Jim and A.Ron saw Alita: Battle Angel tonight, and declare it a mess, albeit a beautiful, groundbreaking one in terms of effects work. This feels like the first half of the third part of a movie trilogy; everything is mysterious, nothing makes sense, the world is being built hastily and right in front of our eyes, and the movie ends right at the beginning of what promised to be a kick ass third act. But if you want to see what state of the art CG looks like in 2019, this is a shining $170 million example.
We took a look at the latest Netflix original, High Flying Bird. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and shot on an iPhone 8, it tells the tale of NBA management squeezing the players for a reduced share of profits during a labor dispute, and one high profile sports agent that is caught in the middle. It works on the level of a heist film; instead of smooth talking con-man Danny Ocean, we have smooth talking agent Ray Burke. Instead of boosting millions off of a ruthless billionaire casino owner, we’re negotiating for millions off ruthless billionaire team owners. But it also works as a commentary on the power dynamics of labor in general, and on a meta level, the film industry itself. It’s a well made, well-acted, gorgeous film, and it’s final act is as thought provoking as it is fun to watch unfold.
Jim and A.Ron have seen The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and it’s almost if not just as good as the first one. Father/son relational dynamics take a back seat to big bro/little sis dynamics for the sequel, but Everything Remains Awesome. This movie is bright, colorful, funny, inventive, and packs a lot of heart. Go see it unless your inner child is dead and your heart is gripped by icy black despair. In which case I’d recommend The Lego Batman Movie, instead.
Jim and A.Ron checked out the latest Netflix original film, “Velvet Buzzsaw”. Directed by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. It functions well enough as a horror story, a farcical look at art criticism, as well as an introspective look at the creative process and the related critical process. We have quibbles here and there, but the film looks great, has some inventive/gruesome deaths, and the main cast has a lot of fun being terrible people.
Jim and I missed Aquaman when it first washed up on our shores late last year, but we were lured in by general positive reviews and the massive audience and bank it’s pulling in. What did we think? Unfortunately, while it is clearly the second best DCU film after Wonderwoman, in our opinion it’s not nearly that good, and is still trying to play catch up to their more marvelous competition. Like a lot of these DC properties, it feels equally rushed and bloated, as if they stuffed three Aquaman movies into one. Any one act of this movie would have made an excellent installment of a kickass Aquaman trilogy, given a chance to breathe and establish their characters our connection to them.
Woof. Jim and I really, really wanted to like Glass, the sequel to the terrific Unbreakable, and the surprisingly good / sneaky amazing Split. And it should work. Bruce Willis, Samuel Jackson, and Anya Joy Taylor are good, and James McAvoy does more incredible work as the Horde. But the script is just about the laziest damn thing we’ve ever seen. Tons of plotholes, characters succeeding not because of their brilliance but others’ stupidity, and Shyamalan indulging the worst of his third act instincts torpedo any chance this movie had to kickstart a new cinematic universe, which is it’s plain ambition. It’s a genuine disappointment, ya’ll.
Jim and A.Ron got a one-two punch to their sense of nostalgia as Creed 2 relentlessly broke us and a theater full of Rocky diehards down. It should not be possible to build so much pathos and legend on the somewhat shaky foundations of Rocky IV, but we’ll be d*mned if they don’t. Up and coming director Steven Caple Jr. recaptures the magic of the original Creed, Michael B. Jordan is amazing as always, Sylvester Stallone continues to age like fine wine into the role he was born to play, and Tessa Thompson once again shows that playing a boxer’s wife/girlfriend doesn’t require you to be a human wet blanket. If you’re a Rocky fan, you’re going to like this film.
Another split decision on the latest first run Bald Movie, the WW2-themed action-horror film, Overlord. The serious and somber tone set against the gonzo and outrageous action quickly lost Jim. I thought the film delivered a pretty solid war film, followed by a tense and effective horror film, then rounded into a solid action romp that unfortunately started collapsing under the weight of too many action movie tropes. Still, the war scenes are more horrifying than most supernatural spookfests, the characters while basic are appealing, and the effects gruesome and effective enough to deliver the goods, especially if you can turn your brain off for the last act.
Jim and I had a helluva lot of fun seeing the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody tonight, starring Rami Malek. It’s getting mixed reviews, but we’re struggling to understand why. Malek does an incredible job embodying the greatest rock band front man of all time, the soundtrack is just literally all of the greatest Queen hits, so what’s not to like? Unless the movie tells just truly egregious and hateful lies about Mr. Mercury, which we’re not in a position to verify, or the justifiable suspicion around the film’s director is souring people’s opinion on it, we can’t see much not to like.Freddie Mercury is front and center of the stage as he should be, but it does a great job of highlighting the incredible talents and creativity of Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor as well.
Jim and A.Ron went to see Bad Times at the El Royale and give it mixed reviews. Writer/Director Drew Goddard throws a lot of slow, character and dialog driven set pieces at the audience, mixed up and out of order, until finishing the movie with a spasm of violence and action. Jim enjoyed the performances and the movie held his interest throughout, whereas I thought the ending didn’t do enough to justify the other two hours, and thought a lot of the characters were pretty thin for a dialog and character driven movie. But the film is stylish and slick enough that perhaps you’ll be able to forgive it’s flaws?