Category: Morning After

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.

The Morning After: Feb. 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.

I was out of town all weekend, so nothing was watched. Plus, the Oscars happened, so there’s that.

The Morning After: Feb. 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:

Ghost in the Shell


One of the things I dislike most about anime is the animation style isn’t always realistic and oftentimes, it looks a bit too rushed. Ghost in the Shell has both of these qualities in abundance.

The story about a futuristic world where cybernetics has improved to the point where consciousness can be subsumed and sublimated by technology. Where a person’s mind can be re-written and re-programmed. This is a world born out of ideas by Philip K. Dick. While considerably less bleak than Dick’s material, the film attempts some very weighty concepts, which succeed as often as they fail.

The vocal work, even discounting the translation-based out-of-sync lip movements, is less than impressive. Mimi Woods as Motoko Kusanagi is the only one who escapes those problems. The animation is solid in places, amateur in others, and the story feels like it abruptly ends. There are some compelling scenes that work visually in spite of all this, making it a passbly stylish production.

The Morning After: Feb. 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:

The Lego Batman Movie


It’s no surprise that Batman, as a character, has been portrayed so frequently on the screen, big and small. He’s a misunderstood figure whose brooding vigilante act is a direct result of a tragedy in his past. Tim Burton did a handy job with him in 1989 and Christopher Nolan did a fine job with him in the 2000s, but is Lego really the team to tackle such a weighty character? If the Adam West Batman TV series is any indication, then the answer is yes. And it was.

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The Morning After: Feb. 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.

Oscar season is tough on the movie-watching capabilities, so I managed to get some TV shows watched in fits and spurts, but that’s about it.

The Morning After: Jan. 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:

20th Century Women


Writer/director Mike Mills tackles 1979 in this exploration of the life of a single mother and her struggles to raise her teenage son. Annette Bening delivers one of her finest performances as the emotionally isolated mother who doesn’t want her son (Lucas Jade Zumann) to turn out like her and enlists the help of his best friend (Elle Fanning) and another woman (Greta Gerwig) who lives in the same house as they, under the watchful eye of the landlord (Billy Crudup).

Skillfully written, the film is one of the jewels of 2016, left at the curbside by a number of other films that explore deeper, supposedly more resonant subjects. Mills does excellent work with this knowing screenplay that tackles women’s issues in a unique and contemporary way while feeling part-and-parcel of the era in question. The cast is superb and deserved far more recognition than they received.

The Morning After: Jan. 23, 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.

With a need to prep for the upcoming Oscar nominations, I was not able to watch anything.

The Morning After: Jan. 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.

I had a minor surgery Thursday the 5th and because of it, and an infection to go along with it, I have been unable to do much at all. As such, the past week has been poorly populated with content, something I’m hoping to rectify as I’m feel better each day.

Some things that weren’t movies that I watched including listening to HG Wells’ War of the Worlds on audiobook, a wonderful experience; listening to six episodes of Nick Offerman’s Audible series Bedtime Stories for Cynics, which were unbearably amusing; and starting the first couple of chapters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on audiobook with Alan Cumming reading (there are supposed to be others, but I didn’t get that far).

Apart from that, here is what I was able to watch this past week:

A Series of Unfortunate Events


I didn’t get out to the movies this weekend, thanks to my post-surgical recovery, but I did manage to binge-watch the entirety of the new A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The first adaptation, starring Jim Carrey was a regular feature film that collapsed the entirety of the first three books into a cramped, disjointed, poorly acted mess of a film that saw Jim Carrey unleashed when he should have been restrained.

Thankfully, the new series, with Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Count Olaf this time out, is a much more spry and exciting endeavor. Turning the first four of the thirteen books of the series into eight episodes, two episodes per book, is precisely the strategy I suggested originally. Each book could easily take the form of a single movie, and at 45-minutes per episode, these end up like mini-movies for each book.

The performances are stellar and the aesthetic is brilliant. Any fan of the book will instantly recognize the events and adventures of the Beaudelaire Orphans along the way. The production values are perfect, as are the various literary punches and dialogue flares that make it feel like you’re living out the stories of the books almost magically. The only bad thing about it is having to wait until Seasons 2, 3, and possibly 4, to finish it all out.

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