Category: Morning After

The Morning After: Jun. 10, 2019

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:

Dark Phoenix


With Disney now fully in control of the entirety of Fox’s film division, the X-Men universe is in their control and, as such, Dark Phoenix represents the last film of the Fox era. While the film sets itself up with the possibility of continuation, the affable cast are likely at an end with these characters. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Alexnadra Shipp, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Evan Peters have managed to give us terrific final performances as the X-Men in a film that, while imperfect, is the most entertaining entry in the series since Days of Future Past.

Set in 1992, Dark Phoenix sees the X-Men as celebrated among the non-mutant population of earth, saviors who have done much to improve their standing in society. During a successful mission to rescue the astronauts aboard the Endeavor as they were able to be destroyed by a mysterious space entity, Jean Grey (Turner) absorbs the energy and her already formidable powers are amplified and the walls in her mind erected by Charles Xavier (McAvoy) have begun to crumble. As Jean loses focus on family and friends through a sense of intense betrayal and her inability to control the force within her, the careful walls Xavier has built between the X-Men and society begin to crumble and with them, the safety of the X-Men themselves is at stake from both within and without.

Although Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were the best incarnations of Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto, McAvoy and Fassbender gave them their own unique talents and while they are modest shadows of the characters they created in Days of Future Past and First Class, they still provide strong characterizations. Lawrence, given very little screen time in this outing, does well with what she has. Hoult, Shipp, Sheridan, Smit-McPhee, and Peters are equally engaging, though perhaps not given enough material. What they are given, however, is the confidence in their abilities that enable them to produce the kind of power displays that are perfect embodiments of their characters.

Apocalypse was the nadir of the X-Men universe, although the Wolverine films were on the whole inferior with only Logan topping much of what came before it, Dark Phoenix is a step above all but the first two films in the series and ranks third among the recent four X-Men outings. It’s too bad these characters aren’t going to be given more chances to expand. I’m afraid Disney’s tinkering might have been a detriment to the film’s overall potential success. We may never know if the rumors of disastrous showings were true or if this was their attempt to ingratiate with X-Men fans for the eventual assimilation into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which without the X-Men might never have been thought possible and to which they owe a great deal of gratitude even if they should never acknowledge or grant it.

The Morning After: Mar. 18, 2019

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:

Captain Marvel


Set in 1995, Captain Marvel finds Kree operative Vers (Brie Larson) attempting to understand the dreams she’s having that place her in a strange body facing off against a Kree assassin. After being captured by a group of Skrull mercenaries, Vers begins to unravel the flashes of memory she’s had by traveling to Earth where she hopes to uncover information about the Pegasus program with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

The film, positioned well before current events, establishes Captain Marvel as a character whose power could be crucial in the fight against the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Learning more about this character in this origin story gives the audience a better understanding of who this character is and what she stands for. A potent feminist narrative, Captain Marvel is a tightly written, twist-heavy adventure that also lets us get to know a younger Fury and gives us a brief glimpse of an even younger Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).

The effects are abundant and the narrative fresh. What’s most entertaining about this film is its constant references to things that are so 1990s, such as Blockbuster, Radio Shack, and dial-up internet. It’s a fascinating time capsule of an era fewer and fewer Marvel fans will be able to connect with. Throw in terrific bits featuring the semi-affectionate cat Goose and you have a film that’s more enjoyable than it is frustrating, which best describes how formulaic the film is. Unlike Black Panther last year, this Marvel Cinematic Universe “first” doesn’t have a freshness of setting or narrative throughline. It’s a film that very much sits in the pedestrian center of the Marvel universe even if it does far better at it than some other films. Larson is a terrific lead and I will be excited to see how her involvement in the franchise plays out over the next few years.

The Morning After: Feb. 11, 2019

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:

First Man


A crisp, technically proficient telling of the American moon landing that ignited a generation’s imagination and propelled U.S. scientific advancements for the following decades. First Man is Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land, the multiple Oscar-winning musical that now famously lost to Moonlight in Best Picture.

La La Land star Ryan Gosling takes the role of American icon Neil Armstrong who plays the role as a stoic father whose history of loss leads to his emotional detachment, a brave interpretation that won’t come across nearly as sympathetic as some audiences would want, but which feels fitting for the situation. As his put-upon wife, Claire Foy gets little material to work with, but makes the most of it. She has a pair of potent scenes, but otherwise melts into the background giving the film the ability to focus not entirely on Armstrong’s home life, but on the mission itself.

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The Morning After: Feb. 4, 2019

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:

Vice


Director Adam McKay seems to have found a cinematic niche that needed filling. The political satire subgenre has been uninteresting or unabsent for years. With his follow up to The Big Short, McKay has proven adept at giving the world a fascinating, if somewhat bleak look at the various issues that face modern American politics.

Exploring the influence of former Vice President Dick Cheney from his days as a congressional intern to his hollowing out and eroding of the United States government, Vice walks a delicate line between honest portrayal of an odious man and convincing biopic that attempts to partially humanize someone whose vileness has created a dangerous precedent.

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The Morning After: Jan. 28, 2019

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:

Mary Queen of Scots


Mary, Queen of Scots, has been a popular figure in cinema for decades. This latest version of the story stars Saoirse Ronan as the eponymous queen as she returns to Scotland following the death of her French husband to rebuild her claim to the throne of Scotland and England.

Margot Robbie takes on the role of her rival, Queen Elizabeth, as the pair strike a tentative peace while the men around them plot, manipulate, and connive to thwart Mary’s claim to the throne of England. Told almost entirely from the perspective of Mary, giving Ronan a chance to shine as the headstrong queen, we’re given an in-depth look at the political and religious climate of the period as Catholic Mary finds enemies within the Protestant church, led by the firebrand John Knox (David Tenant) while her own half-brother, the Earl of Moray (James McArdle), works behind the scenes to undermine her legitimacy.

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The Morning After: Jan. 2, 2019

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:

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald


With the promise of presenting a history of the wizarding world of Harry Potter by exploring the events that lead to the downfall of Voldemort’s villainous predecessor, J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. have done an incredible amount of world building with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald providing plenty of new background information, new characters, and new plotlines that are sure to fill the remaining three films in the pentalogy.

Not much was known about Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) before this new series of films except that he was well known for writing the definitive book on mystical creatures called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That title became that of the first film with the Fantastic Beasts name carrying forward to the remaining features. This second film moves the action out of New York City and into the magical streets of Paris where Newt and company are trying to find Credence Barebone before Grindelwald can get his clutches on him. As the film unfolds, Newt and his muggle companion Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) set off to Paris to find their respective paramours, sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) Goldstein respectively, and potentially thwart Grindelwald’s schemes while on their quest.

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The Morning After: Dec. 26, 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:

BlacKkKlansman


Long a voice for black America at the cinema, Spike Lee delivers his finest film in several years in the form of BlacKkKlansman, a potent look at the Ku Klux Klan and the hate bubbling under the fabric of American civilization.

Based on the true story of a black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado who went undercover as a member of the Ku Klux Klan in order to keep tabs on the insidious organization from the inside. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth as the black cop and Adam Driver plays the white cop who does the actual undercover work. Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Ryan Eggold, Paul Walter Hauser, and Ashlie Atkinson co-star.

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The Morning After: Dec. 17, 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:

If Beale Street Could Talk


Many filmmakers over the years have explored the human condition, but few have given the black community the same attention to passion and detail as Barry Jenkins has in his second feature directorial effort If Beale Street Could Talk.

Based on the James Baldwin novel, the street in question is in Memphis, Tennessee, but the story takes place in Harlem where two young lovers (Tish and Fonny) struggle against the racial injustice of the era as she (KiKi Layne) discovers she’s pregnant after he (Stephan James) has been falsely accused of rape and is awaiting trial.

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The Morning After: Dec. 10, 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 Favourite


My first exposure to director Yorgos Lanthimos was his futuristic satire The Lobster starring Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell. That film was certainly bizarre, but showed a great flavor for the unusual, making him a director to look out for each time he releases a film.

The Favourite has a lot of Lanthimos’ trademark quirkiness, but it’s a more straight forward period drama than what he’s done previously. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne, an 18th century English monarch whose short rein was filled with the kind of pablum that doesn’t often make great movies. Except this one, which centers around the relationship of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and her cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) as she seeks a job after her family financial collapse. As Abigail weeds her way into Anne’s life, Sarah plays her political hand too strongly, risking her royal friendship and allowing Abigail an opening.

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The Morning After: Nov. 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:

Suspiria


In horror history, there are a handful of films that can lay claim to being massively influential and a handful that elevated the medium to the level of art. Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece Suspiria was one of the latter. Going into the 2018 version of the film of the same name is fraught with peril. Can it compare? Should it compare? Knowing the intention behind the director’s vision is as important to that assessment as is knowing the original.

Luca Guadagnino’s vision for the film was not to remake, but reimagine it for a different audience. While the sequel is still set in an all-girls dance studio with a mysterious faculty, the visual similarities between the two films are diametrically opposed. Whereas Argento’s film is awash in bright, vivid colors, especially reds, Guadagnino’s version avoids primary colors, instead focusing on the drear whites, grays, and blacks of a bleak German winter. While Argento’s film focused almost entirely on the young girl (Jessica Harper) at the center of the story, Gudagnino’s project expands beyond the girl’s (Dakota Johnson) adventures. Both films feature unique and compelling musical scores with hints of the original Goblin score infusing composer Thom Yorke’s rendition.

Suspiria is just as haunting in its new incarnation as it was in the original and both films can exist independently of one another. The new version wants to be a bit headier in its narrative development, tackling motherhood, self-recrimination, and a number of other minor themes. It also expands the exploration of character to other characters, giving meaty roles to a number of prominent actresses, all of whom are an international bevy of talents. Johnson’s character, Susie Bannion, doesn’t have a lot of emotional growth. She reacts to everything going on around her with a sort of emotional detachment. Her visceral reactions are instead foisted on the young women around her, including a superb Mia Goth as her best friend at the school. Tilda Swinton delivers another characteristically brilliant performance as both the imperious teacher at the center of Susie’s growth as well as the father figure Dr. Klemperer, the psychologist trying to get to the bottom of the activities within the school.

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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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.

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.