If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Rating: 7/10

Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) is about to have a baby. Unfortunately, the father, Fonny (Stephan James) has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit by a corrupt justice system. This story follows this small family as they try to make it when all of life seems to be working against them.

This emotional drama is told in a non-linear way. It’s interesting watching the movie like this and it follows the story rather than following things chronologically. It made this story just a bit more interesting to watch it in this way jumping around Tish’s life rather than just going through the film from beginning to end like it’s “supposed” to. The acting was also pretty darn good all around. Kiki Layne especially stands out and really brings her all to bringing Tish Rivers to life.

The story is a decent one and has a lot to say about the inherent corruption in our legal system, specifically targeting African-Americans. It shows how one family has to cope with a wrongful imprisonment, which is unfortunately a common occurrence here in America where cops are more willing to jump to conclusions rather than do any actual police work. But as most movies I’ve watched lately have shown, our government is as corrupt as they come. This film examines that corruption from an everyday perspective rather than examining how it came to pass like Vice does.

Many scenes went on for too long. Oftentimes the film would make a point but then continue to make the same point in the scene far longer than was necessary. Also there were many unnecessary scenes as well. Rule number 1 of movie making is do your absolute best to keep everything interesting or at least important to the plot. Don’t meander on anything ever. And if you do, at least meander in a way that’s interesting.

SCORING:

+7.5: A pretty good emotional drama

+1: Great acting

+0.5: Interesting non-linear style

-2: Too many unnecessary scenes or ones that could have been obviously edited down

Vice (2018)

Rating: 9/10

Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) work together in order to further his political career. From his early beginnings to September 11, 2001, this film shows how one man reached the pinnacle of power and yet operated in the shadows. This is a movie about the events that led up to the downfall of America’s rights.

I highly recommend watching this within a day of watching Fahrenheit 11/9 as there’s a lot of overlap with their subject matter. Also, Fahrenheit shows what’s happening now, Vice shines a light on why.

Okay, this movie is very well made. The actors all do their best to emulate real people and it shows. The makeup is amazing, everyone more or less looks like the person they’re playing. The editing is top notch and stands out for its creativity. The direction and production all benefit the movie as a whole. The story is well written and never boring.

My only complaint is that this film has an ending problem. Okay, it does a fake ending about halfway through the film because it gets really dark after that. But I wonder if they only do this to lampshade the fact that every 15 minutes or so after that it will do something else to make you think the movie is just about to end, only to keep going again and still not end. I kind of wonder if director Adam McKay was doing this to troll the audience, or maybe make stupid people walk out halfway through. Either way, this movie is almost perfect, but this decision, whether done for comedy or to trick certain individuals to walk out of your movie before it gets too political, just detracts from an otherwise great, high-concept film.

SCORING:

+10: Incredible job from all departments

-1: Too many “endings” with no actual end

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

Rating: 7/10

Michael Moore examines the circumstances that got Trump elected and poses that our government is quickly turning into despotism.

A decent documentary that shows how the American government is inherently corrupt, everyone on both sides is easily bought off and Donald Trump stole the election and everyone is lying about everything and we only pretend that things are working but nobody does anything about it. This is our government now, for better or worse.

This movie makes a lot of good points, and though I think despotism is a chance, I think it’s also very unlikely. Then again, you never know. Hitler was saying we should kill all the Jews before he got elected and people were extremely dismissive of him at this time. I think the picture Michael Moore shows is a bleak one, but not entirely impossible.

I think this film takes a bit long to meander on different topics. For a long time I wasn’t sure if this film even had much of a point outside of bringing many of these terrible subjects to light. It brings it around again by the end and makes it all surrounding government corruption, but it takes a long time getting there, and though these points are pertinent to today, I don’t think they were necessary for the ultimate subject of this movie.

SCORING:

+8: Pretty good Michael Moore documentary

-1: Meanders too much on unnecessary topics

The Favourite (2018)

Rating: 10/10

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) rules over England during a long war with France. She’s too sick to truly rule so her closest confident Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) has to sometime rule in her stead. A young woman, Abigail (Emma Stone), desperate to get out of an arranged marriage and away from her dead-broke lifestyle, comes to the queen and asks for a job.

The first half of this movie didn’t know what it was trying to be. Does it want to be a tragedy or a comedy? It had this pattern of something dramatic happening only to have it undercut by something humorous. I would say, flat out, this does not work for this film, or probably any film. Tragedy is the exact opposite of comedy. In tragedies, serious things happen in incredibly emotional ways. In comedies, everything is transformed into one big joke. I dunno, I guess I might call this a dark comedy, except everything that you would expect to be made fun of, like the fact that the queen won’t stop eating sweets even though it’s making her horribly sick. In a comedy, this would be a big joke that they might call back to many times. But here they try to show it to us realistically and therefore you can’t help but feel sorry for her.

Truthfully, I think the whole thing is too tragic to really be able to laugh at any of these parts meant for levity. Therefore these parts do nothing to help the movie and just distract from the film’s main drive. Halfway through the film, it changes totally into a tragedy and is made better for it, but up to this point the film seemed to be suffering from some kind of identity crisis.

Outside of tonality problems, the story was pretty solid. A character-driven drama with a good script, take note “A Star is Born.” Here you have just as much melodrama as you want and still tell a well-crafted story. Sorry, I’m complaining about A Star is Born again, and not this movie. All I wanted to say was this movie had a good script to go off of, and they made a darn good film out of it.

I want to talk about various aspects of the story, but I can’t do that without spoiling anything. Which, considering this is advertised as basically “just another period piece movie,” it’s truly anything but, and I didn’t expect nearly as many levels to a story like this. This movie was made with passion and near-masterful technique, too bad about the tonality problems in the first half of the film as I would easily call this a perfect movie otherwise.

Well, nearly perfect, I just remembered one more thing. Some scenes are too long. This movie was made with 1970s sensibility. Not entirely a bad thing, but scenes from that decade were just too darn long, something the 80s was quick to rectify with tighter editing.

Oh, one more compliment as well, every aspect of the production design was amazing. The costumes, the sets, the natural lighting done with about a million candles for every night shoot. This movie was done very realistically and it shows.

SCORING:

+10: Nearly a masterpiece

-1: Some scenes are too long

+1: Acting from the entire cast is truly top notch

-2: First half of film held an inconsistent tone

+1: Really well-written script

+1: Awesome production design

Christopher Robin (2018)

Rating: 7.5/10

Winnie the Pooh and company find Christopher Robin after he’s all grown up. He’s all but forgotten them and has turned into a boring adult. It’s going to take Pooh and the whole gang to make Christopher remember what it’s like to be a kid.

This movie was a pretty solid kids movie and has more than enough nostalgia for adults like me who grew up watching Pooh and his friends as they go through their day-to-day adventures. It really captures the quality of the show and the old stories and I’m glad this movie was made for the child in all of us.

The graphics in this were pretty amazing, it really looked like Pooh and his friends were living, breathing stuffed animals. Have to give it to the Animators at Disney for truly bringing this story to life.

Also, I felt the voice acting was pretty amazing, especially from Jim Cummings, the long time voice of Pooh. It’s good enough that I feel this movie, more so than any I’ve seen in a long time, is a good reason for there being more awards given to the voice actors in our motion pictures.

SCORING:

+6.5: A slow start but otherwise fairly enjoyable

+1: Great voice acting and animation

A Star is Born (2018)

Rating: 1.5/10

Jack (Bradley Cooper) is a musician who used to be famous. He meets a woman named Ally (Lady Gaga) and is immediately smitten with her and her terrific singing voice. They start to date just as Jack’s alcoholism goes further off the deep end.

Okay, I’m going to say right away that I did not like this movie. I’m not a Lady Gaga fan, and thought the music throughout the film was uninspiring until the very end of the movie. Then the very last song…still felt uninspired and unoriginal, but it almost gave me impression that it wasn’t. Okay, I’m trying to think of even one thing I liked about this movie. The plot is practically non-existent, and everything that does happens is totally cliche. Plus, it takes so long to even get to those story points that this movie just meanders on, well, pretty much anything it can. It has a few musical numbers, but I didn’t really like the music, so these scenes felt like they were there only to eat up time, truthfully almost the whole movie felt that way to me.

Okay, this is an Oscar-Bait Film. What that means is that they throw it full of melodrama so actors can look talented and maybe get an award for being so talented. The story tends to come secondary to these moments of over-dramatic emotions. The story also tends to have something controversial thrown into it because that gives them bonus points for being pertinent to something going on today. Here, it’s addiction and how it messes up your relationships though it doesn’t do much more than gloss over it to make it fit with the ending. At least Crash had themes about racism covered in an interesting way, even if I didn’t like the film at the time of its release for being the Oscar-Bait that it was. At least it had a storyline.

Okay, I thought of one thing I liked. That’s Sam Elliott’s performance, really any scene he was in I immediately perked up and took notice. Though everyone else is overacting so they can desperately pine for an Oscar later, Sam Elliot’s performance is the only one that feels real. Too bad he didn’t have more screen time as I feel his part only encompassed maybe 15 minutes, barely a fraction of the total runtime.

Unless you’re a Lady Gaga fan, or looking for a movie you can sleep through, I’d say this film is skippable.

SCORING:

+0: I can forgive movies for a lot of things, being boring is not one of them

+1.5: Sam Elliot’s performance, albeit underused

Venom (2018)


Rating: 6.5/10

An alien Symbiote falls to Earth and is captured by a privately owned business for study, and perhaps the development into some kind of super soldiers. Meanwhile, one symbiote named Venom gets out, finds Eddie, a recently fired reporter for going off of things like “hunches.” Together, they fight crime and eat people.

I’m serious about that eating people part, something most adaptations just walk around of is Venom’s cannibalistic tendencies. Here it embraces it fully from the moment Venom comes out of Eddie Brock’s skin. I’m not sure if I should be upset about that or not as he is known to be a cannibal and like the taste of human brains in the comics. I don’t like that Eddie accepts this and tries to compromise with it as I’m pretty sure in the comics he mostly fights against Venom’s urge to the point that he has control over it. At least until Venom completely takes over again. Sorry I’m just being a nerd right now. Also I’m okay with eating people now, no matter the circumstances. Though now I’m upset that Venom doesn’t eat even more people throughout the film.

This movie was okay overall, not great. Kind of phoning in the overall plot as it feels like the origin-movie-plot of every Marvel Movie up to this point. The hero discovers their power, the villain wants that power, replicates it, then tries to kill the hero with it but they don’t. The End. Yup, exactly that here. But it’s got some pretty cool action, some cool back-and-forth with Eddie and Venom, and a not quite as phoned in as the rest of the movie romantic subplot. Even though it didn’t feel entirely original, it still entertained me in its own way.

Well, that is, once the movie actually starts. Which takes 45 minutes and Venom finally combines with Eddie and the stuff starts happening that people came to the theater to see. Okay, the first half-hour of any movie is meant to be about introducing stuff. I mean, I would vastly prefer it if they started this one with, essentially, Venom immediately colliding with Eddie’s head. But, if they take a half hour to set up Eddie and what’s going on with him, it would be fine, except really him being fired wasn’t important, what else was going on in his life just felt like filler, and literally nothing really happens with him until Venom collides into his head! Okay, there’s other stuff going on, but Eddie is not one of them.

SCORING:

+7.5/10: Pretty entertaining

-1: Too much meandering on literally nothing

-1: Plot is run of the mill

+1: good action

Re-review: A Trip to the Moon (1902)

For the original review, click here.

Rating: 10+/10

In this early silent film by director Georges Melies, we see a part of the start of cinema. An Astronomer (Victor Andre) studies the moon and builds a rocket. With his invention he assigns a Captain (Henri Delannoy) who leads his crew on a voyage to a mysterious land.

This film is delightful from start to finish. Reading about its history, I see that originally a phonograph was played alongside this film with a narrator explaining what was going on. I don’t think you need narration as this film works just as well, if not better, without it. Really this trip is through a childlike imagination. It mystifies, is universal, and wastes no time meandering as we go through this magical journey. It’s an historical artifact demonstrating just how beautiful film could be from over 100 years ago.

Why you should watch it before you die: A film that’s perfect for anyone of any age or creed, this should not be passed up.

SCORING:

10+: A movie older than everyone alive that contains more imagination than every movie that’s come out since then (more or less)

Kingsman: the Secret Service (2014)

Rating: 6.5/10

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is recruited by a secret agent named Galahad (Colin Firth) in order to stop the terrorist Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) and save Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill). And Eggsy has to complete his training and save the professor before Valentine destroys the world!

This action-packed movie has a lot of laughs as well, and some pretty great, well-choreographed fight scenes. It’s not the most complicated plot, and for the most part it has just enough story to keep it moving from one action scene to the next. Still, I appreciate it when an action film made this decade chooses not to overload it with CGI and instead do (mostly) everything with practical effects. Also, there’s a pretty great group fight scene set in a church that I feel everyone should watch at some point just because it’s so well done. It uses the guitar solo from Freebird in a way that’s amazing, fun, and brutal all at once. It’s kind of disappointing though since nothing else in this movie is quite as enjoyable, or as well made. Okay, that’s not entirely true. The action is pretty good outside of the church scene.

The story is that some evil guy wants cell phones to create a sound that suddenly makes everyone berserk and try to kill the people around them, no matter who they are. Then, he’s going to send it all out at once and essentially destroy the world because everyone has a cell phone now right? It just feels a bit too contrived and a bit too convenient. I’m more than a little tired of things that threaten the world in any movie. Really, stop it. Our world hasn’t really been threatened by anything in a long time, and the human race hasn’t been in great danger since the bubonic plague, and that was mostly Europeans, so even if it had wiped out “everything” people from everywhere else in the world would have been fine and humans would have survived. Can we just scale it down a bit? Don’t threaten the world, threaten a person, or a family, or a city. Arrow has to save Starling City once per season and I’m still not tired of it, but history has shown that cities can and do get wiped out, I have yet to see the world end, but movies would have you believe Earth is being threatened once per week (at least). This movie is a lot of fun to watch, but it doesn’t do anything plot or story-wise to make it stand out in the spy or superhero genre.

SCORING:

+7: Fun to watch

+1.5: Totally awesome church scene and a couple of other fights work well throughout the film

-1: a little too much phoning it in on the story front

-1: can we please just stop with the end-of-the-world-machine plot? I’d rather the villain were kidnapping Superman’s mom to force him to fight Batman or something. It’s so cliche at this point, please stop.

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Rating: 7/10

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) discover that something called “Wifi” has been connected to the surge protector everyone hangs out in when the games at the arcade are off at night. When Vanellope’s game breaks, they have to take to the web in order to find the part they need.

This movie had some decent scenes and some decent jokes as well. I don’t mind that they use the base story to take to the internet and invade the Disney universe and overuse references to other movies, but I felt it made decent jokes and moments so it’s fine. Truthfully, I don’t really mind “ads” in movies, just as long as it’s not too much and doesn’t detract from the movie any.

The parts that don’t really work, is when the plot meanders for a long period of time without much going on despite there being a sense of urgency, a ticking clock, if you will, and instead of keeping the same urgency with the pacing they spend time having Ralph read comments sections and the like. Pacing is super important and if you’re going to give your characters this great sense of agency then your movie’s pacing should match that.

With that in mind, it’s important to give your characters things to do as well. Things don’t always have to be related to the main plot, but whatever is happening on screen should at the very least, be interesting to watch.

I wasn’t sure if I was liking this movie for the first two thirds of the flick. It all kind of comes back in the third act though, the urgency that should have been there in the second act is better once they up the ante, and it plays into some pretty great disaster/zombie movie tropes in an original way. It made me think they should have cut out part of the middle and spent more time on this particular plotline (or even make this the main plot of the movie). I can’t really talk about it without spoiling a few things though.

As a last thing that I’m not sure I can really fault the movie for, but they setup a plotline where Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his wife Calhoun (Jane Lynch) adopt 15 kids, and they don’t ever come back to it until the very end of the movie. Just seems like a missed opportunity to me.

SCORING:

+7: Movie that wins me over by the end

+1: Great third act

-1: a few too many pacing issues