Deadpool 2- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

deadpool-2-trailer-gq

The first Deadpool film was a refreshingly self aware take on the superhero movie, a film that was able to lampoon the growingly popular genre while still maintaining a surprising amount of heart. Deadpool 2 is more or less the same thing, except this time it’s crazier, louder, and perhaps a little dumber, but if you can forgive the film’s plot for making close to no sense, the film is relentlessly funny with a concurrent succession of gags that are increasingly funny and appeal to the teenage boy in everyone.

Now a full on crime fighter, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) has been traveling the world in order to fight evil. When the teenage mutant Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) is targeted by the futuristic mutant Cable (Josh Brolin), Deadpool assembles a team of superheroes in order to stop a potentially world shattering event. Despite the world building and franchise building, the film keeps the stakes mostly personal, which works for the character more than a more overarching plot would.

To start off, director David Leitch (of John Wick and Atomic Blonde fame) has delivered another great action piece; while the fights still feel intimate, Leitch has crafted some truly incredible set pieces, including a brilliant street way chase and a great prison that rank among the best set pieces in recent memory. Leitch uses Deadpool’s unique powers and sensibilities to get creative with the brutality, and the colorful cast of mutants each bring a different presence that stop the fights from getting redundant.

The heart of the film lies in the relationship between Deadpool and Russell, and while the film does give us some genuine touching moments between the two, it also never asks us to take it too seriously, and in the same way the MCU films are able to touch on darker themes while still reverting to a fun spectacle, Deadpool 2 is able to take on themes of loss and regret through it’s own prism of self-irony. The more serious stuff is there, but for those only looking for a ridiculous spectacle of humor and violence, the film delivers with more laughs and more action.

I prefer the first Deadpool to it’s sequel; the first film had a more straightforward narrative, and I felt that Deadpool’s romantic relationship was better developed and more engaging than the family building elements of the sequel. That being said, Deadpool 2 isn’t neccessarily asking you to take anything seriously, and I think that’s probably a good thing. This is a comedy first, and the script is littered with fun nods and clever one-liners, as well as some creative physical and visual humor. It’s an unrelenting series of jokes, and even if the script is mostly stringing together set pieces and gags, it’s most definitely a rude worth taking. Grade: B+

Advertisements

Avengers: Infinity War- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

infinitywar.jpg

Avengers: Infinity War is an overwhelming experience. I can’t think of any other way to describe it, because after ten years Marvel has made their most ambitious movie, combining dozens of superheroes onscreen for a massive spectacle. There are some truly great moments within the film, as well as some moments that fall victim to the weakest of Marvel’s common plot devices. I’ve always considered the Marvel films, especially the team up movies, to be the rare films that are both great cinematic experiences and great films, and while I think Infinity War is a great cinematic experience, I think it is a solid, if sometimes problematic film.

After years of planning, Thanos (Josh Brolin) has finally made his descent to Earth, planning his pathway to uniting the six infinity stones and destroying half the universe. This threat unites the heroes of the Marvel universe, including everyone from the Avengers to the Guardians of the Galaxy, to come together to stop this threat from realizing his vision.

Ironically, my biggest worry going in was Thanos, who ended up being the film’s best element. Marvel has had a mixed bag of villains, but Thanos is a truly menacing character who’s purpose is justified in his own mind. The best villains are those that believe themselves to be heroes, and Thanos’s motivations are surprisingly complex for a purple alien, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to be moved by Thanos’s origins or swayed by his logic.

By making Thanos the main character, the film definitely centralizes the plot and organizes the characters into factions with different missions, and while there’s a lot of great banter and interactions, it’s hard for each character to have a complete arc. There are certainly some great individual scenes, including an incredible standoff featuring Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill and a great opening scene picking up with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, but these are mostly great moments instead of great through lines, and perhaps with a film of this magnitude it’s maybe impossible to do so, but I felt that it lacked the focus of Captain America: Civil War or The Avengers.

While the actual infinity stones themselves are somewhat tedious, I enjoyed Thanos’s mission, and the film definitely shows the ways in which Thanos differs from the heroes; he doesn’t value one human life in the way they do, and the film surprisingly shows why this is both good and bad for both parties. The film also retains the charm that makes these films work; unlike the DC Extended Universe, this film has earned its emotional stakes and character weight, and there’s a joy to seeing these character onscreen together because the path has been paved for it.

On a visceral level, the film is pretty impeccable; the action is great, the humor is sharp, and outside of a strange side plot featuring Peter Dinklage, it’s entertaining all the way through. There are moments that are plodding and it’s sometimes hard to see how things will connect, but the film never stops relishing in the joy of its own existence, and celebrates the rich world it has created. It’s truly a stunning achievement, and despite being slightly convoluted, it’s relatively easy to be engaged on a character level rather than a plot level.

I think Avengers: Infinity War represents the best and worst of Marvel; it’s joyful, exciting, energetic, wonderfully acted, and adapted exactly the way material like this should, whilst occasionally suffering from botched plot elements and feeling like only one act of a larger story (a feeling that is best exemplified by its ending). Still, I think the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a lot of good for the film industry, and I’ve very much enjoyed my experiences over the last ten years, and despite its issues, Infinity War exists not because of fan service, but on the basis of great characters and storytelling. I love the ideas these films celebrate, and Infinity War is a testament to their ability to keep pushing forward. Grade: B+

As a side note, I’ve seen a lot of rankings listed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. For what it’s worth, I’ve listed my rankings, from worst to best, below:

19. Iron Man 2

18. Thor: The Dark World

17. Thor

16. The Incredible Hulk

15. Ant-Man

14. Captain America: The First Avenger

13. Iron Man 3

12. Avengers: Infinity War

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron

10. Doctor Strange

9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

8. Black Panther

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

6. Iron Man

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming

3. Thor: Ragnorak

2. The Avengers

1.Captain America: Civil War

You Were Never Really Here- Movie Review

Tags

, , , ,

youwereneverrealyhere

You Were Never Really Here is the type of movie that reminds me why I love cinema; there’s a nature to this art form that allows the creator to show things in ways you could never imagine, and director Lynne Ramsay knows better than anyone that it’s important to show your audience things, not tell them. The film is visceral and challenging, using perspective, music, sound, and Hitchcockian tension to create a modern masterpiece that boasts the best performance of Joaquin Phoenix’s career.

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a former serviceman struggling with PTSD who now serves as a hired gun to rescue children from child traffickers. When a state senator approaches him about rescuing his daughter, Joe’s world begins to crumble as he tries to do the right thing against insurmountable odds.

It was apparent from the opening scene that Ramsay has a perfect sense of style, feeling both elegant and cool, yet dark and visceral. The action peaks in it’s violence, but the intent of each violent scene is to only perpetrate the sense of dread that builds and builds and doesn’t let up until the end. There’s no release in the tension, and while a reference early on to Hitchcock’s Psycho may feel on the nose, there’s an air of dread and suspense that reminds you of that classic film.

While the jump scares, mostly seen in flashbacks, are terrifying and effective, Ramsay proves to be a master of sound, using a combination of idiosyncratic noises and a brilliant score from Johnny Greenwood to create a sense of uneasiness. It’s stark and haunting in it’s portrayal of loneliness, doubt, and fear, yet also beautiful, featuring an underwater meditation on life and death that ranks among the most gorgeously constructed works of filmmaking in the last few years.

It also helps that Joaquin Phoenix, who I truly believe is the greatest actor working today, is delivering a monumentally brilliant performance, bringing a rich sense of disparity to his disgruntled hired gun. Phoenix sells the humanity of the role, bringing out a sense of history in his scenes with his elderly mother, and is captivating in his methodical methods throughout the prospective changed of the movie. It’s a brilliant performance, and hopefully will garner serious awards buzz.

Ramsay wears her influences on her sleeve, and there are elements of many classics in here, from the contemplative nature of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, the horrifying starkness of Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the shocking humanity of Fincher’s Seven, and the unrelenting dread of any film from Hitckcock’s library. It’s a brilliant, beautiful piece of raw cinema, a masterful treat for those who truly care about the art form. Grade: A+

A Quiet Place- Movie Review

Tags

, , , ,

quiet-place.jpg

A Quiet Place is a gripping, taught piece of work that’s not only an interesting experiment in its sound design choices, but a genuinely great survival movie about one family. Horror movies are often best when they are personal, and director John Krasinski recognizes that telling one family’s story amidst a crisis is the most effectively emotional way to scare the audience.

In the aftermath of an apocalyptic event that wiped out much of the Earth’s population, a family consisting of Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), Regan Abbott (Millicent Simmons), and Marcus Abbott (Noah Jupe) have survived by creating a solitary home in the middle of a farm where every safety precaution has been taken. However, the mysterious creatures that hunt them possess a remarkable sense of hearing, forcing the survivors to be as silent as possible in order to avoid their predators.

Clearly, the silence of the film is it’s engaging factor, and by isolating the noises to the point in which simply breathing is noticeable, Krasinski is able to keep the audience engaged within the film’s entire runtime. There are rarely moments of levity and there’s never a safe space for our characters to escape to, and the simple routines of the characters’ lives add to the tension we see in the film’s ending. At only 90 minutes, there’s very little baggage, and it’s rare that a film is able to be some engaging for its entirety.

The other incredibly smart decision that Krasinski makes as a director is that the film basically functions as the third act of a larger story; outside of a brief opening scene (which brilliantly sets up both the rules of the world and the emotional stakes), there’s little explanation given to where these creatures come from, because in the scope of the story, it doesn’t really matter. Krasinski focuses on the most exciting part of the story from the beginning, and the uniformly excellent cast are able to sell the family’s emotional complexities as the stakes get more intense.

A Quiet Place is a thrilling piece of work, a great execution of a unique concept, and a surprisingly emotional family drama layered into a terrifying end result. The film plays on our fear of isolation and the unknown by involving us in wonderful characters, and doesn’t allow us to feel comfortable as it always has another scare up its sleeve. Grade: A-

Isle of Dogs- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

isleofdogs.jpegWes Anderson is a filmmaker who’s style is unique to his name; Anderson’s knack for symmetrical visuals, methodical storytelling, multi-chapter stories, artful environments, and peculiar characters are synonymous with his name, and it’s easy to expect a certain thing when going into any one of his films. There’s a craftsmanship that Anderson has with his films, an attention to detail that allows for sharp humor within background gags and recurring jokes, that makes him one of the most clearly distinguishable filmmakers of the 21st Century.

The question is of course what each individual film does differently, and Isle of Dogs is a uniquely somber yet often uproariously funny and invigorating adventure film. The film touches on the social climate through a clever look at the marginalization of scapegoat groups, yet is also an incredibly sincere story about the basic compassion between a boy and his dog. It’s without doubt that the dog characters are the standouts here, and that our investment with them as individuals is what makes the film so joyful.

Isle of Dogs takes us to the slightly futuristic Japan, where the Mayor Kobayashi has banned dogs to trash island on the notion that “dog flu” is dangerous to humans. Kobayashi’s nephew Atari is distraught when his dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) is sent away, and journeys to the island where he meets a pack of dogs: Chief (Bryan Cranston), Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), and Duke (Jeff Goldblum).

The performers are uniformly excellent, and Anderson has clearly matched the characters to the actors’ personalities, making each character (including minor characters met through the duration of the film) memorable and unique. There’s a cleverness to how each dog’s background is representative of a cultural group, and many of the backstories are surprisingly heartfelt. Cranston in particular gets a lot to do with the character of Chief, who has learned to be independent purely because he has never known compassion.

The film is just beautifully composed, with a clearly copious amount of detail paid to each environment, and Anderson adds kinetic energy through his visual details, particularly the flashbacks and action sequences. There’s also a great detail that’s found in the details of the world, and the film doesn’t take the time to force the audience to understand the joke, rather choosing to keep moving forward with it’s consistently energetic pacing.

If I had to highlight a major flaw, there is a storyline featuring an American foreign exchange student (Greta Gerwig) who’s rallying citizens against the Mayor that feels unnecessary. While it serves an important function in giving us a character to root for amidst all the scenes in the city (which are largely expositional), but the character as a whole feels like baggage in a film that’s best when focusing on personal relationships and societal movements.

Isle of Dogs is emotional in both its commentary on the marginalized and it’s traditional “boy and his dog” elements, and without going any deeper, it’s simply a fun adventure with a wry sense of humor. Visually, it’s an impeccable and often subversive take on how a film like this should be, yet it’s rooted in a story filled with characters that we care about. Grade: A-

Ready Player One- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

ready-player-one.jpg

Steven Spielberg isn’t just the greatest blockbuster filmmaker of all-time- he created the term “blockbuster”. Even if we were to look past the phenomenal dramatic material of Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Lincoln, and Catch Me If You Can among others, Spielberg’s catalogue of classic adventure films have resonated with audiences for generations, and films like Jaws, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and the Indiana Jones saga aren’t just among the best blockbuster films ever made, but proof that popularity and quality don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

When it comes to Ready Player One, Spielberg is oddly playing in a field were popular culture, much of which he created, is a form of escapism and expression from an otherwise dreary world, and in the nature of many of Spielberg’s films, it’s the young people and the dreamers who are able to rise against the facelessness of corporations. In this sense, Spielberg is the perfect director for this material, and possibly the only director that could make it work; Spielberg doesn’t see this popular culture, virtual reality world as cynical, and approaches it not only as a filmmaker, but as a guy who genuinely loves film.

In 2045, the world is desolate, with the only escapism found in the form of the Oasis, a virtual universe where adventure can be found in a variety of planets, environments, and storylines, many of which are directly lifted from 70s, 80s, and 90s popular culture. The Oasis is the creation of James Halliday (Mark Rylance), a genius creative mind that’s part Steve Jobs, part Willy Wonka, and part George Lucas, and is beloved by those who can find relief in his universe. Halliday’s death leaves an empty void in the Oasis, one filled by a quest set in motion prior to his death that would give the winner total control of the Oasis, and in turn, the future.

On this quest to finish the quest is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a socially awkward 18-year-old who uses the Oasis as an escape from his home in the slums of Iowa and his tumultuous relationship with his Aunt and her boyfriend. Wade is obsessed with Halliday, and in turn, obsessed with the culture Halliday represented, and as a character, Wade isn’t too different from Marty McFly, Ferris Bueller, Luke Skywalker, or any other 80s teen protagonist; he’s a little less suave and cool, but he represents the same type of outsider that seeks adventure as an alternative to the “rules” that he’s told to live by.

Wade’s quest to navigate the Oasis and find Halliday’s clues unites him with Artemis (Olivia Cooke), a beautiful adventurer who shares his love for Halliday. The romance here is rushed for sure, but I genuinely like Sheridan and Cooke together; there’s a plucky excitability to their performances, and they share the desire to show their trues selves. This is perhaps one of the theme of Spielberg’s film; whether it’s in real life or through a persona, one shouldn’t be afraid to be their own self.

If the romance is classic Spielberg, the villains are almost definitely an expression of what Spielberg has explored throughout his entire career; Wade’s quest is threatened by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the business tycoon of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a tech company that wants to monopolize off of Halliday’s world. Mendelsohn isn’t breaking new ground here, but his take on the “guy in the suit” is gloriously sinister, yet perfectly representative of the villain who’s lack of imagination is his downfall (you can tell he’s the villain- he’s not a John Hughes fan).

Even if the quest to find Halliday’s clues is little more than an excuse to show some action sequences, Spielberg’s grip on action is unprecedented; from an action-packed chase sequence that introduces Wade to Artemis to the film’s action packed final battle against IOI’s Mount Doom fortress, Spielberg gives a depth and sense of scale that is never seen. The scenes are staged so we as an audience can follow our characters, and each moment serves a purpose in the midst of the sequence. Throughout the film, Spielberg shows why he was born to make films; a simple tracking shot within the first scene in the film simultaneously introduces us to the world, Wade, and the stakes without even changing angles.

Spielberg is really the star here, which is a good thing considering that the script isn’t really the greatest; the plot is essentially tying together sequences, and we aren’t given nearly enough time within the real world to establish our characters. The third act is entirely indicative of this; I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening or what the goals were, but Spielberg’s innovative energy, including a brilliant staged homage to the greatest horror film ever made and a dichotomy of scenes set in the Oasis and the real world, had me engaged regardless.

Ready Player One is probably the best movie that could have been made based on this specific material, simultaneously giving movie geeks a multitude of references to follow, yet also reaching a universal quality of hope and adventure that’s as simple as a wonderful heart-to-heart chat between Wade and Halliday. I sincerely doubt that it will be remembered in 100 years the same way Jaws or Raiders of the Lost Ark will, but Ready Player One is the work of a master at his craft who’s decided to tribute the world he was instrumental in creating. Grade: B

2018 Academy Awards: Predicting the Winners

Tags

, ,

oscars.jpg

With the 2018 Academy Awards airing next Sunday, March 4th, here are my final predictions for who will be taking home the gold, as well as my personal picks for who should win.

 

Best Picture

Will Win: Get Out

Should Win: Lady Bird

Could Win: The Shape of Water

Snubbed: Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Director

Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Should Win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Could Win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Snubbed: Edgar Wright, Baby Driver

 

Best Actor

Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Should Win: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Could Win: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Snubbed: Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger

 

Best Actress

Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Could Win: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Snubbed: Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game

 

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could Win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Snubbed: Will Poulter, Detroit

 

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

Should Win: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

Could Win: Laura Metcalf, Lady Bird

Snubbed: Mckenna Grace, Gifted

 

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Get Out

Should Win: Lady Bird

Could Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubbed: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Call Me By Your Name

Should Win: Molly’s Game

Could Win: Mudbound

Snubbed: Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could Win: Dunkirk

Snubbed: The Lost City of Z

 

Best Costume Design

Will Win: Phantom Thread

Should Win: Phantom Thread

Could Win: Beauty and the Beast

Snubbed: Brigsby Bear

 

Best Editing

Will Win: Baby Driver

Should Win: Baby Driver

Could Win: Dunkirk

Snubbed: Logan Lucky

 

Best Makeup and Hairsyling

Will Win: Darkest Hour

Should Win: Darkest Hour

Could Win: Victoria & Abdul

Snubbed: It

 

Best Production Design

Will Win: The Shape of Water

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could Win: Blade Runner 2049

Snubbed: Hostiles

 

Best Original Score

Will Win: The Shape of Water

Should Win: Dunkirk

Could Win: Dunkirk

Snubbed: Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Original Song

Will Win: “Remember Me”, Coco

Should Win: “Mystery of Love”, Call Me By Your Name

Could Win: “This is Me”, The Greatest Showman

Snubbed: “I Get Overwhelmed”, A Ghost Story

 

Best Sound Editing

Will Win: Baby Driver

Should Win: Baby Driver

Could Win: Dunkirk

Snubbed: John Wick: Chapter 2

 

Best Sound Mixing

Will Win: Baby Driver

Should Win: Baby Driver

Could Win: Dunkirk

Snubbed: T2: Trainspotting

 

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Could Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Snubbed: Thor: Ragnorak

 

Annihilation- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , ,

annihilation.pngAnnihilation is an incredibly ambitious and self confidently weird sci-fi thriller, and after the monumental instant classic Ex Machina, Alex Garland has delivered another solid sci-fi film. There are definitely elements that feel out of place, namely some wide side characters, unnecessary expositional moments, and on the nose dialogue, but overall the film wrestles with some high level sci-fi content with an artful touch, including an ending that ranks among the most beautifully composed sci-fi moments in recent film history. It’s also scary as hell, and the film features a great combination of CGI and practical effects to create some truly memorable body horror.

Following the disappearance of her husband (Oscar Isaac) on a top secret military mission, a biologist (Natalie Portman) joins a team of scientist in exploring a mysterious expedition into an area where the laws of nature and science have been inverted. Many of the side characters, such as Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, have very little to do, but Portman is absolutely stellar, and managed to give humanity to the film even in its weirdest moments.

If I had to highlight a major issue with Annihilation its that despite its highly competent and mind bending premise, the film doesn’t really seem to have a deeper message, and any of the larger discussions aren’t really explored to their potential. That being said, it’s completely enjoyable on a purely visceral level, and while there are moments that drag, the ending takes the film in an experimental direction that’s haunting and exciting all at once. It’s a visceral and intense thriller, and Alex Garland has established himself as a sci-fi auteur that will be remembered. Grade: B+

Black Panther- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

blackpantherBlack Panther is one of the most impressive features that Marvel Studio has ever produced, not just for because of what it does right, but because of what it does different. The world of Wakanda is a world that feels lived in, and while Chadwick Boseman is remarkable as the titular superhero, this truly feels like an ensemble piece, with an amazing group of actors that feel like they’re part of a real community. Black Panther is an exhilarating piece of entertainment, but it’s also about something deeper, and all credit is due to director Ryan Coogler, who is becoming one of the best young talents in the industry.

After the death of Wakandan King T’Chalka in Captain America: Civil War, his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) ascends to the throne to become King of the enigmatic and secluded nation. When the villainous vibranium thief Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) reemerges, T’Challa and his allies discover the existence of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a mysterious character who aspires to take the throne for himself.

Marvel has been notorious for its remarkable ability to create compelling, interesting heroes, yet somewhat underwhelming villains, but Black Panther proves to be the standout. Michael B. Jordan’s Killmoger is a villain full of righteous anger; he’s a Wakandan raised in America, and has seen the prejudice and hatred throughout the world that’s not present in the secluded location of Wakanda. He’s got radical ideas, but they come from a place of tragedy and injustice, and B. Jordan sells his reasons for becoming the film’s antagonist. Killmonger is the type of villain that you can’t help agree with about a great many things, and I honestly believe that B. Jordan’s work should warrant serious consideration for Best Supporting Actor.

Of course, Boseman is great as T’Challa, and gives a truly layered performance as a man struggling as both a superhero and a king, and struggles to balance his commitment to law and justice. The ensemble is populated by wonderful supporting actors, including Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, Letita Wright, Danai Gurira, and Martin Freeman; this is a world that feels populated by character who have relationships beyond what we see onscreen, and the strength of the entire cast only strengthens the emotional resolve for T’Challa and his journey.

The film is also just beautifully shot, with Wakanda feeling like a real place with unique customs and environments. There’s a variety of great environments, including a great night club scene that feels plucked right out of a James Bond movie, and the visual design is unlike anything ever seen in a Marvel movie.

What makes the film standout among recent comic book films in my eyes is its emotional undercurrents; revelations made about past events have a profound impact upon both T’Challa and Killmonger, and while they have an emotional affect upon the story unfolding onscreen, they represent something that is relevant to our world and a great many people. Ironically, the film’s only problems are ones that involve its action scenes; there’s some action scenes that are hard to follow at points, and some of the CGI near the end is slightly problematic.

Black Panther is a great Marvel movie, establishing a world unlike we’ve seen before full of complex characters, fascinating political intrigue, and genuinely impactful subtext. Ryan Coogler has established himself as a filmmaker willing to push boundaries, and Black Panther is a film that both fits within the larger context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while also standing as its own self-contained story. Grade: A-

A Futile and Stupid Gesture- Movie Review

Tags

, , , , , , ,

a-futile-and-stupid-gesture-movie

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is my favorite type of biopic, because its one that engages with ideas and influence more than accuracy. It’s the story of Doug Kenney (Will Forte), the highly influential creator of the National Lampoon and write of Animal House and Caddyshack, and how Doug’s early days writing for a college paper led to him becoming one of the most influential comedic voices of all-time. The film occupies the rare space where some of its subjects are still relevant today, and while it leads very hard into the meta zone, the film captures the feel of a National Lampoon movie more than anything.

While in actuality Kenney at 27, the film uses a highly meta device of having a fictionalized older Kenney (Martin Mull) narrating the film, and breaking the fourth wall on what’s accurate and what’s not. This is effective, as Mull’s timing is perfect, and the open satire of the biopic genre is well needed; it’s silly to think that an entire man’s life could fit into a 100 minute movie, and the film keeps thinks light and fun for the most part, and it doesn’t rely on Kenney’s work to provide the jokes. We get a great sense of what a game changer Kenney was, and Forte couldn’t have been a better choice to play the irresponsible, selfish, yet tragic character.

When the story get darker in dealing with Kenney’s depression and suicide, so does the humor, which given its subject is completely fitting. Many of the early scenes involve Kenney’s relationship with National Lampoon co-founder Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson), who’s fittingly a straighter player in comparison to Kenney’s crazed antics. I also really liked Emmy Rossum as Kathryn Walker, a romantic interest for Kenney who provides a sense of happiness for him as his life spins out of control following the stressful production of Caddyshack. There’s a lot of actors recreating comic legends here with fine performances, and credit is due to Joel McHale who plays Chevy Chase, and surprisingly does more than an impression.

More than anything, A Futile and Stupid Gesture feels like a National Lampoon movie (despite a tragic ending). It’s a success story about how a bunch of outsiders upset the established order, and through sheer force of will and raw talent changed the entertainment world, and if that doesn’t scream National Lampoon, I don’t know what does. It’s a breezy, very funny, and quite charming, and surprisingly makes Kenney’s tragic end into something rather poignant. I’m pretty sure Doug Kenney would have loved it. Grade: B+