Categories
2 1/2 Stars Movies

Venom: Let there be Carnage (2021)

Despite my qualms I had with the first Venom film, I did have some high hopes with the upcoming sequel when I saw the first film’s post-credit scene.

 While I have stated I am not an expert in comic book lore, I feel I know enough to know that Woody Harrelson would be the perfect actor to play the villainous Cletus Kasady/Carnage. Even with him added on to this universe, the result is still a basic run of the mill action packed CGI fest. It is a shame, since there are a decent amount of moments in Venom: Let there be Carnage that had me smiling almost like a symbiote invested entity would.

Categories
4 1/2 Stars Movies

Black Panther (2018)

Note: This review was originally written in February of 2018. I decided to bring it back (with some added content) in memory of the late Chadwick Boseman.

Categories
"Top Tens", and others Movies

The Top 20 Movies of 2018

2018 best
The honorable mentions…

Another great year of movies is in the books.
Toward the end of 2018, I realized I actually was able to see nearly all of the movies I wanted to in time (though there are a few I admit I am still on the look out for).
As was the case for the 2017 list, I decided to make a top 20 list , because numbers 11-20 were too good to ignore. If you really want to cut the list in half, gather all six infinity stones, put them in the infinity gauntlet, and…SNAP! (Too soon?)
 
As the title character in the next film would say, “Off we go!”…
 
20.
mpr
The minds at Disney are no strangers to taking risks, and doing a sequel to the 1964 classic Mary Poppins is one of their biggest risks yet. Still, even 54 years later, Mary Poppins Returns is a success due to new original music, fine performances, two amazing cameos, and the practically perfect Emily Blunt.
 
19.
tf
There is no doubt that The Favourite will not appeal to everyone, as it has a very dark sense of humor. In time, you will be able to see the film for its witty script and impeccable acting.
 
18.
bp
As 2018’s highest grossing film, Black Panther was also one of the best critical successes in the history of superhero films. Cultural relevance, sublime action, and wonderful acting were sure helpful, as it may become the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture.
 
17.
fr
Deep, thoughtful, and chilling are some of the best ways one can describe First Reformed. As many great movies do, it provides more questions than answers. Not to mention Ethan Hawke’s uncanny performance.
 
16.
cra
 
In one of the biggest surprises of the year, Crazy Rich Asians told us the story of characters that are relatable and worthy to cheer for. Based off of a book, there are more films to come, of which I am looking forward to with a big smile.
 
15.
 
mid90s
 
In his directorial debut, Jonah Hill’s Mid90s explores the lives of kids growing up in the search of someone to look up to. The result is one of the years most authentic films.
 
14.
cyefm
 
Lee Israel was an author who made money by forging fake letters from popular authors, and the portrayal by Melissa McCarthy of her in Can you ever forgive me? is a revelation (Richard E. Grant is great as well). She has had strikeouts in her film career, yet this is a home run that clears the stadium.
 
13.
widows
 
The heat is on blast in Steve Mcqueen’s Widows, with an all-star cast on the top of their game (led by the always wonderful Viola Davis). Just because it is being somewhat overlooked does not take away from its brilliance.
 
12.
ibsct
 
One of the most human love stories in the last couple years of cinema, If Beale Street could talk is one that may not have the outcomes most are wishing for. They are the outcomes that are the right ones.
 
11.
 
8g
 
Newcomer (and Golden Globe nominee) Elsie Fisher shines through all of Eighth Grade, another coming of age story that oozes with real authentic material. Gucci, indeed.
 
10.
 
gb
 
Your heart may have been rock solid if it wasn’t feeling warm after witnessing Green Book. Both Ali and Mortensen give Oscar caliber performances, giving us the ultimate bromance of 2018.
 
9.
 
smitsv
 
As of this writing, I have yet to meet anyone I have mentioned Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to come back to me saying it was a bad movie. Believe the hype, for this is the best Spidey cinema has produced, the best animated film of 2018, and easily a post credit scene better than anything the MCU has offered.
 
8.
aiw
 
Sorry if the above image brings back bad memories, but that is how big of a movie Avengers: Infinity War was. Even before the “snap heard round the world”, the film was unlike any superhero film we have seen before. Endgame cannot come soon enough.
 
7.
hereditary
 
A Quiet place had a nice premise, as did the currently popular (but not entirely great) Bird Box, but no film this year left me with such dread as Hereditary did. This movie will leave a unique bitter taste in your mouth for sometime after the credits, and I mean that as a compliment.
 
6.
blackkklansmen
 
In no way would BlacKKKlansmen have been as wonderful as it was if it weren’t directed by Spike Lee. Only he could do justice to a true story about an African America undercover cop (an awesome debut by John David Washington, son of Denzel)  who joins the KKK. Yes, it gets political, but it is super intriguing.
 
5.
asib
 
Having a good directorial debut is one thing, but there is another level that Bradley Cooper is on in A Star is Born. He gives one of his best performances, does the fourth remake of a movie, and lets Lady Gaga show she has more than singing talent. Yeah, expect this to be mentioned more than once come Oscar night.
 
4.
wybmn
You can name any superhero you want, but none could hold a candle to the bravery of Fred Rogers, even if he is not completely well-known to kids today. Thankfully, the ever charming Won’t you be my Neighbor? is a chance to remind us not just of the man, but (more importantly) his ideals. A lovely day indeed.
 
3.
fm
 
Not since 2013’s Gravity has flying seem so realistic. Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong (an understated Ryan Gosling) walking on the moon, brings tension and grit to the highest of levels. Months later, the sound effects are still giving me the chills of space.
 
2.
roma
 
I have mentioned how Netflix’s original films are not always great, and while I have not seen all of them, I doubt many can come close to Roma. Director Alfonso Cuaron (director of the previously mentioned Gravity) delivers a passion project that is nothing short of sublime. It may be on Netflix, but the film deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can see it on. Hands down 2018 most gorgeous film (even the cleaning of dog crap looked beautiful).
 
1.
LNT.jpg
 
Throughout 2018, I wrestled up and down between my favorite film of the year, and then I came across a hidden treasure, Leave No Trace. The first film in eight years from director Debra Granik (her last film was the masterful 2010 film Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence), the simple story of a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (amazing new comer Thomasin McKenzie) who try to avoid civilization is both heartbreaking and beautiful. It hit me in the feels more than any other film last year. You may not have heard of it, but it is out on DVD, and is more than worth looking for. Scratch that, it is worth buying.

Categories
2 Stars Movies

Aquaman (2018)

For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.

The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).

Categories
5 Stars

Roma (2018)

It should come as no real surprise that a lot of the original films by Netflix are not that good.

Some (at least ones I have seen and heard of) are pretty terrible. I would say that Roma is not one of them, but that is a putrid understatement. Here is one of the best films of this or any year, and to say it is not worth seeing because it is not in English or in color would show how shallow you are as a movie goer.

Categories
5 Stars

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

If you were to show a graph of the quality of all the films about Marvel’s (arguably) most popular hero, there would be a lot of ups (Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming) and downs (Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Still, just when you thought Tom Holland’s Spider-Man (a wonderful portrayal) was the best film we would get, in comes swinging Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is quite possibly the best Spidey to ever web up the big screen.

If you have seen the trailer, you know there is a good amount of Spiders in this web. The main one is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a local teenager who goes to a private school he hates despite it being the wishes of his police chief dad (Brian Tyree Henry). The only person he does seem to have a positive rapport with is his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). It is with him that, one night he is (spoiler, well not really) bitten by a radioactive spider and senses his new powers.

The other versions of Spider-Man appear after a rip is caused in the quantum realm by Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), better known as Kingpin. The main one is a much older Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), who has left his beloved MJ and is not in the best of shape. We also meet Spider Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Trust me, you don’t want me to say any more about their characters. It is worth witnessing yourself.

Oh, how glad I am this movie was animated. Had the filmmakers tried to make this in the real world, it would not have succeeded. Animation is used to help explore more of the human imagination that live action cannot (I hope those at Disney who like remaking animated films into live action are reading this).

Yet the glorious animation still does not take away from the moving story. It has been some time since tears were in my eyes from both laughing out loud and at moments that truly got me a little choked up.

Parents, the movie can be a little dark, but it should be fine for kids elementary and up. No swearing (despite a few minor ones) or sexual content. Only the mildest of violence.

I close by saying that if there is a better ending post credit scene than the one here, I have not seen it. And I have seen all the movies in the MCU.

So yeah, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is amazing.

Overall:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Categories
2 Stars

Venom (2018)

It isn’t that Venom is a terrible movie, but it most certainly is a disappointing one.

This is especially true when you have a great talent like Tom Hardy in the lead role. He himself is really the only thing worth seeing in this film (and, admittedly, some unexpected laughs I was not expecting).

Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a reporter who one day is in over his head as he tries to uncover the mystery behind a suspicious company of scientists (or something like that) run by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). He blows the assignment, is fired by his boss (Ron Chephas Jones from This is Us), and is dumped by his fiancée Anne Weying (the always reliable Michelle Williams). He is given a second chance when one of the doctors (Jenny Slate) sneaks Brock into the facility, where the mysterious goo (the symbiote) meshes with Eddie and makes him become the title character.

Eddie is clearly down on his luck but I am not sure if I would call him a total loser. He does try to do the right thing, even if he fails at it, such as being there for the local store clerk Mrs. Chen (Peggy Lu) after she is being harassed by a gang member. Still, despite the very good performance by Hardy, I can’t help but wonder how much better this Venom would have been if he were the villain of the MCU (where his enemy Spider-Man now resides).

Speaking of villains, anyone will tell you how a comic book movie baddie needs to be great if the film can have some success, and that is easily the biggest flaw of the film. Riz Ahmed (who is a good actor I am sure) approaches his character with no charm or menace, two of the most important things a cinema comic book character needs.

Another problem I had was with some of the special effects. When Venom does appear, it is (for the most part) convincing, yet the action sequences are so fast paced that we don’t get much time to revel at them. I am referring to a specific car chase scene. I truly would hate to fault director Ruben Fleischer, mainly since he made 2009’s highly underrated Zombieland. There is a fight scene, however, in Brock’s apartment that is rather fun to watch.

Parents, while the movie could have easily been given an R rating (Venom’s appetite has nearly no limits), the PG-13 rating is mainly for horrific images (for kids) and swearing (some S words, plus one F bomb). Nothing sexual (though some kissing), so I would say middle school and up. Maybe younger.

I can say without a doubt that Venom is not the worst comic book movie ever (I would take Tom Hardy over Topher Grace in 2007’s Spider-Man 3 any day of the week), but I just can’t recommend it. I only wish the studios would get along so we could get all the characters in one universe, but that is wishful thinking.

No surprise that the film does have a post credit scene, suggesting that there will be a sequel (Hardy has apparently signed on for two more films). While I am not sure it will happen, I do totally support the actor they have as the next villain. Especially if they moved this to the MCU.

Again, just wishful thinking.

Overall:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Categories
4 1/2 Stars

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Was I the only one confused by a title like Crazy Rich Asians? I am not sure. It was about a fourth or a third of the way into director Jon M. Chu’s film that I realized how perfect the title truly is. Are they crazy and rich or just “crazy rich”? The answer is a resounding yes. The words can also describe the film as well. Afterall, it is crazy that this is the first film western film in a quarter century to have an all Asian cast (the last was 1993’s The Joy Luck Club). It is rich in comedy, romance, and all out heart.

Also, it is Crazy how the lead actor Henry Golding is able to make his first film performance here so memorable. He plays Nick Young, who has been dating Rachel Chu (an instantly lovable Constance Wu) for over a year. His best friend Colin (Chris Pang) is getting married in one of the biggest weddings ever (more on that later). It is on the plane ride to Singapore that Nick breaks the news that his family is rich (which is a vast understatement).

Categories
4 Stars

A Quiet Place (2018)

I doubt even the biggest fan of The Office would have predicted that they would see John Krasinski stepping out with his talents like this. He not only stars in A Quiet Place, but directs and helped with the screenplay. It is only his third time at the helm as director, but it is certainly the charm.

Krasinski and Emily Blunt (his wife in real life) star as Lee and Evelyn Abbott, who live with their two kids Regan and Marcus (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, respectively). They are some of the very last survivors on earth after creatures with super sonic like hearing have killed everyone else. They have lived just under five hundred days, with a strict schedule of normal life, provided they don’t make a sound. It is fortune for them that they do live in a farm in the outside parts of New York, and have already learned how to use sign language (the daughter Regan is deaf). New dangers do arise, as we find out that a new baby is on the way.

It is obvious that there is jump scares a plenty in the film, which I am not ashamed to admit got me shaken a few times. Still, what scared me the most of the film is not the jump scares or even the creature (which is creepy, no doubt.) For me, it was knowing off the bat that, if this happend in the real world, and we all had to be quiet. I would not last long at all.

It is also refreshing how such a small cast can give strong performances. Krasinski and Blunt are obviously good (especially in one scene they share by themselves as they dance), but the kids are equally impressive. Both kids were in 2017 films: Simmonds in Wonderstruck and Jupe in Wonder (he was Auggie’s friend Jack Will). It is really Simmonds who is given the most moments to shine (she is deaf in real life).

Parents, the movie is PG-13, mainly for the horror and violence (there is bloody images, but nothing worse than what is on cable these days). Due to the lack of dialogue (though there is some), there is no real swearing. Middle school and up is fine.

It is not perfect: A second or third viewing will be needed to see if there are sounds that are made that you would think the creature would have heard. Still, undoubtably, the man responsible for A Quiet Place is Krasinski. In years to come, he could be in races for an Oscar. Still, the most impressive thing (and creepiest) came after the credits. It is not a scene, but a name of a producer that John Krasinski has linked to a good movie.

That name is Michael Bay.

When you make a good movie with Michael Bay’s name attached to it (in any way), you know a movie is not only good, but a rarity.

Overall:

Rating: 4 out of 5.