Category: Film Reviews

The Morning After: Nov. 19, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Hereditary


After a seven-year career as a short filmmaker, Ari Aster has made the transition to features with this chilling and unexpected horror gem. As a mother deals with grief over the death of her mother, her family must struggle with her increasing paranoia.

The film is broken into three incredibly distinct acts. The first act ends with an entirely unexpected twist that redefines the second third of the film, then swerves even further off course in the last third. Each of these course corrections is expertly handled, driving the audience crazy with anticipation for what bizarre thing will happen next and how to connect everything together once the credits role.

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Review: Night School (2018)

Night School

Rating

Director

Malcolm D. Lee

Screenplay

Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, John Hamburg

Length

1h 51m

Starring

Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Keith David, Taran Killam, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Anne Winters, Romany Malco, Ben Schwartz, Rob Riggle

MPAA Rating

PG – 13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug references and violence

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Review: Venom (2018)

Venom

Rating

Director

Ruben Fleischer

Screenplay

Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel

Length

1h 52m

Starring

Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Peggy Lu

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language

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The Morning After: Oct. 29, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Bad Times at the El Royale


As the film opens, we watch a mysterious figure enter a hotel room where he proceeds to secret away a bag that we later discover contains money. This scene plays out in a single steady shot covering the entirety of the room. It’s a riveting opening and sets the pace for the film and the hopes that the same fascinating aesthetic can be re-used.

Unfortunately, it’s not, but we learn through the course of the film why that is. It makes an interesting choice, as does the rest of the film, but it’s plodding pace makes it a challenge to sit through. While there are some rather unexpected twists and turns in the film, it largely plays out exactly as you figure, a modern noir sensibility played out in the frayed narrative structure of a Quentin Tarantino film.

Director Drew Goddard helms his first film in six years. While Cabin in the Woods proved popular, it was also problematic, but in a far less interesting way. Goddard assembled a terrific cast including Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, and Lewis Pullman. However, without rich characters from which to draw inspiration, they build instead on antiquated and unoriginal tropes. Erivo is the standout, crafting something utterly enchanting from a commonplace design. Hemsworth’s American accent is at first distracting, but quickly forgotten as he takes on a role that’s more sinister than any he’s had before and it suits him.

The Morning After: Oct. 8, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Venom


Superhero fatigue hasn’t quite taken hold yet, but films like this won’t do the genre any favors. Starring Tom Hardy as the popular anti-hero Venom, the film takes myriad genre tropes and pulls them together in awkward ways in a film that never seems sure what kind of movie it wants to be.

Venom is the name of the alien symbiote that has latched onto investigative reporter Eddie Brock. Brock, desperate to bring down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) after he destroyed his career, follows a lead into Drake’s facility only to become attacked by this symbiote. As the two struggle for control, another symbiote named Riot is clawing its way across the world to fly on Drake’s rocket to retrieve his fellow symbiote and bring them back to feed on the planet with Venom the only one capable of stopping him.

Like Warner Bros. with their DC properties and Fox with their Fantastic Four attempts, Sony has shown an almost comical incompetence in translating these cinematic properties to the big screen. After the disastrous The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the studio took a break, cancelling its Sinister Six plans only to cave to Disney’s pressure to get Spider-Man back in their stable of characters, and produced the formulaic Spider-Man: Homecoming and start work on a new slate of films. The first, and likely last, is Venom, a hamfisted film that trades on Ruben Fleischer’s post-Zombieland mediocrity to create this tone deaf rendering of the well known character.

Venom and Eddie Brock are meant to be the darker version of characters like Spider-Man and Iceman and more akin to Deadpool. The problem with the Sony entry is that they insisted on a PC-13 rating when Venom is an R-rated character like Deadpool. Not until the post-climax scenes does the movie genuinely come alive giving the audience the kind of film they might have preferred with the clever banter between Brock and his inner demon making for an engaging finale.

The Morning After: Oct. 1, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Night School


The originality in Nigh School comes largely from its humor and its finale, but the rest of the film is a paint-by-numbers back-to-school comedy that thankfully has a roster of talented comedians to bolster its otherwise lackluster construction.

Kevin Hart plays a High School dropout who has gotten by on his charm and charisma, but after a freakish turn of events, must go back to night school and get his GED or risk his out-of-his-league girlfriend (Megalyn Echikunwoke) finding out that he’s little more than a liar. Tiffany Haddish plays the no-nonsense night school teacher who cares deeply about her students’ success, but takes no shit from any of them. Along for the journey are Taran Killam as the school principal and Hart’s High School nemesis, Keith David as Hart’s aggressive father, Ben Schwartz as Hart’s best friend from High School and the present, and fellow classmates Mary Lynn Rajskub, Anne Winters, Rob Riggle, Romany Maclo, and Jacon Batalon. While most of this cast is quite funny, Haddish and Hart work well together, but never top Rajskub’s scene stealing.

While sitting in the theater, it’s easy to be consumed with laughter by the material provided, but once you step foot outside, it’s impossible to think back on the movie and find much in the way of inventiveness. The storyline is heavily recycled, appearing in countless similar films, and even the humor exists elsewhere even if not in this particular configuration. Night School is a film that features plenty of enjoyment, but all of its empty and ultimately unimpressive.

Review: The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Rating

Director

Eli Roth

Screenplay

Eric Kripke (Novel: John Bellairs)

Length

1h 44m

Starring

Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Lorenza Izzo, Braxton Bjerken, Vanessa Anne Williams

MPAA Rating

PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language

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The Morning After: Sep. 24, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The House with a Clock in Its Walls


The combination of Jack Black and Cate Blanchett would typically give one hope for a fun time, but in the hands of horror director Eli Roth, the whole affair struggles against its own worst impulses.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is based on a 1973 book of the same name about a young orphan who moves into his uncle’s house where a clock hidden within the walls of the house ticks down the time towards a potentially catastrophic event. Black plays the uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt, a mediocre warlock who wants to protect Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), but doesn’t quite know how to be an effective parent. Blanchett plays their next door neighbor Florence Zimmerman whose own abilities have dwindled in the wake of a tragedy she doesn’t want to speak about.

What Roth did with Hostel was solid genre filmmaking, but here he seems out of his depths, trying to infuse a frightening tale with sufficient comedy to keep the audience entertained. He excels in those moments where his creepy aesthetic bolsters the story, but let’s jokes fall flat when they should punch the audience right in the funny bone. Some of the humor is crass, but harmless, other times, it’s just crass. Black’s performance feels strangely out of place in the film while Blanchett is given far too little to do for her talents. Kyle MacLachlan does well as the former owner of the house while Renée Elise Goldsberry overplays her role late in the film.

This is a film that was targeted at children, but which features some scenes that are questionably appropriate for them. Meanwhile, the adults who must attend with their children will be frustrated at times because there often isn’t enough to engage their minds. It’s a film with good intentions that struggles to avoid a few thematic traps and unhealthy bits of sexism.

Review: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea

Rating

Director

Kenneth Lonergan

Screenplay

Kenneth Lonergan

Length

137 min.

Starring

Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, C.J. Wilson, Ben O’Brien

MPAA Rating

R for language throughout and some sexual content

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Review: Sing (2016)

Sing

Rating

Director

Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings

Screenplay

Garth Jennings

Length

108 min.

Starring

Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Rhea Perlman, Laraine Newman

MPAA Rating

PG for some rude humor and mild peril

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Review: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Crazy Rich Asians

Rating

Director

Jon M. Chu

Screenplay

Peter Chiarelli, Adele Lim (Novel: Kevin Kwan)

Length

2h

Starring

Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Harry Shum Jr., Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii, Nico Santos, Jing Lusi Carmen Soo, Pierre Png, Fiona Xie, Victoria Loke, Janice Koh

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for some suggestive content and language

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Review: The Little Prince (2016)

The Little Prince

Rating

Director

Mark Osborne

Screenplay

Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti (Novel: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

Length

108 min.

Starring

Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Riley Osborne, James Franco, Bud Cort, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Albert Brooks, Paul Rudd

MPAA Rating

PG for mild thematic elements

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Review: 20th Century Women (2016)

20th Century Women

Rating

Director

Mike Mills

Screenplay

Mike Mills

Length

1h 59m

Starring

Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann

MPAA Rating

R for sexual material, language, some nudity and brief drug use

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The Morning After: Aug. 27, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Crazy Rich Asians


Since the early days of cinema, romantic comedies have been a central part of the film landscape. While their efficacy and credibility have waxed and waned over the years, there are a handful of exemplary features that crop up from time to time even in the midst of a meager period. Crazy Rich Asians is a genuinely engaging, emotionally fulfilling pop of excitement in our dull modern landscape.

The son of a wealthy Chinese dynasty (Henry Golding), the Youngs, has fallen in love with economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and wants to bring her to meet his family against the backdrop of his best friend’s wedding. Her history doesn’t jive with that of his family and the tension mounts as the Young family struggles to tame its own demons while outright rejecting the impoverished origins of Chu and her mother. Clashes abound and while Rachel never quite feels a part of this world of exorbitant wealth, its her passion for Nick Young that keeps her going and determines each of her actions, even if her own comfort and safety is at risk.

Wu, Golding, Michelle Yeoh as Nick’s mother Eleanor, Gemma Chan as his sister Astrid, and Awkwafina as Rachel’s college roommate Peik Lin are all superb in roles that are rich and distinct, given fresh life. Eastern and Western traditions are infused here in ways that exemplify how film can be used to explore the delicate relationships not just between cultures foreign and domestic. Not since Joy Luck Club has a film so succinctly expressed the heart and sensitivity of Asian culture, making it both accessible and deep.

Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Rating

Director

Christopher McQuarrie

Screenplay

Christopher McQuarrie

Length

2h 27m

Starring

Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, Vanessa Kirby, Michel Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Liang Yang

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action, and for brief strong language

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