Category: Morning After

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.

The Morning After: Jun. 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:

Sense8


They may have had made their debut in 1996 with the acclaimed Bound, but the Wachowski Sisters (then brothers) reached the pinnacle of their success three years later with the sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix. After two ill-advised sequels, Lilly and Lana Wachowski would move on to other projects, none of which ever quite reached the luster of their original Matrix.

Speed Racer was a visual smorgasbord, but otherwise seemed cheap. Cloud Atlas tried to convey a compelling concept, but did so fitfully and without satisfying success. Jupiter Ascending was another solid sci-fi concept that didn’t work in execution thanks to a bevy of cheap, excessive performances. While they never collapsed as filmmakers like M. Night Shyamalan did, they have also found their rebirth in the Netflix original series Sense8. Born on August 8 of the same year, eight individuals from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds become linked, sharing memories, conversations, and actions with one another.

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The Morning After: May 30, 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:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales


A film franchise is only as good as the writers behind it. The Pirates of the Caribbean films have been producing box office success for 14 years now, but in its fifth outing, things have gotten dire indeed.

Rooted in reality, but bred for excess, Pirates of the Caribbean has been mining the tales of the sea for so long that few adventures still seem feasibly. In doing so, Disney has latched onto their cash cow with unerring interest. Six years after its prior incarnation, the breathing room has allowed us to see how tired and miserable the series is. Featuring a smattering of the original cast, we’re now trapped with unfamiliar directors and actors trying to make everything seem like it’s hunky dory.

With a handful of promising action sequences on display, the film drags these production numbers out excessively. They overstay their welcome, much like the characters in the film. At one point, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) was the kind of character whose loutish ways were a veneer over the heart of a lover of life. Now, he can hardly be seen as more than a selfish, inconsiderate oaf whose skill has seldom saved the day and whose fate is intricately tied to how smart the people around him are. He’s no longer a hero and he’s certainly no antihero. At the point your protagonist shifts from being respected to being dismissed, it’s time to hang up the tricorne hat.

The Morning After: May 8, 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:

Guardians of the Galaxy


While the original Guardians of the Galaxy introduced our heroes, Vol. 2 gives them added depth and personality, something that helps differentiate this outing from some of Marvel’s other recent outings.

The original team is all back, adding two major new characters and a handful of subsidiary characters. All of them are given their due, which is a pleasant surprise as Marvel has a tendency to gloss over minor characters it doesn’t have time for in spite of their necessity to the plot. The story here, which revolves around Peter (Chris Pratt) being rescued by his father and discovering his origin. There are myriad other storylines at play here including the soured relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), the antagonistic nature of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) checkered and troubled past, and a race of genetically engineered people who take offense to the theft of their property by the vary folk, the Guardians of the Galaxy, who just saved them from utter destruction.

The performances are as expected and there are plenty of questionable shots used, but much of the fun and frivolity of the original remains intact while deeper, more contemplative emotions are explored. For all its joy and humor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 evokes dense and complex negative emotions, all in service to a surprisingly rich and complex plot.

The Morning After: Apr. 3, 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:

Ghost in the Shell


One of the most popular anime films in history, Ghost in the Shell was adapted from a celebrated manga and has now been turned into an American theatrical motion picture. Built in the same world and with the same characters as both the manga and the anime, this new live-action film takes the events of those two distinct stories and creates a third variation on the theme with Scarlett Johansson in the lead role.

The story of a human brain installed in a synthetic body gives the audience a glimpse into the future of human technology as a way to preserve the identity of the deceased within the construct of a machine. This concept has been discussed frequently in science fiction and while the film has some questionable elements, it’s a bit more easy to follow than the Mamoru Oshii film from 1995. While each have some contemplative elements to them, this version is more tightly packed and existentially explanatory than the animated film.

Johansson gives a good emotionless performance, though at times it doesn’t fit the growth her character goes through. The mixture of American and Japanese actors is a solid bunch and the tributes as well as derivations from the original film are thrilling enough to provide a unique experience to fans and new audiences alike. Whether the philosophical discussions that develop from this film will be as deep as those surrounding the original, it must be said that the film doesn’t shy away from those themes while juicing the story up with enough Hollywood-style action to keep the audience engaged for much of its running time.

The Morning After: Mar. 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:

Beauty and the Beast


Taking one of the most cherished animated features in history and turning into a live-action spectacle comes with a degree of risks. It must not only pay tribute to the original, it must branch out and expand the universe in ways that are both unexpected and uncontroversial. Beauty and the Beast, the first animated feature ever nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards was Disney’s latest attempt to capitalize on its existing properties in a long series of animation-to-live-action adaptations that have tackled everything from Cinderella to The Jungle Book so far.

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The Morning After: Mar. 6, 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:

Logan


In Hugh Jackman’s third and final solo film as the legendary X-Man Wolverine, Logan is an unrepentant journey into the dark soul of one of the most iconic characters Marvel has ever created in a sea of icons. While Disney is busy churning out easily palatable comic confections, 20th Century Fox has been quietly building a pensive, visceral universe in which its characters can delve into realistic explorations of theme and humanity.

Jackman, after appearing in two Australian films that never saw U.S. distribution, got his start as the character Wolverine in the 2000 film X-Men, the keystone in the relaunch of the box office-dominating Marvel universe. Logan was a key component of each of the subsequent films and, in spite of a single cameo in X-Men: First Class, he has been a part of the X-Men universe the entire time. He’s thus been able to dig into the character with both sets of claws and wring out a complex, complicated, and conflicted character who earned his own solo effort, the only one yet for a cast member of the original X-Men films. Through three solid efforts, each increasingly more compelling, Jackman has delivered a fearless, full-throated performance, culminating in this career-topping effort.

The film, written and directed by James Mangold, follows Logan in his waning life, the adamantium of his skeleton slowly poisoning him. At his side is an albino tracker named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who helps him care for an Alzheimer’s-riddled Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) as they hide out as the last remnants of metahumanity, all of their friends and companions having died. Set in the near future, Logan takes a young mutant (Dafne Keen) under his wing as they seek escape from the laboratory that made her and wishes to put her down. Stewart himself gives an Oscar caliber supporting performance.

The script explores the rough humanity of a mutant who’s life has been hard fought, but whose body is no longer able to heal itself with the same ferocity that allowed him to eviscerate his foes with little effort and come out of bloody conflicts unscathed. As his regenerative abilities fade, his age begins catching up with him and his injuries become more pronounced and impeding. This isn’t a glory-filled superhero romp where a great hero must face off against massive global conspiracies or strange alien threats. It’s a drama where sacrifice, compassion, and humanity are explored with grit and grim determination.

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