Category: Morning After

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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The Morning After: Sep. 25, 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 Lego Ninjago Movie


With the original Lego Movie, Warner Bros. Animation had its first major success in more than a decade and established itself as more of a power player in the extremely competitive computer animated feature marketplace. With The Lego Batman Movie, the studio built on that success. In its third Lego franchise film, Warner Bros. has hit a bit of a snag.

The Lego Ninjago Movie is based on a product line and TV series about a team of six elemental ninjas who must work together to defeat evil. In the big screen version, they take on Garmadon, a ruthless plotter attempting to take over Ninjago City and turn it into his own personal playground. The ninjas have typically stopped him, but now they must embark on a journey across various environments to retrieve the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon that will finally stop him once and for all. The only problem: Garmadon is the father of Lloyd, the Green Ninja.

While much of the humor here is juvenile and the frustrating real-world elements that plagued the original Lego movie are employed here, but for the most part it’s an entertaining journey. A number of actors not particularly well known for their vocal work, take on the sextet and their cohorts. The most familiar name in the cast is Jackie Chan who plays their Master Wu. His vocal work is stronger than his in-person acting, which he gets to do as a book-end to the story. That story is set up interestingly enough, but that setup is intensely predictable, as is the rest of the film.

Kids are sure to enjoy it, but the adult audience that has helped make the franchise a success aren’t likely to be as enthused or excited about the final product.

The Morning After: Sep. 5, 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 Hitman’s Bodyguard


Crass and crude in equal measure, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson ultimately prove to be one of the best buddy pairings in recent memory.

Reynolds plays a former Executive Protection Agent (triple-A as he’s fond of telling people). Jackson plays a professional assassin. Interpol is conducting a trial of former Belerussian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), accused of heinous war crimes against his own people. Jackson is their star witness and when his security escort detail is compromised and almost entirely slaughtered, his remaining agent (Elodie Yung) contacts her ex-boyfriend Michael Bryce (Ryenolds) to escort Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to The Hague.

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The Morning After: Aug. 28, 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 Dark Tower


Stephen King’s epic world-spanning Gunslinger series has delighted the imaginations of millions since it first published in 1982. Encompassing eight books so far, The Dark Tower would have made a more compelling miniseries than a feature film. However, try they did and by pulling the characters from the book, but positioning it slightly outside the continuity, they can enable fans of the series to enjoy it without feeling like anything was short changed.

Idris Elba takes on the role of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger. Seeking vengeance against the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), he finds help in the form of a young boy (Tom Taylor) whose been having visions of the other realms, including the Man in Black’s plot to destroy the Dark Tower which protects the universe from dark outside forces. The pair are connected through their multi-layered desire to both protect the Dark Tower and rid the universe of the grim specter of death that is the Man in Black.

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The Morning After: Aug. 21, 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:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Luc Besson is nothing if not imaginative. Although his previous film, Lucy, was predicated on a long-disproven scientific fallacy, his The Fifth Element was a masterful use of form to create a unique universe populated with fascinating characters and events. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is almost a return to form for Besson.

Set more than half a century from the present, the Earth-orbiting International Space Station has grown and expanded giving the myriad races of the galaxy a place to unite and live peacefully, allowing governments to coordinate freely and share scientific advancement. Alpha, nicknamed the City of a Thousand Planets, has been invaded by a mysterious force that has worried the Earthly government. Agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) have been sent on a mission to bring back the last Mül converter in existence, a creature that can eat and then slough off duplicates of whatever it consumed. The creature, from a long-ago destroyed planet provides the key clue to a massive secret that might unravel the space station.

DeHaan and Delevingne are adequate for the film, though they lack the charm of prior Besson stars like Bruce Willis and Scarlett Johansson. They are fitting as a bickering partners. Clive Owen is over-the-top as the commander, and Rihanna and Ethan Hawke are fine in their cameo roles. What sets the film apart is not its run-of-the-mill script, but the way this universe has been created. Besson’s brilliant imagination has concocted a most magical universe, one that is, admittedly, adapted from a prominent graphic novel. That fact shouldn’t dismiss the gorgeous settings, aliens, and costumes that have been boldly crafted for the film.

This is a movie where visual splendor is more important than narrative heft. The plot is fairly straight forward, but unfolds well, giving the audience hints along the way, but keeping the bulk of the revelations for the final act. That the film runs nearly two-and-a-half hours gives the viewer more to look at, but stretches the premise thinner than it needs to be. Tossing in the hackneyed love story makes the film feel like cheap male fantasy rather than comprehensive character study. Delevingne isn’t as narrowly-drawn as Leeloo is in The Fifth Element, but that kind of growth, twenty years removed, is entirely inadequate.

The Morning After: Aug. 14, 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:

Red Dawn


In the midst of the Cold War, tensions between the USSR and the United States were incredibly high. Learning how to find and seek safety in bomb shelters was common school practice alongside tornado and other emergency drills. Fear of nuclear annihilation was ever-present and constant strife in nearby nations like Nicaragua and Cuba gripped the nation. Red Dawn gave voice to those fears by positing what would happen if Russia, with the help of the South American nations that despised the U.S. were to launch an assault on the U.S. and take control of a large portion of it.

Starring Patrick Swayze alongside a handful of notable 1980s stars (then and future) like Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey, the film followed the story of a group of High Schoolers in Calumet, Colorado as they witness an unthinkable invasion and stage an insurrection against the occupying forces. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn put the isolation and threat of World War III into the background to focus on how youth in the nation might be able to respond to the burgeoning threat of Communist infiltration of America.

Oscar-nominated Apocalypse Now scribe John Milius directed and co-wrote the screenplay for the film, which was a hit in 1984 where it made $38 million, which would be roughly $101 million in 2017 dollars. 28 years later, a remake of the film was released and this re-watch (I haven’t seen the film since it came out in the mid-80s and I was fairly young at the time) is intended to prep me for a comparison of the 2012 version starring Chris Hemsworth.

The opening theme is a terrific piece of music composed by Basil Poledouris, though the rest of the score isn’t particularly memorable. The film itself is poorly-acted (Harry Dean Stanton acts to the rafters as an example) and heavily contrived, but acts as a sort of time capsule for American sensibilities in the mid-80s. There are some rousing images and triumphal sequences that engage the audience’s hopes fears, but it doesn’t resort solely to cheap theatrics or rah-rah patriotism. Its approach to American exceptionalism is abrasive at times without being excessively superficial. It’s most fascinating to look back on it with 30 years of hindsight to create the perfect viewing platform.

The Morning After: Aug. 7, 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:

Atomic Blonde


Many actresses have delved into the action genre, a realm that men have often held dominion over. Of those few women, one of the best at creating robust characters whose lives we want to examine further is Charlize Theron. With her solo action debut Aeon Flux, Theron tried hard to convince us that the film was worth caring about, but a dreadful execution didn’t help in the slightest. It wasn’t until Mad Max: Fury Road that she had a role truly deserving of both her charismatic star quality and her acting talents. It was a standout performance. Now, she’s back at the helm of the genre and proving perfectly adept in the field with Atomic Blonde.

As the Berlin Wall is set to be torn down, a British secret agent arrives in Berlin to locate a list of agents that may have fallen into Russian hands. As she tries to uncover the twisted plot that threatens to expose her and several prominent agents, the various players mobilize to take her down in this slow-boil espionage thriller. Also involved in the affair are James McAvoy as a MI:6 agent who appears to have gone native, Sofia Boutella as a French agent with dangerous photography skills, Eddie Marsan as a German bureaucrat who possesses the list both in watch-form and in memory, Toby Jones as an MI:6 agent debriefing Theron’s Lorraine Broughton, and John Goodman as a C.I.A. chief.

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The Morning After: Jul. 31, 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:

Kingsman: The Secret Service


Manners maketh man. That’s the principle behind this high-key, stylized spy seriocomedy. Director Matthew Vaughan has assembled a crackling team of British thespians to perform as a super-secret organization that operates even farther outside of the normal discretion of MI6.

Taron Edgerton plays a street tough, the son of a former Kingsman agent killed in the line of duty. When put forward by Galahad (Colin Firth) to replace another prominent Kingsman, he must outwit, outplay, and outlast his upper class competition to earn his place within the Kingsman organization. Complicating matters is a nefarious plot by a prominent tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) to help protect the world from climate change through extreme and reprehensible means.

Along for the ride and all having a great deal of fun are Michael Cain as Arthur, the leader of Kingsman; Mark Strong as the organization’s tech guru Merlin; Sofia Boutella as Jackson’s personal assistant and bodyguard; Jack Davenport as agent Lancelot; and Mark Hamill in a short cameo as a climate scientist. That’s what these people are having and through them, so do we: fun. While not quite hyper-stylized, the film is rich in creative action sequences, fascinating details, and a third-act fireworks display that will put a moribund smile on your face.

The Morning After: Jul. 24, 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:

Pitch Perfect 2


I came into Pitch Perfect late and watched that film in anticipation of seeing Pitch Perfect 2 in theaters. That didn’t happen. So now, I’m catching up with Pitch Perfect 2 in hopes of catching the third film in theaters as well. This time, I may just do it.

I enjoyed the original film for its original concept and the general execution. The same positives can be equated to its sequel. After their killer success at the end of the first film, the Barden Bellas have found great success winning a total of three national titles, but all of that comes crashing down due to a wardrobe malfunction in front of the President of the United States. Stripped of their national tour slots by the formidable German team, Das Sound Machine, the Bellas use the occasion of the World Acapella Championships to reclaim their fame and fortunes.

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The Morning After: Jul. 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:

A Single Man


It’s hard to believe that an astonishing debut feature like this would be directed by an acclaimed fashion designer. Tom Ford moved from the pages of Gucci to the pages of Variety with his 2009 drama about a gay professor (Colin Firth) struggling with the loss of his 16-year lover. Unable to grieve at his graveside, George descends into depression unable to figure out how to live without him.

Firth gives his finest performance, one of depth and profound sorrow. Julianne Moore is solid in her supporting performance as his longtime friend Charly. Matthew Goode live up to his last name as the late paramour. Nicholas Hoult is the only odd duck out here as one of Firth’s flirtatious students. Hoult is fine in the role, but after having seen him in so much else since, it feels a bit more hollow than it should.

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The Morning After: July 10, 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 World’s End


Edgar Wright’s final film in his loosely-connected Cornetto Trilogy brings the series to an end with Simon Pegg as an adult with a stunted sense of self built out of the happy, but failed youthful attempt to complete the Golden Mile. As he and his High School friends attempt to make the circuit of bars, drinking one pint of beer at each, once more after having long given up their small town pasts. Pegg’s Gary King lies and cheats to convince his pals to join him, but as his lies catch up with him, a more nefarious plot is uncovered wherein their entire home town has been replaced by emotionless simulacrums of an alien nature.

Wright and Pegg have a strange sense of humor, but the comedy in this film is considerably less omnipresent in their prior films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Maybe they have grown up, or maybe their characters have. From the man-child of Shaun of the Dead, walking lifelessly in a life he loathes to the hyper-competent cop of Hot Fuzz whose bypassed youthfulness has stunted his emotional competence back to the man-child of The World’s End who wishes only to recapture his youthful potential, that his alcoholism has virtually destroyed. Each film deals, in its own way, deals with the refusal of Pegg’s character to grow up or grow out, which mirrors our own attempts to revive our pasts so that we can remember the halcyon times of our lives, which others may not feel so rosily inspired by.

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The Morning After: Jul. 5, 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:

Shaun of the Dead


Edgar Wright’s first feature after a modestly successful TV career is a bizarre tale of a childish appliance salesman grappling with a collapsing relationship as a zombie apocalypse begins around him. Aided by his best mate (Nick Frost), Shaun (Simon Pegg) navigates the deadly minefield of shambling zombie attacks and romantic relationships, the dangers of each competing for dominance.

Wright’s film, co-written with Pegg, is a great bit of fun. Employing fairly typical British comic timing, the movie swiftly moves towards its somewhat inevitable conclusion. Weaving in a comic pseudo love story into a zombie horror film is irregular, but handled quite judiciously. Deadpan humor, protagonist obliviousness, and copious sight gags make for a fun romp. At times, the film moves slowly, but overall it’s an entertaining, engaging ride.

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The Morning After: Jun. 19, 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:

Cars 3


What made the original Cars such a charmer was its desire to not only dig into Americana in a way that animated films don’t seem capable of doing, it also explored the ideas of drive, experience, selflessness, and more. When Cars 2 took the series in a whole different direction, embracing a crass, commercialized espionage thriller veneer, with an excessive amount of Mater, everything fell apart. The wholesomeness and familial energy evaporated.

With Cars 3, we return to the style and direction of the original film, a refreshing step back to what made the series work in the first place. Although the film does have a lot of similar threads to the original film, they work themselves out in unique and interesting directions. The voice cast fades in places, but strikes out wonderfully in others. Nathan Fillion does a fine job as the new head of Rusteze while the ever-annoying Larry the Cable Guy continues to disappoint (and really deserves to be junked at this point). Owen Wilson is uneven as Lightning McQueen and Cristela Alonzo is given little material into which she can sink her teeth.

This time out, the visuals are spectacular. In the 11 years since the original hit the big screen, the technology has improved and so too have the visuals in this film. Still popping with color, the rich details are impressive, most notably the natural environments through which McQueen and company traverse. If it suffers, it’s because the plot is so familiar and predictable. Pixar trends often in that direction, but here things lack that typical Pixar spark that push the movie beyond the commonplace animated feature. A fitting follow-up to the original and a superb step up from the second film, Cars 3 suggests there’s still life left in the ailing series, though a fourth film needs to take things in a similar, but less formulaic direction.

The Morning After: Jun. 12, 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:

Wonder Woman


The second solo film in the new DC Extended Universe explains the origin of Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman. A clay-sculpted child of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana grow up in the care of the Amazons, a tribe of women whose goal is to protect the world from the dominion of men. Their creation, by the Greek god Zeus, is at first a failure, causing them to seek magical isolation on the mysterious island of Themyscira where they train for the day when the war god Ares returns to destroy men through incitement and conflict.

In adulthood, Diana (Gal Gadot) rescues a fallen American spy (Chris Pine) who inadvertently leads German soldiers to the Amazons’ doorstep. There, thanks to her able training by famed warrior Antiope (Robin Wright), Diana helps fend off the onslaught with few, but notable casualties. Believing that Ares is behind the war that Steve Trevor (Pine) describes to them, she sneaks off in the night with sword, shield, and truth-inducing lasso in hand to seek out the nefarious god and bring an end to him.

Brooding superheroes seem to be DC’s stock in trade. Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its share, their films are lighter, more jovial affairs whereas the DC films are darker and more pessimistic. Wonder Woman is a wonderful breath of fresh air in such a dark universe. While the film itself has plenty of grief and malicious underpinnings, Wonder Woman herself is a stoic, imperturbable figure who stands up against the misery and destruction as a light against the evil. Gadot is perfectly attuned to this type of role, her Israel Defense Force training (and position as a combat instructor) serving her well. She has the noble majesty her character demands and the charismatic presence the audience desires.

Standing alongside the atypically dour, miserable Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) of the franchise, and the aged misanthropy of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), Diane Prince/Wonder Woman is a fine and refreshing counterpoint to all of it. This is the kind of rousing, exciting adventure film that Marvel used to make and DC needs to do better at imitating. Whether her origin, directed by the masterful Patty Jenkins, marks a turning point for the series or a blip in the lineup remains to be seen, but unless Warner Bros. can heed the lessons the film teaches, they are destined to come up short compared to the Marvel universe even if Disney’s franchise is fading fast.

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