Category: Morning After

The Morning After: Feb. 20, 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:

Black Panther


He may not have been the first black comic book character brought to the big screen, but it’s clear that Black Panther is a watershed moment in cinema. Following up the female-helmed Wonder Woman, it’s not hard to see how the voices of a new generation of filmmakers can have a positive impact when given the opportunity to infuse their own experiences onto the characters they present. To then have those experiences recognized and celebrated is a significant achievement.

Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to undergo the rite of passage that will install him as King of Wakanda. When past misdeeds inform present day drama, T’Challa must fight enemies both without and within to ensure that his people and his kingdom can survive while making sure that the world stays safe and doesn’t intrude upon their idyllic society.

At his side, T’Challa has surrounded himself with brave and courageous friends and allies to help along the way. Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a Wakandan spymaster and T’Challa’s former love interest; Danai Gurira is Okoye, the Wakandan general whose loyalty is unparalleled and whose fierceness and capabilities are unmatched; Martin Freeman is CIA operative Everett K. Ross whose wish to protect Wakanda as well as the world entire helps him create solid bonds with his new allies; Letitia Wright is Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, a tech genius who has improved the nation’s scientific advancements far beyond what they were already; Angela Bassett is Ramonda, T’Challa’s mother and strongest supporter; and Forest Whitaker is Zuri, the shaman who administers the ceremonies and whose friendship with T’Challa’s father has stood the test of time.

There are also loose allies whose dedication to the crown is tenuous at times, strong in others. These include Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, one of the tribe champions who wants nothing more than to annihilate the man who killed his father; and Winston Duke as M’Baku, leader of the only one of the original five tribes who refuses to be a part of the Wakandan civilization. All of them are tested by the machinations of Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, an abandoned Wakandan who seeks revenge for his father’s murder and Andy Serkis as Ulyssess Klaue, the formidable arms dealer who is the only genuine villain in the entire film.

That last sentiment is an important one in that even the most dangerous of enemies in the film have intense motivations that, when examined in context may be misguided or whose actions may subvert their own aims. It’s a compelling narrative on display here as none of the actors in the film have unqualified reasons to pursue the goals they have set for themselves. Some are intensely personal, but all come from a place of passion and purpose, the end goals noble even if excessive. Black Panther excels in ways that most Marvel Cinematic Universe films have not in making the movie not about the exterior forces that threaten the world entire, but the intensely interpersonal demons that threaten to undo ourselves.

The Morning After: Feb. 12, 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:

2017 Oscar-Nominated Shorts

I had a chance to view all of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films. I was not able to get to the documentary short films, but I did watch all of the live action ones and also caught up on the four animated ones I hadn’t seen yet and then re-watched the only one I had seen. Here is a quick rundown of my thoughts on the shorts:
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The Morning After: Jan. 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:

Maze Runner: The Death Cure


When this series premiered four years ago, it was an attempt by the studio to create another popular entry in the young adult-targeted dystopian thriller genre where The Hunger Games had found immense success. Based on the novel by James Dashner, the second film released a year later, but due to an on-set accident involving star Dylan O’Brien, the film was delayed. Now, we’re in early 2018 and the last movie is out and for fans of the series, it should be a satisfying conclusion.

After escaping a giant maze constructed to test their mettle (The Maze Runner), the Gladers fled across the desert to escape WCKD, the villainous corporation attempting to find a cure for a zombie plague ravishing the world, to find safety within a resistance cell (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials). Now, the surviving members of the tight-knit group of youths have found themselves trying to rescue one of their own from the experiments WCKD is performing on him. As they invade the last untouched city in the world, a walled behemoth of modernism, they unleash events that may ultimately lead to the destruction of and elimination of the human race, unless they can succeed.

The performances are about as unimpressive as they’ve always been and the setting is interesting, but loose plot elements do more to destroy the narrative than the zombies do. There was a lot of promise in the first film and the second did decently in continuing that. Here, things don’t work out quite as originally expected, but they are so well telegraphed that it feels like a natural conclusion. If there weren’t so many plot holes and dropped plot hooks in the film, it might have been a more solid film rather than just solidly entertaining.

The Morning After: Jan. 22, 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:

Dunkirk


Christopher Nolan has been something of a populist fringe director for years. His comic book adaptations and sci-fi spectacles have been technical bonanzas, but whatever their qualities, they’ve all been hobbled by their genre roots. With Dunkirk, Nolan has made a valiant attempt to define himself as more than just a genre director covering the rescue of English troops from the shores of Dunkirk before they can be picked off by German aircraft.

With few familiar names in the cast, Nolan zeroes in on the fear, the apprehension, and the tragedy of those trapped against a superior land force. Fionn Whitehead’s Tommy becomes the audience surrogate for the film, representing all the hope, terror, and weariness of the average soldier. He is the audience’s rallying point throughout the film, a figure whose tragic circumstances highlight the brutality of war from the ground. In the air, the film’s surrogates are represented by Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden as fighter pilots protecting the soldiers on the ground and at sea from the German assault by air.

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The Morning After: Jan. 15, 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:

Proud Mary


Somewhere within the shoddy framework that is Proud Mary, there’s an interesting concept trying to struggle out. As a member of the Boston Mafia, Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is becoming disillusioned and wants to get out. When she saves a young boy from the clutches of a rival mob family, instigating a war between her house and theirs, Mary finds the time to get free is imminent.

Proud Mary‘s first trailer made the film seem more like a type of espionage thriller than a mob film. While there are elements alike, I would have preferred seeing Henson as a secret agent. In this role, she’s good, as she always is, but the material is bargain-basement filmmaking. The first twenty minutes are incredibly choppy, cobbled together from too little collected footage. The scenes skip between themselves like poorly-edited form cuts, jarring the audience at regular intervals. While the clumsy filmmaking continues as the film does, the raw edges smooth out a bit and we’re left experiencing a plot that’s thin and frustratingly predictable.

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The Morning After: Jan. 2, 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:

Coco


With a few exceptions, Pixar is one of the most creative and inventive studios ever, and the only produce animated features. Coco explores the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday wherein families revere their ancestors so that they may cross back into the realm of the living one night a year.

The story centers on Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), the youngest generation in a noted family of shoemakers. His passion is music, but his family has forbidden it because of a event that happened four generations prior. Hoping to win an annual contest to prove he has what it takes to become a successful musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Miguel attempts to steal Ernesto’s guitar from his mausoleum, which curses him to land of the dead where he must find his family and earn their blessing to return to the realm of the living.

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The Morning After: Dec. 26, 2017

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:

Call Me by Your Name


Luca Guadagnino’s painterly exploration of young love and coming of age in Crema, Italy is a gorgeous piece of visual and narrative poetry. A leisurely stroll through the rural Italian countrside accompanies a complex romantic relationship that develops between a young man (Timothée Chalamet) and his father’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) research assistant (Armie Hammer), staying for a short period in the summer of 1983.

Reminiscent of Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours, Call Me by Your Name fills in its details with lush photography of the beautiful environs in which our protagonists struggle with societal influences, sexual urges, and the challenging task of growing up in a world of foreign beauty and differing social mores.

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The Morning After: Dec. 18, 2017

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:

I, Tonya


The biopic has been a sometimes stuff, sometimes engaging part of cinema since the early days. Every once in awhile, a biopic comes along that’s fresh, engaging, and surprising. I, Tonya ends up being one of the most inventive I’ve seen in some time.

Leading up to the incident that stunned the United States, I, Tonya explore Tonya Harding’s childhood and life prior to the Olympic Games. Harding, played with crass indulgence by Margot Robbie, was at the center of a rivalry with fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Child and spousal abuse feature prominently in the tale as first her mother, a manipulative and almost-frightening Allison Janney, then with her boyfriend and eventual husband Jeff Gillooly, the mustachioed Sebastian Stan in loving and violent form.

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The Morning After: Dec. 11, 2017

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:

Lady Bird


After spending years toiling away in the indie circuit with plenty of recognition of her acting talents, Greta Gerwig steps behind the camera in a fascinating coming of age story that explores the young life a poor Catholic family in Sacramento.

Saoirse Ronan continues to impress as the best young talent of her generation as young Christine who has dubbed herself “Lady Bird” as a way to reclaim her own identity. As her High School career comes to an end, she begins to explore who she is as a person before heading off to college. As she explores rebellion in as passively aggressive a way as possible, she begins to understand who she is, who her mother (Laurie Metcalf) wants her to be, and whether she wants to truly strike out on her own or remain near the only home she’s ever known.

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The Morning After: Dec. 4, 2017

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 Shape of Water


Guillermo del Toro is a master of the science fiction and fantasy genres. His films often look at strange creatures and monsters who are more genuine and real than the human-monsters who chase them. With The Shape of Water, del Toro makes a natural progression from his creature features of the recent past to one that centers around an unlikely romance between a mute woman and creature from the South American rainforest.

Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito, a member of a cleaning crew at a secret government facility. Along with her friend and translator Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), she leads a rather simple life, waking each morning to make hard-boiled eggs, take a pleasurable bath, and spend time with her artist neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins). After a regimented ex-military officer (Michael Shannon) arrives at the facility with a strange creature (Doug Jones) in tow, her curiosity leads her to the creature’s tank where she forms a fast friendship with him, bringing him eggs and introducing him to music, one of Elisa’s few sources of genuine pleasure.

Del Toro is a fascinating filmmaker. His vast imagination helps fill reality-based locations into strange locales. A franchise pie shop has a dark, almost sinister feel; the old movie theater above which Elisa and Giles live is a mammoth space of once-opulent grandness; a simple military facility is transformed into a fantastical science lab. Production design and costume design become characters of their own in his myriad visions with The Shape of Water feeling the most down-to-earth of his entire oeuvre.

Hawkins is luminscent as the Elisa, filling her life and the lives of those around her with positive energy, a ray of light in a world where Communism, racism, homophobia, and myriad other ills have seeped into the American landscape. Even the sinister Russian spy syndicate is given a humanistic guise in the form of a compassionate doctor (Michael Stuhlbarg). Each performance is meticulously enlivened.

If there’s a flaw in the film it’s that the story moves too quickly, almost inorganically. The plot moves quickly even while taking its time. Natural evolution of character is rushed in an effort to get this fantastical story to its ordained conclusion. You almost know precisely where each plot twist will turn, yet clues that seem obvious at first, are dropped unceremoniously, leading to the perception that a two-and-a-half-hour movie was compressed to two hours in a vain effort to appeal to antsy audiences.

The Morning After: Nov. 27, 2017

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:

Get Out


With the rise of slasher films in the 1970s and 1980s, horror became synonymous with the gross and bloody spectacles of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Less attention has been paid to the nearly-bloodless strain of horror films that traded on situations to provide context for frightening events. The likes of Rosemary’s Baby, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Wicker Man were creepy without being violent. Get Out belongs to this latter group of films, seeming to draw its most significant influence from that Edward Woodward film, Wicker Man.

A young couple, one black (Daniel Kaluuya) and one white (Allison Williams), trek out to her parents’ house as a means of introduction. There her hypnotherapist mother (Catherine Keener) and neurosurgeon father (Bradley Whitford) welcome him with open arms. However, a veneer of friendliness becomes an unsettling backdrop for the horrors that unfold as the film progresses.

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The Morning After: Nov. 20, 2017

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:

When Time Ran Out…


Producer Irwin Allen who created two of the all-time great disaster movies (The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure) struggled to recapture the magic of those two films with The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure failing to live up to those prior heights. In 1980, he tried one last time. The result was When Time Ran Out.

Set on a tropical island, Paul Newman plays oil company operator whose delving for crude not far from an active volcano that hasn’t erupted in decades. The entire operation is bankrolled by a conniving businessman (James Franciscus) who refuses to acknowledge that there’s any threat to the hotel he’s built with his wife’s (Veronica Hamel) father (William Holden). We all know that the volcano will eventually blow, but as with all of these spectacles, who will survive.

In addition to Newman and Holden, numerous prominent actors of the period star in the film including Jacqueline Bisset, Edward Albert, Red Buttons, Valentina Cortese, Alex Karras, Burgess Meredith, Ernest Borgnine, and Pat Morita (not quite a name at that time, but quite familiar to audiences now). Who survives and who dies is a guessing game, though there are hints as to their fates periodically. That’s simply the nature of a film of this and is part of the fun.

The narrative is familiar and the events unfold almost exactly as you expect. A couple of notable scenes are played for suspense with long takes and tense music. For modern audiences these might be unbearable because they are lengthy scenes, but they are almost mesmerizing to anyone that’s not bothered by them. The performances are fine, though a bit one-note. The effects are adequate to a point, though the scenes that feature “explosions” are poorly edited and the effects are antiquated.

It’s a curious trifle of the period, the end of Allen’s big screen career and largely the end of an genre and era, a genre that would not be resusicated for more than a decade.

The Morning After: Nov. 13, 2017

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:

Thor: Regnarok


The Marvel Cinematic Universe tried for the largest portion of its existence to be the realm of action adventure comic book fantasy, peppering its projects with humor, but not dousing them in it. After the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio seems to have taken that film to heart. First Ant-Man tried to tackle its subject with more humor than drama, but now that comedy motif has been applied to the wonderful, kooky, and entertaining Thor: Ragnarok.

The God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) began his cinematic existence as a modestly goofy, but proud and aggressive warrior god, much like he has often been depicted in the comics. After two films plus the Avengers properties, Thor has been seen as an occasionally wise-cracking, but generally serious character. Perhaps it was the success of Ghostbusters that helped people realize just how genuinely funny he is, but the end result is a film that is dripping with sarcastic delight and jocular intensity while taking an incredibly dramatic set of events and pushing forward with the passion of a great love affair.

And love is precisely what we feel coming out of Thor: Ragnarok. Tremendous actors like Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, and Tessa Thompson commit so fully to their characters and the sometimes snarky, sometimes deadly serious, that the film feels more authentic and engaging than many of the other films so far released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The effects, performances, and even narrative are a supremely satisfying combination. While the rest of the MCU seems mired in its own self-importance, director Taika Waititi knows that the audience not only wants to adore these characters, but wants to feel invested in their success and failure.

The film tackles numerous thematic elements, each given sufficient time to breathe and expand as the viewer is transported into a realistic and compelling world that has only superficially been explored in prior films. While more Marvel movies should consider adopting a similar style, it’s also crucial to tackle the kinds of heady topics that seem destined for exposure in the upcoming Black Panther film. If the MCU can successfully thread the needle between the serious issue films and the exuberant spectacles like Thor: ragnarok, it’s possible that they could refresh their slowly fading universe.

The Morning After: Oct. 16, 2017

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:

Blade Runner 2049


In 1982, Ridley Scott brought to the screen an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Titled Blade Runner after the android hunters of the novel, the film made just over $80 million at the box office (adjusted for inflation) and became one of the 20th century’s most celebrated sci-fi works, Scott’s second such offering in a three-year period (after Alien in 1979).

Set 29 years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 follows a Replicant bounty hunter named “K” (Ryan Gosling) whose assignment is to destroy all older Replicant models that developed the ability to disobey and live human-like lives. Discovering that that Replicant model had a unique evolution, he is ordered by his police captain (Robin Wright) to seek out and destroy the “defected” machine. Others have plans to the contrary setting three distinct individuals and groups on a collision course with each other.

The contemplative sci-fi of Blade Runner is developed further in this 2049 in the hands of director Denis Villeneuve. A slow-boil thriller, the film reveals new information at its own pace, giving the audience one tantalizing visual palette after another as the course moves purposefully towards its unexpected and yet obvious conclusion. Released twenty-five years after the original, it’s a blessing to have that film’s star, Harrison Ford, back playing the character he immortalized: Rick Deckard. A couple of others from the original cast make an appearance, but deserve to be encountered organically in the film.

A dazzling picture, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is probably the best of his career, creating one indelible image after the other. Warm yellows and dark blues dominate the film with light playing across scenes in arresting and beautiful ways. Assisted by Dennis Gassner’s neo-futuristic production design and Renee April’s vibrant costumes, Deakins brings us forcefully into the quasi-futuristic landscape of Los Angeles. The music is an added treat with Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer ably building on the work Vangelis did with the original film.

The Morning After: Oct. 2, 2017

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 Moms


R-rated comedies have come fast and furious the last several years, tapping into a market that clamors for humor of the not-quite-kosher kind. Myriad films have tried, few have succeeded and although Bad Moms has a lot of problems, it works a great deal of the time.

Mila Kunis plays a mother on the verge of nervous breakdown. Her children are flippant, her husband is a waste of space, her work life takes advantage of her part-time help, and the PTA leadership (Christian Applegate) is a control freak. As she makes friends with the bad-girl mom (Kathryn Hahn) and the pliant housewife (Kristen Bell), she comes to the realization that she doesn’t need to be the perfect mother to be a great one. Thus, she embarks on an effort to live her life as she sees fit rather than at the whim of those around her. As she asserts herself, a conflict with the PTA leads to her imperfect run for the presidency, and sets off a chain of events that threaten to destroy her.

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