Category: Morning After

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.

The Morning After: Aug. 27, 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:

Crazy Rich Asians


Since the early days of cinema, romantic comedies have been a central part of the film landscape. While their efficacy and credibility have waxed and waned over the years, there are a handful of exemplary features that crop up from time to time even in the midst of a meager period. Crazy Rich Asians is a genuinely engaging, emotionally fulfilling pop of excitement in our dull modern landscape.

The son of a wealthy Chinese dynasty (Henry Golding), the Youngs, has fallen in love with economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and wants to bring her to meet his family against the backdrop of his best friend’s wedding. Her history doesn’t jive with that of his family and the tension mounts as the Young family struggles to tame its own demons while outright rejecting the impoverished origins of Chu and her mother. Clashes abound and while Rachel never quite feels a part of this world of exorbitant wealth, its her passion for Nick Young that keeps her going and determines each of her actions, even if her own comfort and safety is at risk.

Wu, Golding, Michelle Yeoh as Nick’s mother Eleanor, Gemma Chan as his sister Astrid, and Awkwafina as Rachel’s college roommate Peik Lin are all superb in roles that are rich and distinct, given fresh life. Eastern and Western traditions are infused here in ways that exemplify how film can be used to explore the delicate relationships not just between cultures foreign and domestic. Not since Joy Luck Club has a film so succinctly expressed the heart and sensitivity of Asian culture, making it both accessible and deep.

The Morning After: Aug. 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:

Mission: Impossible – Fallout


Twenty-two years after Tom Cruise brought the television show Mission: Impossible into the modern age, the sixth film of the series pulls together all of the plot details and information of all prior installments to create a rousing, if predictable adventure.

Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, an undercover operative for the IMF, a secret organization dedicated to protecting the world from various shady characters. Hunt is a conscientious and seemingly careless spy who puts himself in grave danger to protect those around him while finding increasingly creative ways to get the upper hand on his enemies. More often than not, luck plays a major role in his ability to overcome any situation and the one he’s facing now is his most critical yet.

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The Morning After: Jul. 16, 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:

Love, Simon


As Call Me by Your Name was to 1980s gay coming of age stories, Love, Simon is to the 2010s. While the former was pure drama, the latter is a comedy with dramatic elements throughout.

It’s a John Hughesian film about a High School senior who becomes penpals with a fellow student, neither of whom are out publicly. After he inadvertently leaves his e-mail account open on a public computer, his secret is threatened to be exposed adding pressure to an already tense situation.

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The Morning After: Jul. 9, 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:

Ex Machina


Alex Garland’s exploration of artificial intelligence is a fascinating film that recalls Duncan Jones’ sci-fi debut Moon. Both films delve into the genre with creativity and flare and both feature terrific performances at their core.

When a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a contest to visit the company CEO’s (Oscar Isaac) isolated compound, he finds himself a chess piece in a game to determine whether A.I. Ava (Alicia Vikander) would pass the Turing test, the gold standard by which all artificial intelligence programs must adhere in order to be declared truly intelligent.

The film is at home equally both when it’s furthering its plot as it is when discussing philosophical concepts crucial to an examination of the computer age. Isaac, Gleeson, and Vikander are equally terrific in a film that seems like it’s pushing towards one conclusion, but diverts towards another more fitting one. It’s a film of twists and turns that feel as if they were drawn out of a film co-directed by Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.

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The Morning After: Jun. 18, 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:

Incredibles 2


Any comparison to the original will immediately lead to believe that it’s inferior, but standing alone, so far removed from its predecessor, it feels like a breath of fresh air in the ever deflating balloon that is superhero movies.

Immediately following the events of the first film, Incredibles 2 finds the Parr family facing the perception that supers are too destructive to be legally allowed to roam free. However, a billionaire businessman (Bob Odenkirk) wants to return supers to the limelight and plans to carefully pose Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) as the face of a movement to remove the law preventing supers from protecting the world. With his sister (Catherine Keener) at his side, the plans go almost as well as could be expected until a new threat rises in the landscape intent on bringing supers down once and for all.

The voice work is solid with Hunter and Odenkirk leading the charge. Keener, Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible, Sarah Vowell as Violet Parr, Huckleberry Milner as Dash Parr (replacing Spencer Fox), and writer/director Brad Bird as Edna Mode are all strong. It’s a film that’s filled to the brim with creative effects, humorous sequences, and a story that while ultimately predictable, is no less suspenseful.

The Morning After: May 28, 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:

Solo: A Star Wars Story


Outside of the trilogies that make up the Star Wars universe, there’s plenty of room to expand into other areas and explore the lives of others. As with Rogue One, which explained how the rebels got access to the Death Star schematics, Solo: A Star Wars Story explains how Han Solo (here played by Alden Ehrenreich) met up with Chewbacca (now played by Joonas Suotamo) and came into possession of the Millennium Falcon.

While making films about younger versions of the original trilogy’s cast may seem like an ill-advised move, this is a universe that begs for such exploration. What was the Kessel Run? How does Han come to know Lando Calrissian (now Donald Glover), and exactly was Han’s impetus to become a scoundrel gallivanting across the galaxy. For his part, Ehrenreich makes a fine Han Solo. While no one can ever replace Harrison Ford, his impish charm, underlying compassion, and sense of excitement come through with flying colors. He’s a magnetic figure just like Ford was even if he isn’t exactly the same. Glover, on the other hand, takes the cadence and delivery of Billy Dee Williams and crafts an almost perfect simulacrum of the original Lando. Glover has always been immensely talented and this only helps solidify that.

Able support comes in the form of Woody Harrelson as Han Solo’s partner and semi-mentor, Emilia Clarke as Han’s lost love and brilliant tactician, Thandie Newton as the brain’s of Harrelson’s operation, Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the droid revolutionist, and Paul Bettany as the crime lord who gives Harrelson and company one last chance to fix their mistake.

As always, the Star Wars universe is steeped in history, filled with delightfully inventive aliens, and a dark, post-apocalyptic feel in all parts of the universe that are struggling to survive and unquestionably opulent in the areas inhabited by those who control the galaxy. This is a series that has been filled with bountiful production values that help envelop the audience in its vast construct.

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.

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