Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

Spoilers.

The least spoilery thing I can say to sum it up is: It's the same basic fan-servicing Marvel that we've been seeing recently -- but something's different, because I enjoyed watching it this time! But yeah, I'm not even going to try, friends. There are definitely spoilers here!

Endgame: the big secret. The actors knew nothing; no information was released during marketing; and fans go to extreme lengths to avoid spoilers before release day. Even I did it the "right" way and achieved about 97% blindness. And still. Not one thing was legitimately surprising. Maybe if I'd gotten an out of context spoiler, sure; but within the narrative of the movie, there were no shocks, or plot twists, or anything that you'd expect to be kept secret -- save for the mere two deaths. The OG Avengers use time-travel to bring back the dusted, defeat Thanos, and pass their torches to the next wave. Pleasantly straightforward.

I should probably mention that this doesn't help me look at Infinity War in an any better light. I wondered for a year if it might, but no.

Yep. I had fun. The time travel aspect was super comic book-y and cheesy in a nice way. They must steal the Infinity Stones from their past selves in previous movies and the Back to the Future Part II vibe was solid fodder for superheroing. Sometimes not used to potential; other times smart, neat, and fulfilling to the characters' individual stories. And the final showdown battle finally took this series to the scale at which they've always wanted to exist. Like comics brought to life. And when the ultra-high stakes come in (Thanos planning to kill them all) you instantly know the heroes are in for a satisfying win, so it's easy to settle back and soak it all up.

Tony is the most focused-on character. Fitting, since he has an ultimate end -- and started it all. He gets to marry Pepper, have a little girl, live a briefly happy life, have a restoring man-to-man with his dad, and then die a hero's death saving the whole universe. Nice. Cap was my personal favorite. Since time travel now exists, he lives out a normal life with Peggy. Nothing could be more satisfying. And I realize this is fan-service, with no veil or pretense attempted. I was primed to be okay with that fact by the continuous pulling out of the rug from under my hopes of simple enjoyment, and don't care if it worked. These were thoughtful ends that the characters deserved. About time they received them.

Throwback to when these two were the GOAT.

Even Natasha's death felt earned and meaningful. Her and Clint's friendship was one of the first things I fell in love with in these movies, and that scene they had together made it all conclude in a way that felt natural and right. The scene mirrors Gamora's Infinity War death, even with the same music, yet inverts aspects in profound ways. They fight each other out of love, which has never happened in the MCU before. The sad tone was uplifting, and the emotion unforced. Long-established and consistent characters dealt with respectfully. Strange to think that after using movie after movie to point forward to the next with relentless ferocity -- actual, final ends are given here.

But it's not all satisfying lovey-dovey goodbyes. There's Beer-Belly Thor, which is by far the worst iteration of Thor even conceived. The weight (unintended) of the abject failure he feels could have been so powerful were he not turned into a joke. The scene with his mother was nearly good even with that looming over it. On top of that, the "joke" isn't funny. I'd like to say nonsensical too, but I have no proof, so I'll just say it annoyed me -- especially after Thor was the greatest redeeming factor of Infinity War. I've always liked original Thor Thor best, so I wasn't expecting much... but that was just insulting.

Animated humanoids like Hulk and Thanos are impressive, but still fail to draw me in -- even in the way cyborgs and small CGI creatures do. 

I could devote a similar paragraph to Star-Lord, but I'll limit it to this: I hate, loathe, and despise what these films have turned Quill into. It makes me angry in a way that fictional things shouldn't, and this movie was the worst offender. The only mercy is his limited screen time. On the flip side, Nebula has never been more complex and involving. She continues to earn her spot on the team. Scott had the highest ups and the lowest downs: His reunion with Cassie had some of the most genuine MCU acting I've ever seen; and the time travel test was the "joke" that would never end. Yes indeed, the Marvel-brand jokes are still here, and bland as ever. It's impressive how deftly they skirted around Paul Rudd's comic abilities.

It's like the outline of the story had effort, with a nice and plain three act structure that kept the pace going, and thought-out building on past scenes -- but then the details were filled in by an MCU bot. Every tidbit and third line were a callback, and the rest stuffing. The dramatic scenes work by sheer force of will from the actors as they push real emotion through dialogue lacking any written personality. The Marvel-brand green screen and overly-CGI'd pastiness is at large too. The initial swell of the battle did have nice imagery with the portals though, and Vormir appeals, green-screened as it is. I genuinely liked one shot: the last one of Clint sitting in the water with the soul stone.

I thought it was nice how the movie was more or less bookended by farewell speeches from Tony. There is muddling around, but ultimately there's a simple, solid structure.

This movie exists because of past successes, like a greatest hit episode; no legs of its own to stand on, but enjoyable, nevertheless. Exactly what we expect from Marvel -- packaged as a tribute to those who got it started. The effort is nearly derailed by cringe jokes and mountains of CGI: There's lots of filler, lots of worthlessness, and lots that's recycled from the deep, deep, rut that Marvel has dug for itself. Sadly creative ruts aren't a factor for Marvel anymore. Their oodles of cash isn't earned due to quality craft, but to calculated marketing; and with these loyal fans, and the ability to fabricate and promote empty secrets, any kind of slop could've played on that screen and made the same amount of money.

Fortunate, then, that the slop they played for us was a relatively good time, made for pure, widespread enjoyment, and was relatively respectful; serving founding characters with one last dose of genuine progress and a hearty farewell. Almost not slop at all, at heart. Despite shortcomings and extended lapses into stupidity, at least there's a story here, used for the satisfying completion of the journeys of long-beloved characters. Despite everything, I'm glad I got to see the Avengers assemble for one last hurrah.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Spoiler-free!

When Toby (Adam Driver) was in film school, he made a student film in Spain and cast locals to act. Among them was a shoemaker (Jonathan Pryce) who really became Don Quixote in the role, and a girl (Joana Ribeiro) with whom Toby had an innocent fling. Ten years later Toby is in Spain again, filming another iteration of Quixote -- this time for a vodka commercial. He's having an affair with The Boss's (Stellan Skarsgård) wife (Olga Kurylenko), flirting with the script girl whose name he can't remember, and is, on the whole, a careless money-obsessed cynic.

I guess that means it's time for life-restoring adventures!

He happens upon a copy of his old film, discovers that the village he shot in is nearby, goes for a visit to revel in the simpler, more romantic time in his life, and discovers that everything's changed and it's all his fault. For one, the girl, encouraged by his insistence that she could make it big, set off to do so and instead fell into prostitution. And the old shoemaker? He went crazy and never stopped acting like he was Don Quixote. In fact, he really believes he really is Don Quixote de la Mancha -- and when he sees Toby again, he mistakes him for his squire Sancho. Next thing Toby knows, he's off having quixotic adventures with the old man, in the bizarre and fantastic fever-dream style of Terry Gilliam.

I'm no expert on Terry Gilliam's writing/directing style, but this feels like him through and through -- and whether you'll enjoy it probably rides on whether or not you enjoy that specific style. You might enjoy it a little more of you like, say, Adam Driver, who's great, and why wouldn't you like a movie more for his presence? But Gilliam's style is so present and has to be the ultimate deciding factor. If you've seen Brazil, it felt like a modern fantasy version of that to me. There's darkness and comedy, relentless craziness, and brief, valuable moments of sincerity; all tightly packed together. It honestly did feel like experiencing a fever-dream.

Like. Honestly. It's WEIRD.

I enjoy fever dreams because they're completely bonkers logically, but you accept their premises without a second thought. But they also get frustrating easily, and this film lines up there, too. I did watch it twice because my rental was for a week, and so I should say that the second viewing was much more relaxed. I noticed great details embedded in the hectic frames. Still, besides the initial crazed vibe, most of the episodic adventures of the second act give off a persistent ambling feeling -- like all the pointless rabbit trails that prevent you from getting to your dream's goal. Once the third act gets going though, everything focuses again and delivers on all the first act's promises.

And even in that middle section there are great moments, both of the comic and the dramatic variety. The comedy is mostly the natural result of the extravagant and ridiculous situations Toby gets into, but there were a few particular lines or visual gags that felt like real comedy and made me laugh. Everything happens a such a relentless pace, it often verged on losing me completely -- but right before that would happen it always seemed to stop for a quiet moment, just brief enough do I could take a breath and it was off again. It was impressive how it kept up energy, but at the same time runs the risk of losing the less determined viewers along the way.

Yeah, it's crazy. Decidedly crazy. But it's distinctly charming too.

Funny Adam Driver is a blast. He's the straight man to Jonathan Pryce's dramatic lunatic and their developing dynamic is both interesting and amusing. But sincere, romantic Adam Driver is why I'm here. Toby's arc of restoring chivalry to his life is what holds all the wacky adventures together, and Driver sometimes turns on a dime from silly to deep, and then back again. Anyone who's seen the new Star Wars series knows he has talent, but he's seriously wasted on action-heavy blockbusters. This movie is physical and practically the definition of "hijinks ensued" but because of the small scale, it never distracts too much from the characters involved. 

It was great seeing him and Pryce pair up and constantly dominate the screen. And while Driver is fantastic, Pryce absolutely gets lost in the role. I technically knew it was Jonathan Pryce of course, but there was never even a flicker in which I saw him as such. He was this bizarre old man, Don Quixote. And he was the shy and weary shoemaker. I'm sure the appearance and costumes helped his cause, but no matter how you slice it, this is character acting at its finest. Joana Ribeiro as Angelica the girl impresses too, and Stellan Skarsgård and Olga Kurylenko plenty fun, but don't have particularly intricate roles. 

This is the Driver and Pryce show. 

Not a film that will appeal to all. It's crusty and covered in dried mud -- like Toby's face -- but it seems the more I familiarize myself with it, the less the relentless craziness feels abrasive and overwhelming, and the more the sweetness and character moments feel warm; and the more the detailed humor becomes apparent. I guess it's the sort of movie that you have to be willing to invest a little time into. There's a lot to unpack, a lot to love, and a lot that's just overly prominent packaging. A facade that tones down as investment deepens.

Not everyone will be willing to put the time in, and the rewards may vary. But hey, Terry Gilliam was invested for thirty years, bringing this story to life. After all that, the two hours and twelve minutes it takes to experience the result is nothing short of a grand, adventuresome privilege. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Kid Who Would Be KIng

Spoiler-free!

The Arthurian legend, reworked for modern pre-teens, rife with charming messages of chivalry, understanding and forgiveness, moral codes, and standing up against the forces of evil! A classic kid's movie in that it's made with kids purely in mind, yet made well and smartly enough that adults will get a good kick out of it, too.

Written and directed by Joe Cornish.

The new king is Alex, played by the son of Andy Serkis, Louis Ashbourne Serkis. Alex is a bit of a nerd but has a clear nobility and desire to do right, and Louis is comfortable on screen, playing both the drama and the comedy with engaging skill. His fellows are Dean Chaumoo as Bedders his best friend -- and Rhianna Dorris as Kaye and Tom Taylor (of The Dark Tower) as Lance, who are the school bullies to start out. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was how they joined sides and had to learn to work together despite their long past of dislike and cruelty. While most films glorify retribution against bullies, this one sees them as humans with their own hurts, in need of a little grace and patience.

Also on the good side, and there to guide the children, is the wizard Merlin, played by two. Patrick Stewart takes him on from time to time to use his gravitas and wise-sounding voice to get across a particularly dramatic moment, but most of the time he is played by Angus Imrie when he takes teenage form. This guy is the more characterized version of the character, and is, to be perfectly honest, my absolute favorite thing about the movie altogether. His quirky appearance and energetic persona are wonderfully otherworldly and hilarious, he gets all the scene-stealing laugh-lines, and the hand motions he does to do magic is brilliant. (Doctor Strange eat your heart out!) Oh, and he sneezes to turn into an owl.

As much as I like him, I think it would've been better off if Patrick Stewart hadn't been there at all. 

The threat comes from villainess Morgana played in whispering dramatics by the lovely Rebecca Ferguson. She does her best to chew scenery, but ultimately doesn't have enough physical screen time to make a real impression as a character. But the threat she poses is enough, and her fiery army of undead skeletons that attack nightly are more than enough to keep up excitement. They're CGI, and passable in design, but the real great aspect of their appearances is the clever sequences designed around them. There's no possibility of epic hand to hand combat since the heroes are normal kids played by kids, so instead there are genuinely thought-out sequences with smart solutions to the attacks.

Also impressively smart is the script as a whole. The humor isn't rude or cheap for kiddie's laughs or overly fabricated. There are funny situations and not everything is forced into being a joke. This natural humor slides effortlessly in and out with the drama which is catered to be engaging and sympathetic to the younger crowd. (For me, I merely enjoyed it, not feeling much personal connection.) The plot takes some directions that I didn't expect, but always seemed to go in the most exciting direction. It hits classic storytelling beats, keeps the fun going at pace, and ends up climatically.

It gives off classic adventure vibes, like the fodder of my childhood.

It reminds me of a good and successful version of A Wrinkle In Time -- except in fantasy adventure instead of scifi adventure. But where AWIT was so bogged down in teachable moments that it never took a single step off the ground, The Kid Who Would be King soars in adventuresome glee. It has fun telling a classic story, and teaches some great, universal lessons along the way too. And though it wouldn't be at all a pain for most adults to sit through, it's not a movie for adults. I don't have anything bad to say about it, because I think it was what it wanted to be -- and wanted to be what it should have been. But it's for me ten to fifteen years ago, not now.

Now all I can hope is that the kids who would fall for it today get a chance to see it and take its unifying themes to heart as they enjoy the questful ride. Actually, there is one reaction I would've had back in the day that I still had -- I desperately want to learn how to do Merlin's Magic Hand Choreography!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Perfect Date

Spoiler-free!

The newest team-up between Netflix and Noah Centineo, and this time Noah is the lead instead of the love interest! Brooks is about as poor as a high school student in a rom-com can be. Read: his car is beat up and his dad can't afford his college dreams. He dreams of being Ivy League and spends all his effort in looking good to them. So much so that he's never really developed a personality of his own.

Besides being a super nice and caring person. His fatal flaw is that he's oblivious when it suits the script!

This manifests into situational comedy when he takes his frenemy's cousin Celia (Laura Marano) to a school dance for pay. Light-bulb: an app where girls in need of a respectable chaperone can hire him and choose his personality. Cue hilarious outfit montage. The money helps with paying for Yale, but he still needs to get in. And when he sees the lovely Camila Mendes, he decides a girlfriend would be nice, too. Can he do it all without pushing away the grumpy but honest Celia and his best friend Murph (Odiseas Gerogiadis)?

Well, you can probably predict the way it all goes from there. But you probably also know that the point of movies like this is not the final destination, but how charming the journey can be. Most movies would have to worry about their scripts and scenes, polishing them until the lines and the situations are as cute as humanly possible, cross their fingers and hope it comes across well on screen. But this movie has Noah Centineo, and Noah Centineo has good chemistry with everyone and is incapable of reading assembly instructions for a bookcase without sounding energetic and charming. So, this script was average rom-com fare. Good premise, nothing special in content; but one good casting decision later, it's a guaranteed win.

You know it's true.

There was one point in the movie where Brooks is on a date with a girl he's clearly meant to not have any chemistry with. Awkward pauses galore, and neither character really picks up on the vibe of the other or understands what they're saying -- and yet -- watching it you get a distinct feeling that they get along and are comfortable in the moment. I had to laugh at that. None of the other characters were anything special, but there's innate enjoyment to be had in watching Noah interact with anyone. I liked the idea of the grumpy girl too, to balance his happiness, but ultimately there wasn't much power behind her. The best scenes were between Brooks and his dad (Matt Walsh).

Plot-wise there were a few memorable moments, and a few that were frustrating -- in the normal, misunderstanding, unrealistic, fabricated but harmless rom-com way -- but mostly it was nondescript. I've seen four Noah Centineo movies off Netflix: To All the Boys I've Loved Before is a stand out; Sierra Burgess is a Loser tries extremely hard and is unique though flawed; SPF-18 is terrible, but at least hilariously so; and this, while perfectly enjoyable, is also the least remarkable of all.

"Least remarkable" Noah Centineo movie; still worthy of a recommendation. 

Fans of the genre and fans of the actor will have a fun time. It could've been improved by leaning harder into the premise, which was the unique aspect, and by cutting the more unrealistic moments, but I won't lose any sleep over wasted potential. It had plenty of cute moments and a few genuine and sweet ones too; and had me happy and actually laughing at the humor throughout. Not the perfect date, but with its goal to please a broad audience instead of personalizing for one, it's close enough.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

I Wrote a Novel! (Read the 1st Chapter)

Yes, I did. It feels weird to brag on myself, but I guess I'm going for it -- because I'm a little proud for actually doing it this time. I've always loved the idea of novel-writing and have always had some kind of story rattling around in my brain. (The reason I have this blog in the first place is because of how much I love stories!) I've tried many times to put the ideas to paper (or computer screen) and in every single instance I don't think I've gotten past the first chapter.

And that's why I kept this one on the down-low. I didn't even mention it to my family until I had finished the first draft! I kept wondering, what if it fizzles out. But I recently finished the third draft and now, whether I ever get it published or not, it feels complete to me and like I've finally accomplished a long-pursued goal.

Honestly, all credit to God because I don't even know how exactly I did it. It's strange to think it came out of my head...

I started it in July of 2017. I remember that easily because after seeing Spider-Man Homecoming, there was a detail in Tom Holland's Peter Parker that inspired my main character to become real to me. A premise and a shadow of the character had been there for a while, and all at once it clicked; I had a beginning, an end, and a character. I started writing, worried it would fizzle out like all the others, but I used Andy Weir's (The Martian) advice and drove the plot (and my own interest) by pushing the character into hard situations and trying to get him out. Somehow in that manner I made it to the end, looked back, and saw a clear three-act structure, characters I cared about, and scenes that I enjoyed reading.

It took about a month to finish the first draft at 35,000 words. The second draft was 45,000 words and had less plot holes; and this third is 64,000 words with some intentional pacing and a re-worked third act.

Unfortunately, in all that time, I never thought of the perfect title. But I take it as a good sign because all my unfinished projects had hard-and-fast titles and little else.

The story was inspired by film re-imaginings of fairytales I'd seen. Leave it to me to be inspired by things I didn't like! I did, however, like the idea of them, and kept thinking about ways to re-imagine them that would be interesting. To me at least -- I won't presume my take will be interesting to everyone, either. I just wanted to make a fairytale re-imagining that I personally would want to see. There are some distinct Sleeping Beauty elements present, but the more I wrote the more I separated from the classic tales in actual content. The central idea was that I didn't want the "sleeping beauty" to be the main character.

The result is a low-fantasy thriller set in 1920's America. Destin Reinhardt, on the verge of turning eighteen and inheriting a vast fortune, must get through a brief stay at the decrepit Briar Mansion; a boarding school for orphans. With the tempting legend that surrounds the place, and his own worrying spirit, he plows into a danger from which escape means either he, or it, must come to an absolute end.

And with that, I'd like to invite you to read the first chapter! I feel very much inside my own head here, and would love some outside perspective. If you'd like to read just for enjoyment or curiosity you're more than welcome, but if you'd be so wonderful as to take the time to share any and all thoughts you have on it, I'd be eternally grateful! Compliments and constructive criticism are equally welcome -- but mostly I would simply like to know if you'd be interested in reading more.

Thanks so much for your indulgence and time in reading even this! Click here, or on the home bar tab marked "Chapter One of My Novel" to read!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Unicorn Store

Spoilers.

Kit loves sparkles and pastel colors and unicorns. And art! She goes to college and takes a class from a prestigious professor, known for his photo-realistic paintings of cardboard boxes with sticks propped inside them. Wow. One day a class does self-portraits, everyone standing by their work to show its accuracy. Kit covers herself in glitter and paint... then the canvas... and then the wall around the canvass. Then, as one of the judges shakes his head and gives her low marks, her childish smile turns to hurt confusion.

The solution here is obvious: don't take that art class, woman! Find one that fits you!

The whole movie takes this over the top naive stance on self-expression. If you can get past, accept, or suspend your belief for an hour and thirty-one minutes as scenario by scenario goes by in this fashion, you may get a thing or two out of this movie. One is enjoyment, plain and simple. This is the easiest. The other is a message. The movie is certainly trying to convey one, but your mileage may vary. For me, I occasionally suspended belief and got a decent amount of enjoyment out of Brie Larson's rather vain foray into the directing world.

There really is a decent amount of charm here and it had me laughing out loud on occasion -- you know, those singular "HA"'s that burst out from time to time -- because of the cynical and frustrated yet naive worldview the movie and Kit have. There are quite a few good lines and ridiculous scenarios to mine, so even when they're not rich they give out plenty. Larson has good delivery, and surrounds herself with genuinely funny people like the comic genius Bradley Whitford, Joan Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, even Karan Soni, and Mamoudou Athie, the resident newbie, fits in with the humor level. There are also a few noticeable moments of creative directing, and nothing comes across as particularly awkward, once you get past the premise.

When has Joan Cusack or Bradley Whitford ever not made something better by their presence? 

At the core of this movie is supposed to be a girl -- a woman who's still a child, who still wants childish things and clings to her girlish dreams, but knows that something is wrong and needs to change. I can get behind that. She's self-centered and ignores the good things she has in pursuit of what she thinks she needs -- the unicorn. (Oh yeah, Samuel Jackson is trying to sell her one, but she had to prove herself worthy first. That's the plot.) But she doesn't need a unicorn per se, she just needs love, and for some reason doesn't notice that's something she already has and is merely pushing away.

The journey to her discovering this should be easy enough, but it gets muddled up in its own tangle of sequins and rainbow-colored streamers. Distracted by how cutesy it is, and how magical its premise is. And by bemoaning how art degrees are useless and boring jobs are boring and full of awful people. If I cared about all those things, it might've had an excuse in my eyes. But I didn't. We know she won't end up with a unicorn, yet the movie is so intent on the magical idea of it that it waits for the last possible second for her to realize and decide so; robbing her of a much more heroic moment of self-denial that would have completed her arc in an honestly fulfilling way.

Also, why the aversion to romance? I liked her and Not Pictured Boyfriend Material. But they barely held hands! 

In the end, I wasn't sure if she learned her lesson or not. We assume so, because it's the end, a cute song is playing and she's happy -- but while I spent the whole movie knowing exactly what the theme was aiming to say, the credits started scrolling by and I realized it never actually said it. Not outright, and not in passing. I derived it from the set-up, but in the end only saw the empty space where it was meant to go. I'm not sure what happened or where it got lost, but the mildly funny and charming journey was all there was. Cute enough in a pinch, but lacking true magic.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Shazam!

Spoiler-free!

The DCEU is slowly finding its feet. When Aquaman came out I was hoping they'd grow away from trying to copy the dead-though-profitable Marvel formula, and now Shazam! -- a movie with an exclamation point in its title about a foster kid who is endowed with the power of the gods by a wizard in order to defeat the seven deadly sins incarnate -- is their most on-brand and unique offering yet.

Keep going DCEU! Embrace your qualities! The ridiculousness and the darkness alike! Be yourself!

Unfortunately, unique doesn't necessitate good, and this flick has its share of missteps. But here's the difference between the MCU and the DCEU these days: MCU films are an even flat line of quality; middling, but steady across the board. DCEU films have ups and downs of quality so that it's maybe lower on average than the MCU line, but because of the fluctuation it hits highs from time to time that give it life. Much like a heartbeat. And Shazam! is a perfect example of this heart monitor effect. On the low side there's things like overcooked jokes and boring fight scenes that at best add nothing to the film and at worst take time away from the upper side, where Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a superhero looking for a family and a purpose and Don't Stop Me Now plays in training montages.

At the top of the highs always seem to be Billy and his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) and even their other foster siblings too. Billy is reluctant to settle down with them for understandable reasons and I thought it was very cute how uncomfortable the family feels at first and yet settles into a warm place without changing any of the characters. Like the mom and dad's cheesiness. They become endearing naturally. Zachary Levi's super-sized version of Billy is complicated. I liked what he was doing -- he has great comic delivery, was goofy and charming, and then compelling when he needed to be -- but he didn't always match Billy's character in the way Asher portrays him. The kid version acts more maturely than the adult, and the inconsistency bothered me.

If only Asher had more goofy scenes and Zac had more serious scenes. Just to match them more closely.

I also enjoyed Mark Strong's villain for the most part. They took time to develop him into an evil place, but once they got him there, they let him fall through the cracks. Still he is Mark Strong; so he's consistently cool. His horde of demon-eyed monsters does body-slam the film's tone into surprising darkness a few times -- but I didn't mind the tonal shifts in themselves; the problem was that the shifting was clunky and jarring, not that darkness was inappropriate in the story. A good balance of seriousness and goofiness can be very effective, but this movie doesn't balance them so much as it's continually trading one for the other. Whenever it brings both sides together it works much better and fulfills its purpose of bringing stakes to the plot.

I guess this movie has a balancing problem overall. It has good comedy and it has great drama, but it doesn't know how to make it meld or when to stop pushing. The first act was conducive to the comedy and that's where the best stuff is. Then the third act naturally needs more of the drama, and again, it delivers. But the second act is a mess in trying to transition the plot into the big showdown, while also spending every possible second in Big-style "superhero" stuff, where Billy is just Zac in nerdy goof-off mode. This might've been fixed by having Billy and Mark Strong meet sooner, but it's hard to tell. There was an awful lot of wasting time going that I would've loved to see used for more streamlined character-furthering purposes.

Did I say that Jack Grazer was a highlight? Because he was. Also, Adam Brody shows up for a little while and I enjoyed that very much.

The fight sequences were mostly DCEU-patented punching and slamming and flying around without much repercussion. But emphasis on mostly. In the end they always seem to come around to a compelling or smart conclusion, so all the CGI punching is just more empty entertainment padding. I get why there's so much of it, but I liked the characters, story, and important moments so much that I kept wishing for more of that, even if it meant shorter battle sequences. Never been much for those anyway. But I'd much rather wait out a quick fight scene or two than have the whole movie be a cold product, and since Shazam! delivers on the heart consistently throughout, I was never left wanting for long.

It's kind of a mess, throwing everything and the kitchen sink into a bottle and flossing to shake. A lot of it doesn't mix and it often gets distracted by how much fun it's having. It is fun though; charming, sweet, funny, freaky as all get out, mythical and magical yet grounded, and populated with lovable characters. It has all the pieces, and just doesn't know exactly how to assemble them in the most efficient and effective way. But it never forgets about the heart -- and that's what makes it super. SHAZAM!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Upcoming Movie Roundup - April

Alrighty! In March I saw Captain Marvel as expected. Found it pretty unremarkable (review here). And sadly didn't get to see The Kid which I was hoping to be able to. I did watch Triple Frontier because it was on Netflix, and it was good enough to make an enjoyable watch, but I didn't have anything to say about it, so I didn't review it.

The biggest surprise though, was that I went to see Five Feet Apart, and not only that, but I really, really liked it! And not just in a typical teen romance kind of way. It was good in ways that surpassed the genre. But it also fit the genre too. It was a great balance of cheesy romance, real emotions, and informative of Cystic Fibrosis that worked without any element stepping on the toes of the others. (review here!)

I'm still annoyingly interested in seeing Dumbo too, but no one want to see it with me. Sad days. Anyway, April is shaping up nicely! If all goes to plan more than a few of these movies should be a good time! So what looks good to you?


Shazam!
April 5th; PG-13
My most anticipated of the month is first! Zachary Levi, Jack Grazer, Mark Strong... I haven't seen the kid who plays Billy before, but I bet he's good too. I admit, the trailer got tiresome when it first came out, but since my excitement has steadily been building regardless, and all the positive early reviews are only making me more pumped! The idea of making Big into a superhero movie seems like a ton of fun, and I'm looking forward to a superhero flick that isn't a boring slog for a nice change. The DCEU has had its downs but it's capable of great heights too, and I get a feeling this one's going up!




Pet Sematary
April 5th; R
I dunno, maybe someday, but definitely not in theaters. Honestly, I'm not over Hereditary yet, and need some more time before seeing legit scary movies again. Or maybe the way to fix it IS to see some better scary movies! I heard somewhere this is the scariest Stephen King adaptation yet. It does look good, and generally my speed. Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz (of Stranger Things) star.




High Life
April 5th(limited); R
Robert Pattinson and his daughter, Mia Goth and other what? Criminals? In space? I keep an eye on all scifi movies, so this is here. But somehow, I get the impression that it isn't exactly what I'd want it to be. Looks pretty though.




The Wind
April 5th(limited); R
Another horror movie, and this one seems more supernatural, which isn't so much my horror speed. I do like the lonely setting and the richly low-key tone though. Will consider, if the opportunity arises...




Unicorn Store
April 5th; NR
Brie Larson's directorial debut, on Netflix, with her Captain Marvel buddy Samuel L. Jackson too. I feel like I'll definitely watch this, mostly out of curiosity and because it's on Netflix so it's free. The plot doesn't instantly appeal to me, but it could be interesting. Or it could be frilly nonsense. I guess we'll find out!!




Hellboy
April 12th; R
I just recently realized that my liking the Guillermo Del Toro version is kinda an "unpopular opinion" or maybe the people who didn't like it are just being extra hard on it in anticipation of liking this one more. I mean, it's rated R, so what could go wrong, right?? Well, that sounds fine to me, but I honestly didn't notice anything lacking in Del Toro's, and this one won't have his eye for visuals or practical effects. It's looks CGI, and less than spectacular. Also seems a bit cheap script-wise with several lame jokes in the trailer, but Del Toro's was no masterpiece on that score either. It does have David Harbour... in place of Ron Perlman. Seems like a toss-up there. If it gets good reviews though, I wouldn't be surprised if I went to see it.




Missing Link
April 12th(limited); PG
It's stop-motion animation. I don't care what it's about: I'll see it. But it's about some Bigfoot-type creature, apparently. And the cast is great: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Emma Thompson, Zach Galifianikis, and Stephen Fry. Doesn't look like the best stop-motion ever, with the dumb jokes, but like I said. I'll give it a chance!




Teen Spirit
April 12th; PG-13
This is like the kind of movie that I'll always be interested in but never actually buckle down and watch. It looks great, I love the neon and the style... but plot-wise, there's this dread that it'll go the way it appears to be that might keep me away. Elle Fanning tries to become a teen music idol.




Stockholm
April 12th(limited); R
Yeah, I guess it looks pretty funny in a pleasantly dark way, and it's got Ethan Hawke, Mark Strong, and Noomi Rapace. I guess this is the real-life situation that started the whole Stockholm syndrome thing? All I know is that this is the sort of thing I might or might not ever watch, depending on if the mood strikes and there's nothing better to do.




The Perfect Date
April 12th; NR
Hahaha, yes, please! Noah Centineo rents himself out to high school girls in need of chaperones. So... like... a PG escort service. The premise alone makes me laugh. It's Netflix, it's a teen rom-com. You know I'm on board.




The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
April 19th(limited); NR
Is this for real? Is it actually coming? I feel like this movie doesn't actually exist and we're just getting duped right now. The biggest April Fools joke of all time or something. I know it has mixed reviews at the moment but I can't help being absolutely stoked -- it just looks exactly like my kind of deal. Jonathan Price, Adam Driver and Stellan Skarsgård. Terry Gilliam craziness hopefully. I don't know if and don't expect it to come to my theater, but I will definitely be seeing it at my earliest opportunity!




Under the Silver Lake
April 19th(limited); R
Another potential April Fools joke. This one I had in my upcoming post back in June of last year and I think it might actually be coming for real this time. Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough. At this point it's mostly the curiosity that's keeping me from forgetting it entirely.




Avengers: Endgame
April 26th; PG-13
Le sigh. My brother hasn't bought our tickets yet, but undoubtedly I'll be there opening night. I'm not dreading it, but I'm not excited either. There are things I think seem promising that I'll likely enjoy and other things that will almost certainly irritate me. At this point, it's par for the course with the MCU. The biggest event movie of the modern era, and my hype level is a resounding zero. Let's get it over with, so we can get back to Spider-Man.




Body at Brighton Rock
April 26th(limited); NR
This looks like quite the interesting little indie thriller. Obviously pretty cheap, but has a very solid premise of an inexperienced park ranger finding a body and having to wait with it for help to arrive. If they do the story well it won't matter at all if the production is cheap.