‘Raid’ star Iko Uwais shows up in “Stuber” but instead of taking advantage of his athletic talents, the movie has Uwais go through such mundane and lazily set-up action sequences. The entire movie, at times, works purely on the ingenious casting decision of having Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista buddy-cop their way through a pedantic plot.Read More
I am re-posting my Sundance review of Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” because of its impending theatrical release this coming Friday. Also, look for an interview with Wang to be posted later this week — she has truly directed one of the very best movies you will see this summer.Read More
Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” is first and foremost a Richard Curtis movie — if you don’t know him, Curtis is an expert at writing romcoms which include “Love Actually,” “About Time” and “ “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
With all that said, If the synopsis of “Yesterday” sounds like an absolute blast on-paper then, hate to say it, it doesn’t meet those expectations on-screen. By now you must have surely seen the ads; failing singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wakes up one morning, only to learn that The Beatles never existed and, more importantly, their rich catalogue of songs his for the taking. He ends up being heralded as the guy who wrote “Let it Be,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and other such classics. It’s all set-up quite nicely, in fact, with Boyle’s energetic brand of stylized filmmaking.
However, problems arise in the film’s second act, which has our main protagonist chasing the girl of his dreams, his best friend since the age of seven, which puts The Beatles stuff on pause for mundane romance. Instead of expanding on the ingenious premise, Curtis decides to inject his movie with off-puttingly mawkish sentiment. It’s a missed opportunity which cannot even be saved by the great soundtrack. [C+]
The second installment in the latest live-action Spider-Man reboot feels like it wants to be an MCU “European Vacation” but is continuously bogged down by the familiar narrative beats that come in being, you know, part of the MCU. Yes, there’s the picturesque, old architecture with which we associate the beautiful continent with, as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates go on a school trip to Prague, Venice, London and Paris — and yet, the movie is consistently bogged down by relentless action and a contrived romance between Parker and his classmate MJ.Read More
What director Josh Cooley has decided to do with this fourth ‘Toy Story’ installment is hit the reset button. Former toy owner Andy now gone and replaced by Bonnie, a young tyke who has inherited Andy’s collection, which includes Buzz Lightyear and Woody. This set-up results in the same kind of theatrics and plotting as the first three ‘Toy Story’ movies. There’s nothing new being told here, just business as usual.
In this fourth chapter, our gang embark on a new adventure with new toy Forky — this Spork was created from scratch by Bonnie and has become her go-to-plaything. Problem is Forky doesn’t want to be a toy, he says he belongs in the trash, like all the other used sporks. Regardless, his runaway nature has Woody scrambling to keep him intact because Bonnie will throw a hissy fit if he goes missing. It all leads to the usual chase sequences, which aren’t far removed from the first three movies. In other words, ex-Pixar honcho John Lasseter’s input is sorely missing in “Toy Story 4” — would he have even approved of the final result? The question begs to be asked.
By all measures, “Toy Story 4” is a watchable affair, something that families can all go to see this coming weekend at the multiplexes — especially when compared with every other mega-budget blockbuster playing at this very moment (I’m talking to you ‘Godzilla’). And yet, I felt a sense of disappointment watching the movie. If the first three installments felt breezy and effortless, Cooley’s movie feels forced and unimportant.
The sheer brilliance of “Toy Story 3” and the way its ending seemed to resonate so perfectly, so deeply, made it, by all senses of the term, a perfect trilogy capper. What I didn’t want “Toy Story 4” to do was injure the integrity of its predecessor, but it kind of does that. There is no sense of relevance in this latest adventure. The words “sellout” and “cash grab” will be uttered by detractors, but it pains me to want to firmly plant myself in that direction — mostly because the animation is staggeringly rendered, another triumph of visual wonders for the animation wizards over at Pixar. But, despite being a visual treat, the narrative rings hollow at almost every turn — each ‘Toy Story’ movie built up on the momentum of the previous installment, but this is the first time in the franchise’s 24 year history where irrelevance has very much entered into the equation.
Director Ari Aster has claimed that “Midsommar” is his “breakup movie.” After all, the screenplay was written when the director, as he has acknowledged in interviews, was going through a rough patch in a long-term relationship.Read More
This unclassifiable documentary continually surprises you at every turn. “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” highlights Dylan and company’s troubadour-like 1975 tour, which included violinist Scarlet Rivera and guitarist Mick Ronson, as they played gigs across America. The venues were smaller, barely any money was made, but in a country torn by Watergate, a never-ending war and the end of flower power, the healing power of music and camaraderie was needed not just for audiences but for the musicians themselves.Read More
I wasn't too keen on Jake Scott's "American Woman," but I did think Sienna Miller was fantastic. Ditto Christina Hendricks, but when is the latter not? She's such a bombshell. We need more Hendricks on-screen. Anyway both Miller and herself have their talents wasted in an endless barrage of cliches and trailer trash stereotypes. [Review]
I did not review “I am Mother” when I saw its premiere at this past January’s Sundance Film Festival. Mostly because it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. We already know that if you’re making a sci-fi about artificial intelligence then you most likely will have to deal with the, ahem, downside in accepting robots as “one of us.”Read More
“Dark Phoenix” is supposed to be the X-Men finale before Disney takes over the franchise. Written, directed and produced by Simon Kinberg, the result is an embarrassing movie that is undeserving of this series’ best moments. Hell, it may very well be the worst X-men movie ever made, even more excruciating than the infamously bad “X-Men: The Last Stand.”Read More
The idea that we can modernize familiar narrative tropes is something that Hollywood always strives in achieving. After all, why change a formula that has been working so well, and making money, on audiences since the beginning of time when you could just freshen it up for contemporary audiences, whose sensibilities, let’s be frank haven’t changed all that much. Please keep in mind that in the millions of years the homosapien has lived on this planet, their DNA has barely changed, nor has their way of responding to triggers which prompt the usual emotional reactions.Read More
Aesthetics and substance are two entirely different things in cinema. You could have a film that is bracingly inventive in its visual approach but fall flat in its narrative ambitions. Ditto the reverse, a visually flat film with a well-realized narrative. The latter is usually worth a recommendation, but the former can be problematic, even when you have a film as visually accomplished as Joe Talbot’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.”Read More