Category: Morning After

The Morning After: Dec. 11, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Lady Bird


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

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

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The Morning After: Dec. 4, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Shape of Water


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

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

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

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

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

The Morning After: Nov. 27, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Get Out


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

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

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The Morning After: Nov. 20, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

When Time Ran Out…


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

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

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

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

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

The Morning After: Nov. 13, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Thor: Regnarok


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

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

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

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

The Morning After: Oct. 16, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Blade Runner 2049


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

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

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

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

The Morning After: Oct. 2, 2017

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Bad Moms


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

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

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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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