Category: Morning After

The Morning After: May 21, 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:

Deadpool 2


By expanding the plot in the second film to include more characters, Deadpool 2 has better rooted itself into the Marvel and X-Men universes than it had previously. While the original film had a lot of incredibly funny moments, it didn’t always have the most coherent plot even if it did have a solid villain. In his second outing, Ryan Reynolds puts on the burn makeup once again to find great humor in the raunchy, uber-violent world of the popular comic book anti-hero.

In his second outing, Wade Wilson ups the stakes dramatically, pulling in popular figures from the prior film and mixing in a large number of new ones, including the impressive Zazie Beetz as Domino, a mutant who has the power of luck on her side. Josh Brolin adds menace as the time travelling half-cybernetic Cable trying to right the wrongs of the past, which involves preventing the turn events that leads to the death of his wife and daughter.

Following the plot is fairly simple, but getting to deep into its details gives away prime elements to it. Suffice it to say, the cast and crew are firing on all cylinders with a lone exception. The disgraceful inclusion of transphobic T.J. Miller is a point to the film’s detriment, especially considering how much they could have done with the idea of casting Christopher Plummer as Deadpool’s bartender extraordinaire. It would have been a great piece of humor, but instead they chose to keep the hateful comedian on board. Not only is his presence frustrating, his performance is inadequate.

Deadpool 2 doesn’t let the fourth wall get in his way, a trademark aspect to the character that has been well served in two films now. The music selection is largely on point, filled with 80s music that might otherwise feel out of place in a Marvel movie. The amount of times he attacks his own cinematic past is amusing and the mid-credits stinger is as amusing as might be expected. However, stay to the end for the final orchestral performance. It’s well worth sticking through the scroll recognizing the hundreds of people who put in their time and effort to make the movie you just enjoyed. Don’t stay just for stingers. Stay because it’s the right thing to do.

The Morning After: Apr. 30, 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:

Avengers: Infinity War


Ten years in the making, Avengers: Infinity War has finally dropped and while many Marvel fans will be enthralled by the events of the film, others will see exactly what’s in store for next year’s Avengers film and won’t be the least bit pleased.

Pulling in 28 familiar characters from six individual franchises, Avengers: Infinity War is filled to the brim with notable actors of varying impressiveness. Eight Oscar nominees, two Oscar winners are in the cast of the film. Other potential future Oscar nominees are also there, but this overstuffed film often feels bloated even when it’s at its most amusing and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had.

The biggest problems the film has all involve spoilers. The premise of the film is that the mad Titan Thanos seeks six infinity stones, created at the formation of the universe, that when controlled by a single entity allow the mass shaping of the universe. In this case, Thanos wishes to restore prosperity to the universe by eradicating half of its population. The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Wakandans united to try and defeat Thanos.

There are just under a dozen characters unaccounted for in the film, though a couple do make a post-credits appearance. That said, almost the entire Disney-Marvel universe is involved. It’s an unwieldy batch of characters, though they’ve been thankfully segmented into subsets that act almost independently of the story, but all of whom have an impact on the final encounter. While that kind of narrative juggling act is quite difficult, it largely succeeds, even if the finale is a massive cheat, or at least the setup for one.

The Morning After: Apr. 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:

Ready Player One


If any director were a perfect fit for a film, it’s Steven Spielberg and Ready Player One, a film steeped in nostalgia of the period in which Spielberg was growing and expanding as a filmmaker. Forty-plus years into his career, Spielberg’s genre filmmaking days might have been thought to be behind him, but Ready Player One proves that he still has the spark and imagination to helm a dystopian film.

Set twenty years into the future, the virtual reality realm of the OASIS is on the brink of collapse when its creator dies. As the denizens of the OASIS race to find the three keys that will open the door to an Easter Egg that will give them full control over the VR paradise, an impressionable young man (Tye Sheridan) joins forces with an array of friends new and old to reach the end before the corporate president (Ben Mendelsohn) who wants to monetize the OASIS and bring an end to the free and open nature of the realm.

From the looks of the trailers, this was going to be a film flooded with 80s references and it is. Yet, there are plenty of nods to other decades including Minecraft and Overwatch from the present, Saturday Night Fever from the 70s, Pulp Fiction from the 90s, and an array of other references with the bulk of them being from the 1980s. Yet, the story itself only loosely connects to those elements, focusing on original characters whose pop cultural influences predate them by decades. As much as the myriad references are a tribute to the films and video games of the past that have influenced much of modern pop culture, the film is rooted in a deep antipathy towards corporate conglomerates who seek nothing more than to monetize and commodify the internet and eliminate what makes it an open and free place for the expression of oneself.

Spielberg isn’t subtle about his anti-capitalist message and that should resonate with the myriad Gen-X’ers and Millennials that can find joy and acceptance in the framework of this movie. Ready Player One may be hindered in ways by its reliance on the past, but that reliance only deepens its ability to connect with audiences of younger generations who can not only appreciate the bountiful number of visual cues and references to pop culture, but who use those references to bolster and open their minds to the possibilities for the future.

Further, Alan Silvestri’s score attempts to remind audiences of John Williams’ many scores, his attempts are in vain as his score is the most frustrating element of the film, the least fact of which is that there are no memorable themes, something Williams was adept at. And Williams’ absence seems all the more disappointing considering his place in pop culture history.

An interesting side note. While I might have missed a couple, I only remember ONE reference to a Spielberg-directed film: the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. As crucial as Spielberg’s filmography is to pop culture, he restrained himself from making this film about him and kept attention squarely focused elsewhere.

The Morning After: Mar. 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:

Pacific Rim: Uprising


Guillermo del Toro films have always had a core of warmth and humanity to them that make them stand apart from the more commonplace genre fare at the cineplex. While the original Pacific Rim was a bit on the outskirts of del Toro’s resume, it nevertheless felt like an inventive bundle of joy with an appreciation for storytelling with a monstrous bent. For Pacific Rim: Uprising, the emphasis is on the action and the spectacle. Giant robots fighting giant monsters to save the world. It’s like Transformers with more diversity, more compassion, and a significantly more compelling story at its heart, but one that gets lost in the weeds.

Years after the events of the first film, some cities have been rebuilt while others have languished as lawless environments where survival is built on a bartering system. It’s a socio political clime worth exploring, but which is jettisoned after its thrilling, if modestly facile opening chase sequence is concluded. From there, we learn that a Chinese firm has prepared led by company founder Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) has developed a series of remote drone Jaegers (the giant robots) that will make obsolete the slow-to-deploy behemoths of the past. At the heart of this technological advancement is one of two main carry-overs from the original film, scientist Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day). Meanwhile, his fellow colleague, also in the prior film, Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) has developed his own solution, a rocket thruster meant to launch the Jaegers anywhere.

The core of the plot is that someone is attempting to reopen the rifts to the other dimension and bring more Kaiju (the giant monsters) into our plane so they can finally enact the plan they had originally envisioned. The details of either plot would expose the most fascinating elements of the story here even if they are mishandled as the film plods along.

John Boyega leads a perfunctory cast of young actors who must face down the onslaught with bravery and conviction. Minor exploratory details of some of their pasts make for synopsis reading in the film giving us information about any of the characters. Boyega’s Jake Pentecost, son of Idris Elba’s character from the first film, is one of two that get some depth of focus, the other is co-lead Cailee Spaeny (Amara Namani), who is the film’s lone stand-out among performers. Also along for the ride is Clint Eastwood’s son Scott who seems to be present as a foil/support for Boyega’s character and who is referred to as attractive, which might be his sole purpose of presence. That Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi, a third minor return from the original, is given short shrift, suggests that most of the characters exist merely as vain stereotypes given simplistic narrative focus that evaporates once the action comes into full focus.

The Morning After: Mar. 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:

Annihilation


Four years ago, writer Alex Garland made his directorial debut with Ex Machina, a critical smash that surprised with two Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Visual Effects and further surprised by winning the Visual Effects prize. Now, he’s picked up a higher budget and has brought Jeff VanderMeer’s novel to the big screen with Natalie Portman in the lead as a ex-military biologist whose military husband returns after a mysterious one-year absence.

The film’s premise follows Portman as she and a team of women push into an expanse called The Shimmer where all prior expeditions have been lost and whose mysterious origin defies explanation. As the five women explore a diverse biome of rapidly mutating flora and fauna, they must battle inner demons and unseen forces to reach the epicenter and stop whatever threatens the entirety of earth.

Portman is joined by a bountiful group of prominent actors including Oscar nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, David Gyasi, and Oscar Isaac. Each delivers a solid performance, but Garland’s aesthetic often requires emotionless delivery that doesn’t always allow the audience to connect with the characters. Portman has one early scene where she’s grieving her lost husband, but beyond that, her vacant-eyed approach is sometimes off-putting.

Garland has such a daring and inventive visual style. Annihilation is overflowing with sensory splendor. The film’s effects are staggering and the production design is vivid and richly detailed. The music adds a brilliant depth to the otherworldly environment through which our protagonist travels. There are also plenty of heady philosophical topics for the audience who might grow bored with the vast expanses of silence, Garland focusing on showing rather than telling. That is both a barrier to universal understanding and an aid for those who enjoy quietly contemplative works.

The Morning After: Mar. 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:

Game Night


Comedy is hard, but Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams make it all look so easy. In Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley’s comedic gem Game Night, Bateman and McAdams play a competitive married couple who have been struggling to conceive thanks to Bateman’s feelings of inadequacy compared to his more successful brother (Kyle Chandler). When Chandler arranges to have himself kidnapped as part of a staged murder mystery game night, things go horribly and hilariously awry as Chandler’s own past catches up with him.

Through various twists and turns, many of which you don’t see coming, Bateman, McAdams, Chandler, and the rest of the hilarious ensemble weave through a complex and slow-burn comedy of game players getting in over their head. Billy Magnusson, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kyle Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, and two wonderful cameos provide able support in this most farcical and complex mystery comedy.

Goldstein and Daley don’t follow the Paul Feig model of outrageous humor for the sake of itself. They setup their funniest moments in advance and then slowly explore them, eliminating the rapid fire humor that has been a staple of modern R-rated comedies in recent years. There are dramatic events all around, but when the action pauses and the humor’s allowed to simmer until it boils over in laughs, it proves a most successful brand of hilarity.

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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