Category Archives: reviews
The big movie release of this past weekend, if I can believe the hype I’ve seen and the strong crowds I experienced, was the live action adaptation of the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated musical production is one of the most beloved in the Disney canon, winning Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, and becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The affection and nostalgia still attached to the animated film have made this year’s adaptation perhaps the most hotly anticipated live action Disney film of the past decade.
Join Lebeau and me as we discuss our own histories with the story and our reactions to the new film. There are mild spoilers here, but if you’ve seen the previous Disney film, the general story shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
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It’s very rare that the final entry in a series is the best. For proof of that, consider Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, The Godfather 3 or Jaws The Revenge. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Logan, the third and final effort in the solo Wolverine trilogy, is one of those. Of the three of those released between 2009 and now, it is by far the best. Included with the X-Men movies as a whole, it ranks near the top of that as well.
Since I saw a trailer for Get Out back in October of last year, I’ve been looking forward to Jordan Peele’s contribution to the horror genre. Knowing his background in comedy (he’s half of the duo Key And Peele, who had their sketch comedy show on Comedy Central) I expected a horror film with some humor. What it turned out to be was even better.
What if I told you the two biggest hit songs of 1987 were by Gregory Abbot and Billy Vera & the Beaters?
Well they were. The songs in question are “Shake You Down” and “At This Moment,” two tunes I haven’t given a second thought to in the intervening thirty years. If you had asked me to name the top hits of the year without doing any research I never would have thought of these two. Go a little further down the list and you’ll start to find artists you may associate more with the era, like Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, and Bon Jovi. If you know me well, you probably know that not many of those folks are likely to make my list of the best albums of the year from thirty years ago. If you don’t know me well, check out last year’s article about the Best Albums of 1986 and the previous year’s highlight of the top long-form recordings of 1985. That should drive the point home. Since I turned 17 in 1987, I not only developed some intense attachment to the popular art forms of the time, but I also learned a bit of distaste for the stuff that I found less appealing. I’m sure most people who take art seriously go through this at some point in time and over the next few years it would develop for me pretty significantly.
Despite this, you should find some of my choices for the best of 1987 to be accessible enough.
Take a deep breath and dive in!
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Poor Warren Beatty. The man hasn’t made a movie since Town & Country all the way back in 2001 and now he’s come back 15 years later for a passion project he’s wanted to do ever since the 70’s and…no one saw it. When I went to see it in the theater, I was literally the only person there and it was the pre-show. I also work at a movie theater and, when I took tickets one time, only three people went to see it. It seems that, unfortunately, the world has forgotten about Warren.
That being said, I wish I could say this is an underrated movie, an instant classic, and it’s a shame more people aren’t going to see it. I want to see the guy, after having hid out for all these years, come back with a great movie, maybe even a masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, his new movie isn’t that great. To be fair, though, it’s not awful, it’s just…uneven.
In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.
Okay, so this is a pretty big one, right? For decades now, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane has been one of the ultimate go-to answers amongst film critics and aficionados when asked about what is The Greatest Film of All Time. It has, in fact, held down the top spot on multiple high profile lists, including the American Film Institute’s top 100 lists of both 1998 and 2007 and for forty years in the critics Sight and Sound poll. Just last year, the movie was again pronounced the greatest American film of all time by a poll of critics from the BBC. Roger Ebert included it in his unranked list of his top ten films. For quite some time it was just the standard answer to the question, as if it was a foregone conclusion. But time is a funny thing, and Citizen Kane has actually gone through a wide re-evaluation…or two.
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Director: Ava DuVernay
Released on Netflix 10/7
No hero can outrun his origin story… not for long. Luke Cage was an anomaly in the superhero world for essentially picking up with Luke Cage as he was, but this couldn’t last for long. In fact, not much longer than the reluctant hero who just wants to be a normal person storyline. It should come then as no surprise that the 3rd and 4th episodes of Luke Cage fall right into place within these two tropes… and that’s not really a bad thing.
Somebody has to die. When you have a reluctant hero, you also know that some untimely death will be what springs them into action. Superhero tropes are becoming well-trodden only 20 years or so into the genre, and the stories themselves are struggling under the weight of them. However, a good performance can sell anything. Luke Cage did right by getting Frankie Faison.
With Westeros winding down HBO is looking for their next big-budget event series (True Detective shit that bed with the dour season 2), and have found it in Westworld. A remake/reimagining of Michael Crichton’s (Jurassic Park) uneven 1973 thriller with Yul Brynner. In reality, that film fits the remake bill perfectly: good ideas, bad execution. HBO has reportedly spent $100 million on this first season and enlisted the help of Jonathon Nolan (Person of Interest, brother of Chris) and a cast of talented actors to make it come to life.
Marvel’s Netflix partnership is now in its fourth season. So far, the quality has been a mixed bag. Daredevil went from a great first season that presented a dark, lived-in crime story with thought-provoking drama, strong characters, and strongly choreographed fight scenes to a second season that devolved into fantastical nonsense/magic storyline punctuated by unrealized potential in Punisher and the groan-inducing Elektra. Jessica Jones arrived with an outstanding first act to the season using a compelling villain, a strong (and still feminine) female hero, and an edgy metaphor for rape and abuse victims. This was bogged down by a weak middle act, bizarre character choices, and mostly salvaged by a solid ending. These shows have proven much more daring in content than the cookie-cutter Marvel films, even if the episode order should be more like 8-10 instead of the padded 13.
These shows will be culminating in The Defenders, a street level Avengers, that will see Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and possibly Punisher join forces. While we will still have to wait to see the latter two, we are now treated to Luke Cage. After making a memorable supporting turn in the JJ series, and proving he could yell, “sweet Christmas” and still seem cool, Mike Colter debuts his bulletproof hero for hire. The results are, predictably, mixed. The first episode is much too stodgy in its table-setting for the rest of the season, with clunky exposition and bad writing weighing down charming performances.