100. Social issue film
68. Unforgiven-very good but not top 100.
70. A Clockwork Orange-Just because it was off the wall for the time doesn’t mean it should remain on the list. It’s fine but not list worthy.
76. Forrest Gump-I’m just bitter that this film beat Shawshank and Pulp Fiction in 94. But this film is also fine, not list worthy.
81. Spartacus-Definitely doesn’t hold up, couldn’t finish during a recent rewatch.
83. Titanic-Get the fuck out of here.
84. Easy Rider-Insanely boring. Great soundtrack but a big collection of nothing. Social issue film.
89. 6th Sense-Please. I called this ending out in the theater when I saw it. You’re not rewatching this except one time after you want to see how he never directly talks to Willis. Overrated.
92. Goodfellas-Just kidding, this film is flawless.
96. Do the Right Thing-Very good but not top 100. Definitely a social issue film.
97. Blade Runner-The Emperor’s New Clothes, I just don’t see it.
100. Ben Hur-Also doesn’t hold up.

 

And now, films I believe should be on the AFI top 100. If you disagree with a selection, don’t be a queef and just say the pick sucks. Offer another film instead of the one.

1. Aladdin-Next to the Pixar films (toy story 1 is currently on the AFI list), this is the best Disney film, ever.
2. Alien/Aliens-I prefer Aliens but fully acknowledge the first was groundbreaking.
3. Back to the Future-Go ahead, find me ONE person that hates this film. Good luck.


4. Good Will Hunting-Won multiple awards and hits a ton of emotional points throughout the film.


5. Heat-First film with DeNiro and Pacino doing scenes together and it doesn’t disappoint. One of the best gun battle scenes in film history.


6. JFK-Plenty of awards and noms. And it also made America restart their curiosity of the JFK conspiracy.


7. LA Confidential-One of the best crime dramas and also scooped up a bunch of awards, including Basinger and screenplay.


8. Naked Gun/Airplane-I prefer Naked Gun ever so slightly and there needs to be comedies on this list. Those films have non stop LOL moments and these films are daily quoted.


9. Terminator 2-one of the few times the sequels is better than the first. Groundbreaking technology at the time and this story is fantastic. Again, find someone who hates this film. And if you don’t get a little teary eyed when he lowers himself into the molten steel, you’re not alive.


10. Usual Suspects-See LA Confidential and one of the best endings I’ve ever seen. Spacey and best screenplay winners


11. Untouchables-Connery wins best supporting in the tale of Al Capone. DeNiro as Capone, brilliant.


12. Bronx Tale-And for those of you that want social issues in films, here you go.


13. The Dark Knight-This film is an 7 by itself, Ledger makes it a 10. Even the biggest anti-superhero people admit this is the one which is the exception.


14. The Matrix-More revolutionary technology and what an insanely original story. This one sure makes you think..


15. Halloween-Best horror film ever that isn’t shock-centric and what a score. I daresay this is better than the Exorcist.


16. Whiplash-I think this the BEST film in the last 10 years. JK Simmons destroys as an asshole jazz teacher and he won for doing so. This script is magnificent and EASILY should’ve beaten Birdman.

Honorable mentions that I could make an argument for but I’m sure would get shot down:

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade- my favorite of the trio. And Raiders is on the AFI list so this isn’t a stretch.
2. Glengarry Glen Ross- If you like acting tour de forces, this film is for you. Take the names out of this film and you have a decent script. But Pacino, Lemmon, and obviously Baldwin chew up the scenery and make this fantastic.
3. Commando-Just kidding but goddamn, I love this film and have a huge soft spot for 80s/90s action films with a hint of cheesiness.
4. Die Hard- Find me someone who hates this film. Best Xmas film of all time!

5. Caddyshack- My favorite film and it is one of the most quoted films of all time.  Still holds up and is fucking hilarious.

 

Favorite sports films, let’s hear ’em!

Football – Any Given Sunday. Fuck you, this film is solid.
Basketball – Teen Wolf. I know everyone is supposed to put Hoosiers but I didn’t like it. Hell, I could even put in Space Jam here.
Baseball -Major League or Field of Dreams. Flip a coin
Hockey – Miracle. 2nd place: Goon. Slap Shot is overrated.
Boxing – Rocky 1-3. Cinderella Man is HORRIBLY underrated.
Gaming – Tron Legacy
Racing – Rush. Forgot about this one, good call JA and NC.
Martial Arts – Bloodsport. Any other answer is wrong.
Golf – Caddyshack!!!! Tin Cup is boring, don’t even think about it.
Murderball – Murderball
Professional Wrestling – The Wrestler
Horse Racing – Seabiscuit
Documentaries-King of Kong
Poker-Rounders
Pool-The Hustler and Poolhall Junkies

Film reviews: Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Incredibles 2

We’re in mid-June, right in the sweet spot for summer film releases.  The last few years have had weaker slates of films.  How are we looking for summer 2018?  Pretty darn good, enough to keep you busy so you won’t have to pretend to give a shit about the World Cup.  Let’s stop the charade, people.  You only to claim to care about soccer during the world cup just to seem appeasing to Europeans and temporarily enjoying a sport primarily for 7 year olds.  

Avengers 3: Amazing

A Quiet Place: Solid

Deadpool 2: Solid

Solo: Fine 

I’ve heard Hereditary was excellent and Ocean’s 8 is surprisingly good.  And in the next few weeks:

Jurassic Park 34: Laura Dern’s crow’s feet look like she fought a raptor.

Sicario 2: A solid attempt to make us forget about the complete waste of time Benicio Del Toro was in Last Jedi.

This week, a documentary and a sequel blockbuster.  

Here I am, recreating the infamous shoe flip.35363327_10217446230854565_32544891347140608_o

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Congratulations go to this film as the only trailer that made me tear up.  30 seconds in and I’m welling up like being stuck in a car with someone cutting Indian food fueled farts.  You see, Mr Rogers and Sesame Street formed my early years of TV watching.  Those shows as well as Card Sharks, Press Your Luck, and Price is Right.  I had a thing for Plinko, Barker’s beauties, and white trash getting excited about winning a 1984 Toyota Corolla.  Mr Roger’s Neighborhood was one of my childhood memories that always bring a smile to my face.  He always made you feel safe and appreciated.  Mr Rogers hit on social issues like Vietnam, RFK’s death, and racial harmony.  He even un-retired to discuss 9/11 for his audience.  If he were alive today, I could easily see him talking to children about lockdowns in schools.   He TRULY gave a shit about kids and their feelings as well as fears.  Mr Rogers is one of the celebrities that would break my heart if he was ever outed as a pervert, child neglector, or Eagles fan.  

The film begins as he embarks on his post college career, deciding to get into TV over seminary school.  Mr Rogers eventually became an ordained minister and one fun fact is everyone interviewed made sure to disclose he never shoved religion down your throat nor through his show.  But you can see from his roots that his dedication to helping kids navigate through childhood was second to none.  It didn’t take long for his show to make its way to the stratosphere.  One scene you just can’t help your lip from quivering is where a little girl comes up to him and says, “Mr. Rogers, can I tell you something?  I like you.”  And he says, “I like you too.”  You see him visiting with countless sick children and watching their unbridled joy as he pulls out his puppets to temporarily brighten their lives.

Everyone from Fred’s wife and kids to cast and crew talk about him in the highest regard.  Yes, he was “like that” all the time.  No, he wasn’t gay.  You can thank him for saving PBS by testifying in front of a cranky Senator and swaying him with an inspiring tale of the importance of children’s programs.  One story they didn’t breach is the tale of how his car was stolen but once the thieves realized that the car belonged to Mr. Rogers, they immediately returned it with an apologetic note.  After googling (the only way to verify anything by reading the top 2 entries), this story was never verified by any of his family or close friends.  Mr Rogers also never spoke of this incident.  

And this goes out to the MPAA: How in the flying fuck is this film rated PG-13?  I believe they said, “ass” once.  They showed clips of someone saying dick and bastard.  Some footage of the Vietnam War and they showed a picture of a crew member mooning the camera.  THAT gets a PG-13?  You people need to remove that eyelash from your nether regions and calm down.

This film is nothing short of nostalgic magic.  The opening theme song got me teared up.  Him visiting kids, changing his shoes and clothes, as well as talking about horrific events in the news make your eyes puff up.  And hearing, “It’s Such a Good Feeling,” to end the film had the tears flowing too.  I don’t believe in God whatsoever.  BUT if there was one person who should be canonized and is as perfect as a person you could create, it’s Fred Rogers.  The man truly inspires others, even in death, to be better and caring.  My daughter just turned 3 and she’s a rabid Daniel Tiger fan, an offshoot cartoon of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  And I can’t wait until to show her MRN reruns on youtube.  I’ll just have a box of tissues nearby, just like when I watch ET again for the 193rd time.  Now excuse me while I go watch Bloodsport and Commando to get this lump out of my throat.

Absolutely loved this film and have tissues at arms length, 9/10.

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Pixar has birthed an insane number of hits: Toy Story 1-3, Coco, Monster Inc 1 and 2, and of course, the Incredibles.  Besides Marvel, name a studio that has this high of a batting average.  I get it, each of those studios only release 2-3 films a year but when they do come out, it’s rarely below “good.”  14 years later, the sequel has come out with all of the main voices returning: Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter (her lisp is quite noticeable at times), and Samuel L Jackson.  The Incredibles are a family of superheroes and in this installment, they learn the baby of the family, Jack Jack, has not one but multiple superpowers.  Mom/Elasticgirl is tasked with joining a pilot program to help lift the ban on superheroes; financed and created by Winston Deavor and his sister, Evelyn, voiced  Saul Goodman and Catherine Keener.  Which leaves Mr Incredible to watch the kids while Mom is off fighting crime and enjoying her time in the spotlight.

I didn’t rewatch the first Incredibles before seeing this but I felt it captured all of the fun elements from the first one.  Watching Mr. Incredible play Mr. Mom is quite funny as well as helping his daughter, Violet, get over a boy standing her up is also quite amusing.  I found myself trying to figure out where the reveal is with the villain and the motive throughout the film instead of enjoying the ride.  Brad Bird, who also wrote and directed the first one, does a great job of the reveal and ends with a flourish.  

There’s no need to break this film down any further, you get exactly what you come in expecting from this franchise and studio:  a smart, well-written script infused with humor and leaving wanting more.  Although this film clocks in at just under 2 hours, it’s still a well paced ride.  My only ask is that they don’t wait another 14 years for Incredibles 3.  And they will as it’s grossed 180 million opening weekend.  Hear that?  That’s Disney executives high fiving over another money printing press is firing on all cylinders.

Fantastic watch, 8/10.

 

Film Reviews: Solo and Deadpool 2

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The Merc with the Mouth is back.  If you aren’t familiar with Deadpool, picture a taller Tucker Max in a red uniform as he slashes and shoots shit up.  This time, he’s back to save a pudgy British mutant whose name is, ahem, Fire Fist.  Yes, DP has a great laugh or 2 about it.  Ryan Reynolds reprises the lead role while Josh Brolin plays Cable, the time traveling badass hellbent on killing said Limey.  But first, we witness Deadpool’s love interest, played by “Gotham” hottie. Morena Baccarin, eat a bullet.  Deadpool wrangles with this loss throughout the film but not without his usual amount of zingers, barbs, and witty repartee.  As we saw in the first one, the Xmen are still trying to recruit him and yes, it’s more of Colossus and Megasonic Teenage Warhead.  Deadpool reluctantly joins the group in hopes of stopping Cable while hilarity ensures.  After being kicked out of the X-Men for extreme force, he creates his own superhero team…X-Force.  I’m not spoiling anything, you’ve all seen this in the commercials.

This films is more of the usual: DP incorporating campy music during fight scenes.  Ball busting on all sides, pulverizing the 4th wall and dropping a well placed self deprecating joke or crack about superhero films.  Cable is a fantastic villain (?) and Brolin handles this as well as he handled Thanos.  And yes, they do make reference to him playing both roles.  DP2 is funnier than the first and goddamn, the post credits scene is hysterical.  However, I felt this one dragged at times, especially in the end.  I liked this but slightly prefer the first one more.  I just felt the first one flowed a little better.  7 out of 10.

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And now, the film that shall be on everyone’s hit list for the summer, Solo.  Look, I came into this film with little expectation as I did with Rogue 1.  I walked out of R1, absolutely stunned how great it was.  The previews for Solo didn’t grab me but I said, what the hell.  Moviepass this one and then sneak into DP2 is a hell of a way to spend an afternoon.  Is this legit good or have we completely swung into the dark side of the Disney cash grab?

Han Solo joins Tobias Beckett (no relation to Samuel) and his crew of smugglers/thieves/rogue scoundrels to steal Coaxium (getting tough to come up with names for metals with all of these superhero films) for a gangster name Dryden Vos (played by Paul Bettany.  Good for him taking time out playing Vision and motor boating his wife, the lovely Jennifer Connelly).

Alden Ehrenreich plays everyone’s swashbuckling hero not named Kevin Gootee.  Apparently, those in casting didn’t care that Alden seems to be on the Tom Cruise scale of height.  When Emilia Clarke is damn near eye level to your hero, you might want to consider someone a bit taller.  I’ve read people trashing Ehrenreich’s performance and I think we have to cut the guy a little bit of slack.  Han Solo is one of the top film characters of all time and obviously, Harrison Ford killed it.  You just can’t replace someone of that ilk so you can’t expect someone to come in and take the baton with ease.

We get to see how that scruffy nerfherder and Chewbacca meet and I dare you not to smile when you see that walking carpet onscreen, especially during their witty banter.  There are obviously a ton of foreshadowing nods to the other films and a few inside jokes for uber Star Wars nerds, even a few music homages throughout.  And lastly, we get to see Donald Glover play Lando Calrissian and are shown how the 2 heroes become unlikely friends.  Glover is alright, let’s not break our arms high fiving him for his performance.  We get more sassiness from a robot, l7-37, and even some awkward man-robot sexual tension in this film.

And now the jury will read the verdict:  As I previously stated, I had set a low bar for this film.  And I walked out saying, “It’s fine.”  You’re not going to hate it as you hated episode 1.  But you sure as shit aren’t putting it in your top 5 of Star Wars films, that’s for damn sure.  I write this article on Sunday, May 27th.  The box office numbers are estimated that it made 83 million over the weekend and will hit 101 million on Memorial Day.  This should be the missive that the Disney executives take seriously.  You knew Disney viewed this franchise like Marvel, both money printing presses.  But fans don’t need filler until the next major Star Wars film.  One of my friends on FB said if this came out first, there would never be another origin story.  The success of Rouge 1 definitely opened Pandora’s box for these offshoot stories.  If Solo were to have done well, we would probably be subjected to more origin stories like: Mon Mothma, Salacious Crumb, and Wedge Antilles.  So let’s thank the masses they stayed home like it was the 4th Madea film.  I give it a 6 out of 10.

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“In a Quiet Place” was downright bonkers.  It’s the story of an alien invasion (I know, BTDT) BUT this type is different.  The aliens rely solely on sound to hunt the human race. John Kraszinski and Emily Blount have a family in upstate NY and they do everything in their power to minimize sound: walk on sand while barefoot, use sign language, as well as colored lights as signals.  Oh, let’s also mention Emily Blunt has to give birth while being as quiet as possible.  If you can still go see this in a theater, do it.  Because there is NO score to this film and hopefully you don’t have any assholes chew on popcorn or open cellophane wrappers during the movie.  It sounds corny but the quiet plays a HUGE role into the film as well your experience in the theater.  Loved it, it’s this year’s “Get Out,” in terms of surprise hit.  7 out of 10.

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“Avengers: Infinity War”…if you haven’t seen it, then you simply hate life.   The film hits the ground running as Thanos decides to stop letting all of the other super villains strike out by taking it upon himself to grab the Infinity Stones.  What’s the big deal?  One snap of the fingers after getting all 5 and then a simple snap of the fingers can cause half of  planets’ populations to die in hopes of slowing down the drain on planets’ resources.  I’d love to snap my fingers and have all improv comedians disappear as well as people who stand at the top of subway steps or in the middle of the sidewalk. BEST Marvel film of all and it has one of the dubious honors of being 2:30 long and at the end, you’re still wanting more.  9 out of 10.

 

Film Review: Ready Player 1

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There are between 1-3 films I have circled every year that I absolutely cannot wait to see.  This year, it’s Avengers: Infinity War, Sicario 2 and Ready Player 1.  One is an obvious superhero sequel, the other is a sequel to what should have been nominated for best picture.  And that leaves Ready Player 1, which  is one of my favorite books of all time.  If you’re not familiar, you need to do so reallllly quickly.  It’s the story of a Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a young man who along with millions of other of citizens, take on a challenge to find a digital “Easter Egg” in the OASIS.  The OASIS is a VR world which is as real as you want to make it.  The winner of the challenge presented by recently deceased creator of the OASIS, James Halladay (Mark Rylance), wins his fortune and control of the OASIS. And of course, there is an evil CEO, Nolan Sorrento, (Ben Mendelsohn) who will stop at nothing to control OASIS. Halladay is a Bill Gates type who grew up in the 80’s, addicted to video games and films from the time.  All of his challenges have to do with both video games and films so turn the nostalgia factor on full blast.  Steven Spielberg directs this film and who better to take us down that road.

Parzival was initially against “clanning”; which is nerd speak for others joining is eventually joined by lady crush, Artemis,  ninjas Sho and Daito, and his best friend, Aech.  They call themselves, “The Top 5,” and they all mesh together quite well and especially when their real identities are given.

There are an absolute shit load of references, characters, and nods to films/video game characters throughout.  You’ll go crazy trying to keep track of whom and what you saw but I’ll give you a few: Goro from Mortal Kombat, Chun Li from Street Fighter, Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Robocop, the baby Alien, and even caught a Jack Slater from Last Action Hero reference.  Wade Watts’s OASIS character, Parzival, even drives the DeLorean from Back to the Future with the KITT from Knight Rider lights in the front.  Movie nerds and video game nerds, rejoice.  Scoring the film are 2 juggernauts from the 80’s, John Williams (if I need you to tell you what films he’s worked on, deport yourself) and Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future trilogy).  And you’re going to hear a TON of nods from their previous films in the score.  And you will smile.

So let’s do the eventual annoying “book to film” comparison.  The book was amazing because Wade had to play Joust with one of the guardians for the keys.  Wade also had to do “film syncs”  scenes from War Games and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  In the film, they don’t do either.  The first challenge is a race, the second is a scene within, “The Shining.” And the third is playing, “Adventure” on Atari.  I wish that Spielberg would’ve chosen different challenges, including doing the film syncs.  I know that would’ve brought the same charm and allure that the book brought.  My other biggest complaint is that one of the “Top 5” die in the book but Spielberg pulls the typical “everything ending is a happy one.”  Spielberg kept a ton of the book’s integrity (also noted that RP1 writer Ernest Cline did co-write the screenplay) by tweaking a few things, like the Zemeckis cube.

This film is good and you will get sucked into it without question.  The ongoing references and nods within the score will always keep an ear to ear grin.  But those 2 omissions are glaring ones and major points are deducted for such.  Otherwise, it keeps close to the book and Spielberg does his best work in over a decade.  It will also be the perfect excuse to get your kids researching the great films and games I/we grew up on.

The book is a 10, the film is a 7.

Film Review: Black Panther

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Black Panther has taken the world by storm, both the film and the cologne.  To be frank, I had no desire to see this film.  I also had no desire to see Ant Man and Dr. Strange and was pleasantly surprised by both.  I also had no desire to see Batman V Superman and the first 2 Thor films and hated them all.  I wasn’t familiar with Black Panther growing up; he was as tertiary as Ant Man and Dr. Strange so why make an entire film about him?    It opened on Rotten Tomatoes at 99%; which made me afraid that with today’s racial climate, people would inflate their scores to come off as “woke” and not racist.  Is white guilt playing a role in the success of this film?  Is this going to get the female Ghostbusters/Wonder Woman treatment?  Who shot first, Han or Greedo?  Clearly Greedo shot first and missed and any of you who think otherwise is wrong.

Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to Wakanda, his home country in Africa, after the death of his father in Captain America 3.  Wakenda sits on a treasure trove of Vibranium, the same stuff his suit and Captain America’s shield is made of.  They’re a technologically advanced nation although they hide their success right in plain sight to blend in with the other African nations.  T’Challa becomes king of Wakanda and has his family that supports him in many ways.  His sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), plays Q to Panther’s James Bond.  His mother, (Angela Bassett) is queen of Wakanda.  Daniel Kuluuya (Get Out) plays T’Challa’s best friend and solider.  Panther also has an army of kickass women soldiers that protect him, including his ex, Lupita Nyong’o.  We learn that N’Jobu, Panther’s uncle, was killed while stationed on Earth.  Enter Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), Panther’s cousin; who is hellbent on revenge for his father’s death and through military training, will stop at nothing to kill T’Challa and take over as King of Wakanda.  Killmonger wants to supply all suppressed minorities around the world with the Vibranium and technology so they can no longer be the little guy.

Are there nods to any of the other Marvel characters?  Very, very few.  Andy Serkis reprises his role as Klaw, an arms dealer who fought off the Avengers in Cap 3.  Other than that, no other call backs to the other Marvel films except the end credits which I won’t spoil.  Now, for the social themes.  A lot of people are talking about the female empowerment in this film.  Those lady bodyguards do kick ass and it’s not contrived one bit.  It’s completely believable and they’re a welcome mixture of action and comedy.  Director Ryan Coogler does a fantastic job of portraying African rituals and pride while spinning the tale of Black Panther.  I’ve seen a lot of people post on social media this is the best comic book film ever.  It’s not.  I’ve seen some people post that Killmonger is the best villain in a comic book film ever.  He’s very, very good but c’mon, not the best.  Heath Ledger as the Joker will be damn near impossible to unseat and I’ll even throw Magneto, Green Goblin,  and Vulture (Michael Keaton) in that group of untouchables.  Is this film as a masterpiece like others pain it to be?  No.  I felt that it drag a tad here and there.  The action was solid, the plot flowed smoothly, and the jokes worked.  But it’s damn solid and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  And I’ll bet that you will as well.

Score of 7.5/10