Black Panther

Black Panther
Black Panther

As an old, fat Caucasian man I am not qualified to review the social importance of this film beyond the standard platitudes of “finally, a big-budget action film with a mostly black cast.” Sitting in the bar before the showing I overheard a lot of people who were VERY excited about the social importance of this film, though. It was great to see so many people enthused about a film!

I enjoyed the film and look forward to see how Wakanda fits into Marvel’s idealized universe in the future.

Mom And Dad

Mom And Dad
Mom And Dad

Holy crap, this was a crazy fun ride! Nicolas Cage was at his finest here as a part of the cast, not as the “star” of the film. There were sufficient amounts of Nic Cage crazy without overwhelming (and ruining) the rest of the plot. I realize the bar is set pretty low, but I feel this is the best film with Nic Cage (ever?).

About a third of the way into the film we start to see that something is wrong with the world. Not the most original plot point, for sure, but I enjoyed the way that something is visible peripherally to the story. There’s no obvious cause or solution, just a problem that must be dealt with as everyone begins to understand that parents suddenly have an overwhelming urge to kill their children. Not ALL children, just their own offspring.

One of the pull quotes from the film’s poster describes it as “… a twisted remake of ‘Home Alone’ on bath salts.” That feels very accurate. The kids have to deal with parents who suddenly want to kill them. The film doesn’t just present the adults as homicidal zealots, either. They carefully plan how to murder their children without any inkling that it is wrong. The parents are aware that others are killing their children, too, but dismiss it as a natural thing to do.

I laughed inappropriately at much of the last half of the movie, partly as a stress release after one particularly anxious scene at the hospital when Selma Blair’s character’s sister gives birth during the crisis. The writer and director, Brian Taylor, shoots the film in a decidedly different, almost trippy, style. I loved it!

Beers I paired with the film: Fiction Brewing Malice and Darkness, Odyssey Beerwerks Psycho Penguin Vanilla Porter

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Initially had tickets to see this film at 11 PM on Thursday but blew that off to spend the evening with friends (at a brewery, who would have guessed). Went Friday morning at 9 AM.

My initial reaction was: This is my favorite Star Wars film yet, even over “The Empire Strikes Back”. Seeing it again tomorrow evening and will add my thoughts afterwards…

Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. If you’ve watched any of the previous Marvel’s Avengers series of films you recall the love-hate relationship that developed between Thor and The Hulk. Everyone remembers the scene where Thor is smugly gloating about how well the two fought a group of aliens in New York before Hulk “smashes” Thor in the head (out of spite?).

Ragnarok expands on their relationship further after a series of unexpected family drama events leads Thor to a garbage planet (let’s call it New Jersey) where he must fight their champion, roman gladiator style. On first blush the film is all romp, humor and action with a tiny bit of plot. I have seen it described as a farce of a film, and that is a fair assessment. It is nice to see the two fighters of the Avengers doing what they do best without the smug Tony Stark or super-pure Steve Rogers involved.

This actually feels more like a summer blockbuster film than fall lead-in to Thanksgiving. But that’s not bad thing! The overall arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe story is advanced a bit in the bonus scene post-trailer, and I enjoyed watching the CGI fighting. It’s like a 21st century comic book!

Brawl In Cell Block 99

Brawl In Cell Block 99
Brawl In Cell Block 99

I watched Brawl In Cell Block 99 last Friday night at Alamo Drafthouse’s satellite Fantastic Fest event in Denver. The short plot summary for the film is “A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.” The summary leaves out the best part of the film, though: gruesome violence.

Vince Vaughn departs from his comic roles here as a former boxer who takes a job delivering drugs for a buddy. When a deal goes badly he ends up in prison and must make choices that are not that great. Any more details might spoil the plot. If you are squeamish or can’t handle gore and violence this film is not for you… the film was released unrated for a reason.

I was impressed by Vaughn’s acting abilities here and hope to see more of this type of role for him in the future.

Mother!

Mother! poster
Mother!

So. This film is not for everyone. Its symbolism will lose a lot of viewers and the allegorical references to the Bible and Christianity will put others off. It’s a wild ride and one of the few films I’ve seen in a long time that made me think about it over the ensuing few days.

Some of the characters are nuanced and others are clear-cut. Only Darren Aronofsky knows for sure who each of them represent — the audience is left to (hopefully) interpret his creation and decide for themselves.

Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West poster
Ingrid Goes West

Another great, quirky film starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen exploring the cult of online personality. Aubrey really conveys the zealous fervor of following an online persona and wanting to become friends in real life… until it all crashes down on her.

Highly recommended.

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower

 

I loved Stephen King’s Dark Tower series of novels when I was younger.  I was excited to see an attempt at adapting them to the big screen and hoped that big-name actors such as Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey would end up presenting a good, if not great, film.

Unfortunately the studio, director and writers decided to cram as much of several of the books into a single 98 minute film.  Time was spent on details that would only please the hardcore book nerds at the expense of the overall story.  For example, there is a reference to the Crimson King but nothing is made of it.

I think the biggest mistake was trying to make the film the story of Jake, probably for the YA audience demographic, instead of focusing on Roland.  Other characters were missing (Oy, the billy-bummer) yet still alluded to.

If you had not read any of the Dark Tower series the film is not bad in itself.  It’s just not the story I grew up reading and that’s a difficult thing to ignore.

I’ll get over it.

War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For the Planet Of The Apes poster at Alamo Drafthouse Littleon
War For the Planet Of The Apes poster at Alamo Drafthouse Littleon

If you like sci-fi monkey movies this one’s for you.

Despite great performances from motion-captured actors like Andy Serkis and Steve Zahn, it’s still CG. The violence against “animals” (and people) is easy enough to dismiss as fake but it still makes one question why we can’t all just get along and need to bring guns in as a solution. I suppose that’s the point of a “War” film, though, and I guess you have to write to the most common denominator in your audience demographic.

At least the writers tried to make the script interesting and I admit I didn’t see the twist with Woody Harelson’s character coming until right as it occurred. That twist does attempt to explain a certain aspect of the films (both this new trilogy series and the original series from the seventies). I appreciate attention to details when it doesn’t hit you over the head.

Harelson’s Colonel character is one of the few non-CG actors in the film, although his scenes try too hard to paint him as crazed and “off the rails” and the dialogue falls flat. The script does tie up this whole Planet trilogy to a point where there doesn’t need to be another film (or series of films)… but you know Hollywood: there will be at least three more.

Bottom line: good summer entertainment as long as you are not expecting more than CG apes blowing shit up.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-man Homecoming
Spider-man Homecoming

I wasn’t sure the world needed another Spider-Man reboot… but was I wrong. Marvel has pulled Peter Parker into their Cinematic Universe with the assistance of cross-over appearances by Tony Stark, Pepper Pots, Happy Hogan and even Steve Rodgers. Peter Parker does exactly what any other fifteen year old boy would do when given supernatural strength and reflexes (as well as the ability to climb walls and ceilings… somehow): worry about impressing his crush.

While the origin of Spider-Man is implied and only mentioned briefly during conversation, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is young, sassy, impetuous and nervous — exactly the right combination for a Spider-Man feature film. You care about the boy and his journey into becoming a super hero, with all the responsibilities that entails.

There’s humor through most of the film in the vein of most of the recent Marvel films and it certainly helps the audience enjoy the journey. One of the Marvel execs recently told a reporter that humor is their hook into the audience’s attention, which they’ve successfully done here.

Marvel is firing on all cylinders lately and this latest entry doesn’t disappoint. I predict this will be one of the more successful summer movies of the year, especially given some of the competition (Wonder Woman, for example, and the excellent Baby Driver).

True Spider-Man comic nerds will appreciate the hidden (and sometimes obscure) references in the script to future villains and other characters in the Spider-Man history. And in true Marvel film spirit there are two post-credits “bonus” scenes. It pays to have patience