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Having been on IMDB for many years, I will not speculate as to why some films are revered and others are reviled. All I have is my own vote and my own voice and that is all.
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Bewilderingly amateurish, lackadaisical follow-up to Hereditary; a stunning failure
I am at a loss for words as to how poorly-made this film turned out to be. As much promise as Ari Aster has as a director, this could wind up being the last film you would go to as evidence of his brilliance. One more film like this, and we conclude that he has lost his compass or that his directorial debut was a fluke- literally take your pick!
In order for a horror film to be effective, the acting has to be at least on point, if not extremely compelling. Here, I sensed nothing from the cast but their eagerness for the project to be completed and for them to go home. It reminded me of many of my academic courses in college. No one enjoyed them, not even those doing the talking. Here, this feels like a chore for everyone involved. That's how bad the performances are.
Perhaps in a leap of faith, I expect Aster to rebound from this unfortunate misfire. I pray this winds up being a footnote in his filmography. Not recommended. Avoid at all costs.
The Farewell (2019)
Subtly anguished portrait of a family coping with tragedy
Awkwafina stars as a young Asian-American professional woman in this down-to-earth, insightful film about a Chinese family that confronts the discovery of an aging grandmother being diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. The family is determined to not tell the grandmother about her condition so as to allow her the best state of mind as she lives out the remainder of her life.
Tremendous performances make this film, which would not be the same achievement without the acting that makes these characters utterly real, without judging them or resorting to weepy melodrama. In addition, there is the theme of a clash of views between Asian-Americans who have learned western values and the long-standing traditional values of Chinese families. There is also a contrast in backdrops, with Awkwafina's protagonist's laid-back lifestyle at home in New York compared to the sterile, concrete character of China.
Although the film has a comedic element with Awkwafina at the helm, this is more a slow-burn film about the psychological toll of impending family loss. It is never overdone and there are no cheap tears here. This film, in the end, earns its emotional impact. I don't cry watching a film, but I came close here. For patient viewers, this will is a must-see. Gladly recommended.
Tarantino film on Hollywood, dreamlike, fiery... and long
I usually see a film knowing as little as possible because I find it helps maximize the film's impact. Quentin Tarantino's latest epic recreation (and desecration) of history proves to be the exception. It pays to read up on this film's essential story especially if you had not been born yet when it all takes place.
Which is not to say the film isn't arresting and captivating even if you don't know all the players. But it will seem interminable, maybe even aimless at times if you don't know where Tarantino is going. Some of it will be obvious to younger viewers, the rest of it no so much. But I highly recommend knowing the lay of the land before going to see this. Otherwise, you're more likely to feel the running time of this film.
In terms of performances, Leonardo DiCaprio is quite good as a fading Hollywood actor who is grasping at straws to revive his career, but here he is out-acted by a considerable margin by Brad Pitt who turns in a charismatic performance as the actor's stunt double and driver. Margot Robbie is an appealing presence as the young, up-and-coming actress Sharon Tate. Al Pacino and Kurt Russell are both a joy to watch in small roles that add spice and backstory to the proceedings.
As a director, Tarantino has a recurring issue with his films rarely getting sufficient cutting room time, and here it's no exception. Although I would have preferred a tighter film, the gripping closing act erases most of the flaws and ends on a bittersweet note, leaving us with a truly surreal film experience, that is a feather in the cap of everyone involved. All it could have used was a real editor. Recommended.
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Wonderfully enjoyable Toy Story sequel
If you have any uncertainty about the durability of "Toy Story" as a film franchise, this sequel should put your doubts to rest. It's a splendid continuation of the saga of Woody and Company as he and his fellow toys adjust to a new era as the toys of Andy's child, Bonnie, and the introduction of a new type of toy into their world, Forky.
On a family road trip, Woody and the other toys come to grips with how their purpose has changed in a new lifetime as toys. They find answers in unexpected places as they cross paths with other toys in their journey. It's a touching and wholesome story that is surprisingly thought-provoking and insightful. I wish all animation films could be like this.
Those of us who have watched Woody and his fellow toys through the years can be grateful for this chapter, a rewarding experience. Recommended to the highest degree to viewers of all ages.
The Art of Self-Defense (2019)
Absurdist escapsim, intriguing but not much more than that
In this black comedy, Jesse Eisenberg is a wimpy office underling who is victimized by a criminal gang and because of his poor combat skills, decides to take up karate to protect himself and to improve his self-image and fighting spirit. He proves surprisingly adept in his training and advances steadily under the watchful eye of a puzzling, intimidating sensai.
Performances here are respectable, but hobbled by a screenplay that is choppy (no pun intended) before it loses luster and veers off to its surprise ending. Eisenberg does his best as a cardboard protagonist, the loser extraordinaire with a thankless job, a small dog, an '80s television set and who seemingly was born to fight absolutely no one. He is upstaged considerably by Alessandro Nivola who gives a formidable, bravado-driven performance as the magnetic sensai, the real life of the film. Imogen Poots is a welcome presence as the strong-willed sole female student. Even with a muddled script, the acting is enough to keep things afloat, just barely.
As long as credibility is not your test, this film could make for weird, passable entertainment. In a very narrow way, it succeeds as a silly diversion, chock full of deadpan humor, ferocious jolts and just enough taste for blood that the squeamish should be forewarned. In the end, however, it goes down as clever, if inconsistent comedy. Not recommended, except to esoteric and casual viewers.
Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
Spider-Man goes to Europe
Peter Parker embarks on a class trip to Venice, hoping to be a kid for once, in this Spider-Man adventure, only to be confronted with the demands of a world in desperate need of new superhero leadership. He is distracted by the presence of his intense high school crush but soon finds himself battling elemental beings of a magnitude he has not faced up to this point. He crosses paths with Mysterio, a cryptic but highly capable superhero who has faced these forces before. He soon finds doing his job and keeping his identity under wraps a challenge.
Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal are exemplary in a Spider-Man installment full of teenage angst, globe-trotting mayhem and a vivid depiction of the allure of fame. Zendaya is a nice presence as Parker's love interest. Be sure to watch through the closing credits as there is quite the appendix.
Without giving away too much, this film establishes an intriguing path for what comes next. It signals a new chapter for MCU and a promising one. Gladly recommended.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Gigantic, layered, massively crowded Avengers conclusion is lumbering but hard to dislike
The long-awaited conclusion to the Marvel's Avengers film franchise puts everything in perspective from the previous installments. If you are a diehard MCU devotee, this film will likely be your must-see of the year. For the disengaged or the downright uninitiated, this is actually not bad.
Although clearly aiming for the franchise to hit the highest of highs in terms of catharsis, the film's emotional impact is diluted by its sheer size. The many, many different characters are utterly dwarfed by the film's enormous scope. The good news is, the story is a straightforward battle of good and evil with very little in the way of divided loyalties or moral quandaries. But there are so many players and so many backstories to tie together, that you could be forgiven for feeling more relief than a visceral thrill when it's all said and done.
On the plus side, there is a stirring musical score and a heartfelt ending that will put all doubts about the film's soulfulness to rest. Although the Avengers franchise in its totality isn't quite my cup of tea, I recommend this as solid, quality entertainment.
Campy, heavy-handed mess from the get-go
This highly-touted film about Elton John that blends the biopic and musical genres together has one big selling point: Taron Egerton's go-for-broke performance as the deeply troubled musical genius. Regrettably, the film as a whole is self-indulgent and cliche-ridden to the hilt and goes down as a misfire.
Problematic right out of the gate, the film has to overcome a befuddling start which takes place from the tawdry vantage point of a psychiatric support group and frames the film's narrative from that trivializing angle from there on out. Perhaps a film of better nuance could have pulled this off but here we have camp, mawkishness and exploitation all rolled into one. The end result is a film whose tone is dumbfounding, annoying and at times embarrassing to endure. The musical numbers in this film are mostly perplexing and very rarely effective in conveying this life story.
I am not one to criticize a biopic because I realize it's a genre that is beholden to the life it is portraying. While I don't question the film's accuracy in portraying how awful Elton John's personal demons were, a film with more discipline almost definitely could have done better. A campy film, one that keeps poking you in the eye with how bad it is, will not tell anyone's story all that well, let alone a legend like Elton John.
Bearing in mind that Egerton's performance has to be seen to be believed, I nevertheless decline to recommend this.
The Souvenir (2019)
Disquieting, slightly aloof drama about a poisonous relationship
Honor Swinton Byrne gives a profoundly subtle performance as an impressionable film student from a privileged upbringing who becomes romantically involved with an enigmatic, charming man who works for the British government. Tom Burke is a stark presence as the young woman's muse. They gradually become inseparable.
She is a thoughtful, sensitive person who soon finds herself navigating the pitfalls of his serpentine personality. The film proceeds at a very deliberate pace and is low-key to the point of being catatonic at times. The main criticism of this film is that its slow patches do go on for quite a bit. But out of this dry and methodical narrative eventually emerges a raw tension leading to a conclusion that is quite powerful.
Although this isn't quite the masterpiece that many reviews have made it out to be, I found it a worthwhile and subtly rewarding cinematic experience. Recommended to patient viewers.
Kaleidoscopic, riveting game changer in the animation genre
I saw this film on the tail end of its theatrical release, and what a discovery it was. A visceral screenplay and electric animation guide this high-energy, uplifting story about a New York City teenager who by chance becomes one of the many Spiderheroes in the world and his life is never the same afterward.
The protagonist is a modest but savvy kid who has a diverse range of influences in his life, from his law-and-order father to his more street-wise uncle. He winds up crossing paths with a number of superheroes each of whom has a unique style, but who also share a common goal- stopping an evil crime kingpin from opening a vast, destructive portal to another universe. There are themes of family challenges, building adult confidence and the importance of teamwork, all tied together in this amazing story. Although some of the climactic fight scenes do go on for quite a while (an endemic problem in the super hero genre) it doesn't take away from the film's impact.
I recommend seeing this on as big a medium as possible. Even though it's an animation film, watching this for the first time on your phone would be a mistake. The visuals are so intense, sometimes overpowering, that you want to get the full effect. A great film for children but with plenty of adult wisdom, this one is not to be missed. Highly recommended.
Mystifying, fascinating Peele suspense film, but with a hollow core
Jordan Peele's follow-up to "Get Out" is winding, creepy and compelling to watch from start to finish. A young family on a getaway discovers that their vacation home is the target of a bunch of deranged, vicious dopplegangers. There's at least a good formula at work here and there are some truly haunting scenes.
So what goes wrong? The film's concept is never fully fleshed out. The events that unfold are menacing and intense but their origin is never adequately portrayed, and is therefore incomprehensible. You might finish watching this with a lot of blanks not yet filled out. The fact that the film has to explain itself so much tells you how confused and muddled the narrative is here. And without giving away too much detail, the plot's conclusion is unnecessary and radical. It largely renders what is already a problematic film null and void.
Perhaps it would have been a better idea to label this as a thriller because it does have its share of suspense. A horror film, this most definitely is not. It never becomes that. You're more likely to be bewildered than scared, despite the film's eye for detail and a Kubrickian aura in places.
It is a testament to Peele's filmmaking ability that he can make even a flawed effort that is well-acted and full of momentum right up to the closing credits. And the film does boast a crisp soundtrack. I just wish it all added up to something. Not recommended.
Superhero movie with heart and soul
Zachary Levi stars as a superhero incarnation in this above average superhero blockbuster about a teenage foster child in Philadelphia who discovers his calling as a bona fide superhero. Asher Angel is solid as the teenage superhero-to-be, but he is considerably upstaged by a Jack Dylan Grazer who gives a likeable performance as his aspiring sidekick. Mark Strong is menacing as the human vessel for the seven deadly sins.
Rousing and funny, this film is great entertainment although I do wonder how much a medium for children it truly is. It has many tense scenes of mayhem and the portrayal of the seven deadly sins might scare some children. The aspect of foster care is sympathetically portrayed here and adds to the film's genuineness.
The film does take a while to take shape, in keeping with the mindset of a teenage boy just beginning to discover his true potential, but its payoff is tremendous. It goes from decent to superior as it becomes a classic battle of good and evil. This is a welcome addition to the superhero genre. Gladly recommended.
Hotel Mumbai (2018)
Startling terrorism drama will test your nerves
The 2008 Jihadist attack on the prestigious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai is vividly recaptured in this film. A group of young Muslims recruited out of desperate poverty are sent on a mission to attack various prominent targets in the city one of which is the vast and labyrinthine hotel. As this ghastly event unfolds, hotel staff and guests alike are forced to adopt their own survival instincts as Mumbai has only a minimally-armed local police force and no military presence close by.
I was struck by how this thus-far underrated film portrays terrorism and its unyielding thirst for blood. It's both fascinating and disturbing how such a young group of people could be driven to such a mindless excursion of unbridled rage and savage violence. That aspect of the film was extraordinary. There are strong performances throughout the film. Dev Patel is a waiter who is raising a young family in the city. Anupam Kher is a head chef with strict standards for his staff. Armie Hammer and Nazinin Boniadi are a young married couple with their infant child and babysitter. Jason Isaacs gives a scene-stealing performance as a Russian businessman. A plush hotel becomes the venue of a vicious attack and ensuing battle for survival.
Very well-directed and amply suspenseful, this film might be at times a bit punishing to sit through, but it's not without moments of heroism and humor. The intensity level puts you right there and makes you feel like one of those desperately trying to escape. Although it's not for the faint of heart, anyone who watches will be in awe. Strongly recommended as a memorable film experience.
The Hummingbird Project (2018)
Offbeat, gripping cyber thriller, a tad patchy
Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard are entrepreneurs who undertake an audacious venture to deliver a fiber optic cable from Kansas to the New York Stock Exchange that is faster than all the other portals by just enough to make a staggering difference in market returns. In choosing to take this gamble, they wind up using valuable information obtained from working for their former boss (an effectively domineering Salma Hayek) whom they now find is their competition.
Although this is a well-acted film, its momentum is a bit erratic. The storyline never loses its energy but the plot sometimes takes peculiar detours. This ambitious enterprise is fraught with the emotional imbalance of its two dissimilar protagonists, one a highly calculating salesman (Eisenberg) and the other a neurotic computer wiz (Skarsgard). We discover that each one has motivations of his own. As considerable opposites, they keep the film's dynamic engaging.
Some of the film's best moments are when these two aspiring masters of the universe find the core principles behind their work being challenged by the citizenry they cross paths with. The film takes a mild-mannered look at the ethics of the project but mostly lets the audience judge for itself. Recommended as workmanlike filmmaking on obscure but compelling material.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Likeable, dynamic superhero story with feminist panache
Brie Larson fully embodies the protagonist as a Kree warrior in this energetic addition to the MCU film legacy. She and Samuel L. Jackson (as a younger Nick Fury) face the challenging task of warding off an invasion of Earth by the Skrulls, a species adept at blending in with whatever population it seeks to infiltrate and subsume.
The film takes place in California in 1995 and therefore has plenty of joyful mementos from that era. Larson brings her trademark onscreen charisma, and Jackson gives one of his most enjoyable performances in years. Ben Mendelsohn shines as the Skrull warrior who has found his way to Earth. Jude Law is quite authoritative as Larson's longtime Kree mentor. The film is at its best when it covers themes of divided loyalties and coming to terms with one's own discoveries, surprisingly well laid out in a popcorn blockbuster movie. The theme of female empowerment is omnipresent but it lingers on less so than other things this film did right.
Perhaps because I came in with such low expectations, this turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. It won't likely go down as an iconic trailblazer or a future classic. But for those who like a big-time superhero blockbuster experience, this one delivers. Recommended.
They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Thought-provoking, if slightly gimmicky WW1 documentary
Peter Jackson has given us an uncompromising and unvarnished look into the utter nightmare that World War I was for the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were mobilized to fight in that conflict. The war is examined solely through the British perspective. Germany is a mere footnote and America's involvement is never mentioned, not even once. What is initially a fascinating visual technique, adjusting the pacing of WW1 footage and filling in color and sound, becomes a bit of a liability and then loses its impact midway through the film, diluting what is otherwise a very strong recreation.
The decision to slow down the well-known pace of WW1 footage does have the effect of making it more lifelike, but I found that adding color and sound served to make the experience rather odd and distracting. The technology at work in this film is too clever and as such does not add any emotional depth. It's a valiant effort, but I think Jackson would have done no worse by simply leaving the footage in its original form. The documentary is at its best when it depicts the Battle of the Somme through artistic drawings. And a moving postscript on how most of British society did not understand the ordeal of soldiers returning from home adds to the film's credibility.
Although I applaud Jackson for committing a documentary to what is becoming an increasingly forgotten part of history, I think his approach could have been less flashy. Relying on digitization to alter historic footage only goes so far in giving the viewer a realistic sense of what this now century-old war was like in all its horrific slaughter. Fidelity to personal accounts supersedes any need to attempt to make the war a computerized display. Recommended to history buffs and anyone who has fought in a war.
Shamefully underrated trilogy conclusion
I cannot comprehend why critics have chosen to denigrate this film, which turns out to be M. Night Shyamalan's best in many, many years. Perhaps the film's conclusion is not what some expected but that's still no excuse to not acknowledge its achievement in piecing together (quite intelligently, I might add) all that exists in this trilogy, in this complex web of madness, super human ability and unfathomable power plays and ethical questions of superheroes and society.
Having seen "Unbreakable" in its day, I will confess this was not what I expected either. But whether I agree with the route a film takes is not the point, so long as it is congruent with the character development that takes place. Jon McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are at the top of their game in this film as the three extraordinary pieces to the puzzle that Shyamalan has plotted for us. Equally sharp is Sarah Paulson as a psychiatric specialist whose role becomes more defined as the film goes along. Spencer Treat Clark makes a welcome return as Willis's son, who has always been aware of his father's abilities.
Contrary to the reviews, this film was never slow and never lost its way. You will scarcely notice the running time. In fact, its transition into the final act was seamless. I advise moviegoers not to be swayed by what the critics have said about this film. To put it bluntly, they are wrong. At the very least, it's thought-provoking. To those looking for a gripping, vintage Shyamalan film, I enthusiastically recommend this one.
Vice presidential biopic is all over the map, has zero consistency or subtlety
Christian Bale plays former Vice President Dick Cheney in this grandly ambitious biopic, a role in which he mostly excels. Amy Adams has rarely been better as his devoted wife, Lynne Cheney, who as it turns out is just as power hungry as he is. Sam Rockwell gives an uncanny performance as President George W. Bush. Finally, Steve Carell is a solid presence as Donald Rumsfeld.
Given all these credible performances, this should have been a knockout. Such a shame the screenplay and the editing are so choppy and the pacing is so frenetic it sometimes becomes monotonous. The game cast does a dignified job with the often painfully cartoonish dreck that is the screenplay. That this film can veer between stately drama and high camp is a testament to the filmmaker's ability, albeit sprayed in every direction. It is all capped off with the most bizarrely ludicrous closing credits I have seen in a film this decade, bar none. This film puts on a clinic on how to waste solid acting.
Adam McKay is at his best when his directorial craft is completely invisible- when his storytelling is so potent and eloquent that you get lost in his witty, propulsive style and for the moment forget the complexity of the issues he's hammering away at. Here, his work feels too heavy-handed and sloppy for it to work as well. There is a kernel of character development in how Cheney might have become a different man over time but it is completely buried in the narrative chaos that the film is inexorably committed to.
This looked good on paper. There is considerable talent at work here. In the end, against considerable odds, it goes down as a misfire for its woeful writing, exhausting narrative and a tin ear for how to conclude. For those who are easily amused or who need a quick primer on recent U.S. history, this film might be worthwhile. Otherwise, I decline to recommend it.
Zimna wojna (2018)
Polish drama flirts with greatness, undermined by a shocking and senseless conclusion
I have never seen a film capture the desolate despair of Eastern Europe after the Second World War as in this case. This film offers a beguiling tale of a middle-aged Polish musician who travels to a feudal area and becomes infatuated with an aspiring female singer who is among the peasant folk who audition to perform for his company. The two fall for each other and their love blossoms into a perpetual romance that survives many upheavals including the company being taken over by Stalinist ideologues and the man's decision to leave Poland for western Europe.
Performances here are extraordinary by the two leads. They present a compelling and sympathetic couple who can't stay way from one another despite marked differences in their character. She as it turns out comes from a troubled family. He is an old soul who finds rejuvenation in a woman so combustible and unpredictable. It's one of those romances whose imperfections make it the perfect love story.
Alas, we have this film's conclusion. I cannot abide a film's resolution that does not conform to the character arc. If there is insufficient character development or plotting for the climax that takes place, then the ending will only take away from the film's logic. That is what happens here; the resolution robs the film of its greatness because it is so senseless. I still recommend this as a film experience, but its ultimate achievement is very debatable.
On the Basis of Sex (2018)
Respectable, workmanlike biopic of Justice Ginsburg
The education and early career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first woman to sit on the highest court in America, is captured in this film. It stars Felicity Jones as the young woman who attended Harvard Law School with her husband (Armie Hammer) and went on to become one of the preeminent legal minds of her era.
The film centers on how Ginsburg was initially instrumental and ultimately essential in an appellate case that helped pave the way for gender discrimination in federal law being eradicated. Along with her husband, she worked on the appeal with the ACLU, heralded by Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux), a liberal with complicated principles. Kathy Bates makes a nice turn as a famous, hardened civil rights litigator who failed in some earlier cases. Sam Waterston is a welcome presence as the outwardly progressive but inwardly parochial Erwin Griswold, Dean of Harvard Law during Ginsburg's years as a student.
Jones shines in the role of the young Ginsburg, a dedicated, steadfast attorney who was undaunted by the entrenched views on gender in academia, the workplace and ultimately in the courts. She spends most of the film grappling with these challenges but all the while never letting go of her core principles and dedication to the law.
Although this film occasionally lurches into Oscar bait territory, it makes for a good portrayal of a woman who became a true pioneer in the history of gender equality and a good starting point to get to know Justice Ginsburg from where she started. Recommended.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Beale Street can talk and has a lot to say
This film adaptation of James Baldwin's novel about a young black couple in New York City in the mid-20th century is a revelation. It brings to life a story of hope and tragedy in an era that feels both distant and yet not all that different from the present day.
Barry Jenkins shows his master craft in depicting two young people who come from starkly different families, one very religious and the other of a more free-wheeling working class mentality, who find love and companionship with one another. Early on, the young woman discovers she is pregnant with the young man's child. Their lives take a dramatic turn when he is accused of rape.
The film veers from one mood to another, from hope to angst to despair and back again. An incredibly potent soundtrack makes quiet, normal conversations seem pulsatingly tense and seething with emotion. Performances here are extraordinary, especially by Kiki Layne and Stephan James as the young couple.
Not many films offer the kind of evocative, old school storytelling that is at work here. Quiet and deliberate but never less than compelling, this film leaves a mark. Grandly recommended.
Grimly intriguing, slightly overlong revenge saga
Nicole Kidman is the epicenter of this bleak crime thriller in which a veteran LAPD officer confronts her long-ago past in which she was part of an undercover operation aimed at a vicious gang of bank robbers. Here, she gives one of her best performances ever.
Kidman's disheveled look in this film is meant to reflect years of anguish and burn-out, in short the psychological toll of her job. An absolutely desolute view of Los Angeles is seen through her exhausted, but still enraged eyes. Another plot layer deals with her challenging relationship with her teenage daughter who has gone astray. Those around Kidman's character rarely see things her way, but that's because she has a past of her own to resolve.
Recommended as slow-burn material that gradually earns one's respect, even though I think a better editor would have made this a tighter film.
Transformers prequel, exciting and well-executed
I'm not exactly the most ardent devotee of Transformers blockbusters. In fact, I have never seen one in the theaters, which I imagine is a big chunk of the appeal. The reviews and reputation this franchise has grown to have didn't have me racing against time to go see this.
However, despite my disposition, this film about the first transformer to ever reach Earth and establish a base for the rebellion has its share of thrills including rousing battle sequences and well-executed chase scenes. This movie is also helped considerably by Hailee Steinfeld's likeable, charismatic performance as the teenage girl who happens upon the vehicle that transforms her world.
Fans of the franchise and newcomers like me will have a lot to enjoy in this uplifting blockbuster. You might look at a yellow car differently after watching this. Recommended.
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Opulent assault on the senses, an update of a film classic
The 1964 original "Mary Poppins" is an undeniably revered classic in the annals of feature films, so making a sequel to it is more than a little risky. It's a lot like making a sequel to "Gone With the Wind" or "Citizen Kane". Naturally, it's a film that is going to exist in the shadow of the original. More than likely it will stand mostly as an homage, if it succeeds even as that. Luckily, it does so.
That being said, this film has a lot to offer, as flawed as it may be. Emily Blunt is riveting as cinema's most famous nanny and also perhaps the most underrated of female sociopaths, a woman capable of any magic she chooses and who will promptly accuse any observer or witness of being utterly out of his or her mind. Calculating and cold as ice though she may be, Blunt's Mary Poppins does harken back to a bygone era, one that makes this film almost as old-fashioned and anachronistic as the original. It reminds us what it was like to listen to the resolute directive of someone you didn't understand or trust, but someone whose will you couldn't refuse. If that's not Mary Poppins, then that is no one at all.
Visually, this film is a wonder to behold. The spectacle is so vibrant that your critical faculties will be relaxed or completely neutralized. Every colorful fantasy sequence, every exquisite scene of London makes you want to go back in time to that seemingly innocent era in which street lights made the whole city look like a fairy tale. Appearances by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury also add to the nostalgia. All of this combines to outweigh the dance sequences that can become a bit monotonous. And a flourishing climax does tip the scales in the film's favor.
All in all, as frustrating as this film is to a jaded adult, it can be good escapism. It reminds me of a more innocent perspective and one that should not be forgotten. Recommended to those who are open-minded.
The Mule (2018)
Eastwood crime drama, his best film in many years
A Clint Eastwood film is sometimes all you need to remember how much you love great cinema and that's especially true in this case. It's the real life story of an 80-year-old war veteran who, as he finds his livelihood threatened, manages to cross paths with a Mexican drug cartel and winds up transporting their product across the Midwest. As he demonstrates value, his runs become larger and more lucrative each time.
Eastwood portrays Earl Stone, a mild-mannered hardworking horticulturalist who became a champion drug mule for the cartels as law enforcement was completely blind to his low-key but highly effective operations. Enter Bradley Cooper as the dedicated DEA agent who has to muster considerable time and resources to even begin to piece things together and Michael Pena as his partner. Dianne Weist offers a sympathetic turn as Stone's long-suffering ex-wife. Andy Garcia is good fun as the drug lord who is pleased with the old mercenary's hard work.
Although this film covers a grim story, it has a light-hearted feel for many stretches and a refreshing sense of humor. Eastwood himself is absolutely compelling as an old man who suddenly finds himself awash in money from an illegal enterprise and seeing the world from a different angle; here, Clint reminds us how huge a screen presence he has no matter how old he gets.
I'm not sure what many critics have missed with this film but hopefully audiences will take note. Eastwood has given us another great film and one of his best performances ever in this crackerjack drama. Highly recommended.