Sunday, September 29, 2019

In the Shadow of the Moon

Spoilers. Spoilers galore.

This movie starts out so well. Set in 1988 and starring Boyd Holbrook as a beat cop who latches onto a strange serial killer case, it's pulpy scifi noir, and I thought had a great chance of being one of my favorite pure-fun movies this year. But that was just the first five or ten minutes; by the time it ends, it's worked its way into being one of the most trite, self-righteous, garbage movies of the year instead.

It's like he's trying to do penance for being a man. Just keep elevating fun movies! Don't throw your career away on guilt-ridden garbage!

What caused the decline? As with most movies of recent days that have fantastic premises but flop into miserable piles of wasted opportunity, it boils down to an agenda. Films should have agendas; if they didn't, they'd never be anything but an unstructured mess of nothings. Most movies have an agenda to entertain, tell a meaningful story, or show a character grow into a better person. To be art! This movie's agenda? To promote an idea; the idea that some ideas should be restricted and punishable by death.

This movie says that if you could go back in time and kill baby Hitler, you should do that, but not even to stop there, but kill his family and anyone who might have influenced him. (Otherwise they may simply influence someone else into being "Hitler.") It declares that to be a moral good and doesn't ever offer a counterargument. We follow the lead down the rabbit hole as he chases a murder suspect who reappears every nine years. He grows older and falls further away from his daughter in his obsession, until finally he is taught -- like in a Sunday school lesson time -- that the murderer is good, and that he must accept her deeds as such because one day he will believe as she does, and be the one to teach it to her in the first place.

This is the Antifa version of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Plot twist! She's a time-traveler. And his granddaughter. When he first met her in '88, he killed her, and in 2015 when these realizations come, it is too late for him to fix anything, though she hasn't gone through it yet. Also, he's made a miserable life for himself and his daughter over the past 27 years, and none of his action resulted in anything. Understandably, he's upset. So, what happens after that? Nothing. He accepts it all like the good, contrived fictional character he is, and the film wraps up with a hopeful sermonette on the importance of saving the future by any means or some such BS.

Because the future is apocalyptic and the lead's granddaughter's mission is to kill just the right people in the past, whether they be innocent or guilty, to prevent the apocalypse. It's like if Skynet were presented as the good guys. They'd blame John Connor for the war (he did resist their takeover, after all!) and use that to justify killing Sarah Connor and anyone else who gets in the way. Their ultimate goal is to prevent a war! How could you possibly call that evil??

The movie aims to never allow the validity of their moral reasoning to come into question. There's no debate presented within the movie's pondering, and though the lead is crazed to stop the killer, he never argues with her once she explains her actions. She's clearly the twist good guy, and he is clearly just ignorant; misunderstanding the situation. This winds up hitting the movie's quality down from two directions. First, who is ever going to enjoy a movie where that boring monstrosity is the lead's arc? The film ends at his lowest point and he's never given a chance to overcome anything, decide anything, or have ultimate triumph. The "triumph" is taken from him and given to his granddaughter, who never earns her spot as hero.

Makes me want to watch The Predator. A dumb fun movie where he gets to be heroic. 

Secondly, it hits the movie from a messaging standpoint. These days all movies seem to have a message of some kind -- and by that I mean a meaning to takeaway that is intentionally added by the filmmakers. All good art has meaning of some kind, but I remember a day when that meaning was merely what the viewer saw in the art. And nowadays most films will add a little straw-man counter argument at least, so they can knock it down easily and make their message look even better. I suppose this movie was afraid of counterarguments. And well it should be; all it takes is for someone to point out that killing an innocent person is morally wrong, and the whole movie crumbles like a house of cards made of dry sand.

This whole movie is like if you were to cook a spaghetti noodle by dipping it incrementally deeper in the hot water. (The hot water is a metaphor for all this movie's indoctrinating hot air.) The end of the noodle you'd hold onto is the extremely solid premise and set-up. Then the longer the noodle soaks in the garbage water, the softer and limper it becomes until by the end it disintegrates into nothing -- overcooked until its structure fails.

The evil ideas on a pedestal here eat into every aspect of the movie. If they don't directly influence it, they distract from anything that could be worthwhile as the filmmakers clearly don't care about constructing a clever scifi mystery at all. The scifi and time-travel is a means to an end, never explained beyond a vague "the moon allows for it." They don't care about character, or they wouldn't have destroyed their lead to make their point. And they don't care about entertaining through world building or visuals or anything else. Good actors give lazy and contrived performances, and the action is messy, and unforgivably bland.

The antithesis of Minority Report. And Minority Report had the good grace to present the appeal of the other side.

I can ignore bad, even evil ideas if the rest of the movie is good and high-quality. I can even ignore if a movie is low-quality in technical aspects but at least has an entertaining story. I was open to forgive this movie's horrible progressively worsening slog of preaching and cheap storytelling; all it needed was to give me one solid thing to hold onto. One. It had a gigantic head start, being two sub-genres deep into my favorite genre, and starring someone who makes even the worst crap worth watching, playing a character set up with great potential.

How they lost it is almost beyond me. Almost. They failed and lost because even though their starting point was two steps away from a successful finish line, when the race began, they sprinted backwards. In the Shadow of the Moon is the sad and frustrating proof that any movie can ruin itself if it tries hard enough.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

On the GroupThink Podcast!

The other day I had the opportunity to be a guest on Tyler Hummel's (@AntiSocialCriti on Twitter) podcast -- something I've never done before -- and it was a great and different experience, discussing movies with my mouth instead of my fingers! I had a fantastic time having a nice, long conversation completely devoted to film.

We talk about the 2019 year of movies -- how it has shaped up so far, our specific highlights and low-lights, and what else we're looking forward to in the rest of the year. So if that sounds interesting, give it a listen below!


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ad Astra

Spoiler-free!

This intimate and lingering space drama begins with thrilling words for science fiction fans: "In the near future." We follow the endeavors of Major Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) astronaut, and son of legendary astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) as he does his duty, always steady, calm, and sure. Through a vaguely noir-like narration of inner dialogue, he tells us that his persona of contentment is a farce; he is frustrated, unfulfilled and despondent. He needs purpose.

Written and directed by James Grey, with Ethan Gross as a co-writer.

Then dangerous waves of energy begin to hit Earth from the direction of Neptune. 40 years ago, Roy's father was on mission there, directed to scan the distant galaxies for signs of intelligent life. But communication was lost and the crew presumed dead after 10 years. Now the high ups believe McBride may still be alive, and they task Roy with getting a message to him. To do that he must travel to the Mars outpost via the Moon, and the journey promises danger and hardships. That, Roy can handle. His dad being alive? He's not so sure.

The first big clue that I was in for a treat with this film was when the high ups are instructing Roy on his mission and they say that to avoid suspicion (yes, it's a secret mission) he will fly commercially to the Moon. As a tourist. As you do. Once there, Moon Pirates are involved in a chase over the Moon's surface. It's beautiful, it's thrilling, it's all I could have hoped for. And through it all Roy remains the focus as a fascinating character. He has a reputation for calm; his heart rate never rises over 80 BPM, even in intense, life-threatening situations, but a breaking point is on the horizon which he's speeding toward.

Space films need to get on board with this direction; I would've watched an entire film about Moon Pirates. 

For once my being a science fiction fan backfired on me, because I noticed occasional holes in the space aspects. That's something that ruins movies like Gravity for me, but in this case, I tend not to care. The difference? Ad Astra never claims perfect logic or sound astrodynamics as Gravity did. The focus is on Roy, his quest, the people and challenges he meets, the cold beauty that surrounds him, and the mystery of what he will find; the fact that most of it is accurate and scientifically sound is a bonus. The movie is much more interested in being honest in the abstract, than by-the-rules in the physical. If the priorities are defined, which they are, it's easy to suspend disbelief as needed.

In tone and pacing, it begs comparison with 2001: A Space Odyssey more than anything else, with more modern sensibilities and tighter action sequences. And one huge difference: it looks at humanity in an intimate way. Instead of focusing on lofty speculation, it drives itself far out into the dim and menacing reaches of space, then turns around and looks fondly back on the Earth and the individuals who populate it; stretching eagerly towards the heavens only to find there a deeper love and appreciation for what it dreams of leaving behind. That is exemplary of what I love about science fiction and space exploration in film.

The heart of the most pure science fiction is still a human one.

It starts with a small and simple but potent idea, and through the lens of the genre, magnifies it until it feels a big as the universe itself. That is the purpose of the science fiction genre, if there ever was one. Nothing else can take truths and expand them so far without bending them out of shape. And this movie does it so confidently. The idea is simple, and the execution smart, and everything the movie does points to it. When Roy meets the Director of Operations on Mars, (Ruth Negga in a brief but dense part) she muses about how she visited Earth once. What would that mean to someone not born there, the movie wonders. How would it impact them?

It also shows us characters who juxtapose with Roy. Donald Sutherland is a man whose physical weakness holds him back; and Loren Dean is a man whose mental weakness does the same. Loren Dean must love space movies. He's been in four, including playing NASA hero John Aaron in Apollo 13. He's like an Easter Egg for dedicated fans. Liv Tyler has a small role, and Tommy Lee Jones' performance was scary-good, but Brad Pitt is understandably the best of the lot. Though Roy is reserved, Pitt's performance ensures that it's never hard to understand him underneath it all. To the point where the narration feels nearly redundant. It's still useful though, to maintain a constant style and to delve deeper than facial tics and minute expressions are capable.

The only thing better than the performance of this stoic and complex character, is the character itself. 

As a fan, I don't much care that there are technical flaws here. But as a critic, I must admit they are there, detracting from the film. Whether those flaws impact enjoyment will depend on the viewer; as for me, the more I muse on the deep and meaningful beauty of the work, the less significant those little slip-ups seem. What I'm left with is a film I love as if it were flawless, while fully aware that there were a few things about it that passingly bothered me. A second view may see those things continue to dissipate, or perhaps make a resurgence. I am unsure which the future holds, but I can't wait to find out.

I'm already eager to see those gorgeously rendered space scenes and extraterrestrial lands again. To follow Roy on his strange journey again -- closer this time -- and to weigh every nuance as it passes by in its striking muted beauty. With all that adventurous and intimidating wonder, the quiet, regal honesty of the central performance, and the intimate story that is wrapped around it so tenderly, Ad Astra barely lifts a finger before it achieves heights worthy of its name.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

It Chapter Two

Spoiler-free!

What's more likely to be a great movie -- one that ends with the characters making a promise to return and fight the evil again whenever it may return, or one in which all they do is make good on that promise?

Directed, once again, by Andy Muschietti.

Given that Chapter Two and Chapter One come from the same singular book, Chapter Two has no real right to feel so much like a sequel. Ideally it should have a "Part 2" flavor. If the filmmakers knew how successful Chapter One would be, I bet they would have filmed both parts at once. Then the de-aging of the child actors wouldn't have been necessary, and the story could have been developed to flow better between the two films. As it is, the two parts feel out of sync with each other. One being bigger in size, and the other more compact yet weighty with substance.

Much like what happened with Season 2 of Stranger Things, this sequel is painfully aware of the wild success of its predecessor. You can see it in the kids' performances, who are much less organic here. Like they're putting on a show for an audience instead of digging into honesty and stretching their acting chops. And while the adults don't come across that way at all, their script does it for them on occasion, with throwaway callback lines. Such as when they go in the well house and Bev dryly proclaims, "Beep beep, Richie." Another thing the adults have going for them; they're way better at delivering comedy.

As a result, the adult's version feels lighter in tone.

Laughs came freely; as for scares, it hit Not Scary At All for me. They tried to match scary-levels with Chapter One, but the method degraded slightly; there are a lot -- and I mean a lot of jump-scare moments. And every single one of them follows the exact same pattern. 1. Thing might be scary. 2. Thing is maybe not so scary after all. 3. Pause pause pause... 4. THING IS SCARY! Inevitably, the thing morphs into CGI, half the time with aspects of Pennywise's face pasted on it. I actually prefer when horror film don't scare me, but it does bother me that so much time was spent of these ultimately useless moments.

From my perspective "scary" is a lot less important than simply "effective." And the only times these moments were effective is when it led to an actual kill. Those are the ones that take their time to craft the creepiness and the dread. The most effective part of the movie was waiting for a jump scare while the camera lingered on Bill Skarsgård, motionless, drooling, his one eye pointing out to the side. No CGI, just an effective performance, given time to breathe and settle before it bursts. Other horror elements were more varying degrees of cool, or neat, or messed-up, which works fine for me. Overcrowding and rushing were the problems there.

But casting was a resounding win!

I think it's universally acknowledged that the casting here is pitch perfect. Even the well-known actors, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader are fantastically spot-on. Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean were clearly cast more for their accurate appearances, but also deliver wonderfully on the performance side. Hader steals almost too many scenes, and my favorite was Ransone as Eddie. The best scene in the whole movie was their meeting up and having dinner. Their reactions to seeing each other again and how the nail the same feel and dynamic their kid counterparts did.

A better version of this film is out in the cosmos somewhere. I don't know how it works, but it likely required at least some changes to the first movie. It's a hefty story to swing in just two movies, so one great film and one slightly less-so isn't a disappointing result, especially if you consider less pleasant alternatives. This two-part series avoided disaster by breaking up repetitive material with elevating moments from a brilliant cast, and regular interludes of real, fascinating, quality content. My only real regret is that Chapter One ended in a more satisfying and thematically potent way.

No more floating, but I sure do hope Bill Skarsgård gets all the roles he could wish for after this!

The best ending of a series ideally belongs at the very end. But I loved Chapter One as is, so if that movie's greatness required this one to fall slightly short, I'll take it and be happy. Since this continuation isn't necessary to get a complete and satisfying story, there's no harm done either way. It Chapter Two is like the cherry on top of a giant sundae, or a red balloon in the hand of a clown; it doesn't add much in terms of substance, but it sure does complete the picture nicely.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Body at Brighton Rock

Mild spoilers.

And now for possibly the worst movie of 2019. It's sad to say, because I like to see these indie flicks so I can recommend them and maybe get them bigger audiences. If I had known how bad it was going to go, I wouldn't have watched it at all; but now that I have, I can't let its strange offenses pass by unchecked.

It starts out so normal...

Wendy is an inexperienced park ranger who gets herself into trouble by switching duties with her friend so she can flirt with another employee. Now instead of manning an info desk, she's out in the wild, and soon enough, lost. Then she finds a dead body. A creepy, decaying one. The guy on the radio says she has to stay there overnight until they can come and find her, but she's worried about bears... and the gross dead guy... and that one weird living guy who she ran into. It's going to be a long night.

For her and for us. The movie isn't an hour and a half dripping wet and with the credits included but is still packed with filler, including two nightmare sequences, and a full song-length sequence where she dances down the trail pre-getting lost. Actually, the dancing might have been my favorite part of the movie. Point is, the script has no meat on it at all. And then the things that need to happen (like her getting lost) take way too much time and/or are contrived into oblivion. One instance of bad luck I can handle, but each repeat adds to the irritation, and everyone knows about the straw that broke the camel's back.

I feel like I lasted an admirable amount of time. 

For me the final straw was when night falls and she begins having nightmares in which the dead body turns zombie. This movie is rated R, but up until that point the movie had been nearly Hallmark levels of upbeat and family-friendly. The only thing that would hint at future horrors was moments in which suspense would build (she hears a noise or finds claw marks on a tree) that ends with nothing happening. I think the idea was to build suspense in a constant fashion until the true threat arrives, but they instead built suspense in short bursts which would relieve.

The result is not only ineffective in the long run, but also maddening in the short term as each individual moment of suspense is worthless to the story on its own. Arguably the zombie isn't though; at that point it's used to give Wendy an opportunity to face her fears and prove herself; but as it's only a dream it's hardly impressive of her, and doesn't prove her any more capable of surviving the woods than she was before. That would be like me managing to sleep alone after Hereditary and claiming that experience would help me survive a demon-possessed death cult.

She tells the body "I'm not afraid of you!" and she's magically not afraid anymore. 

Being brave is nice, but she was that either way, for spending the night there. After that, the movie goes even more off the trail than turning into a full-on zombie horror film, with ridiculous and insensible things that I will not divulge for spoilers. Maybe the idea was to subvert expectations (a little late for that trend, it's dead already) because when the movie started out with Wendy arriving late to morning orientation, trying to sneak in, and getting caught with a sarcastic "Nice of you to join us!" I figured the movie had its cards on the table.

But it tried to move away from those cliches, attempting to explore some thematic places that it is simply not equipped to (just like Wendy!) and fumbling its way through without tact or understanding (just like Wendy). It throws out ideas that in competent hands might have become compelling, but with inexperienced handling are disjointed, ADHD sketches. I do always like when a movie's aura reflects that of its protagonist... but mirror her good qualities, like her quirky charm, instead of the shortcomings she's supposed to overcome.

If this movie isn't absolutely stupid, it certainly fooled me. 

Body at Brighton Rock is barely even a cohesive story. A spectacular feat, considering how simple and foolproof its premise was. Probably that was the root of its problem; that simplicity wasn't enough to make a feature-length film, so they padded it out with distracting, half-baked -- no, raw dough -- ideas that only tore down what little good they had. What a kerfuffle. Like Wendy, I'm just glad it's over.

Monday, September 9, 2019

State Like Sleep

Spoiler-free!

Starring Katherine Waterston and Michael Shannon, this neo-noir mystery and drama is about Katherine, who was in the middle of splitting with her actor husband (Michiel Huisman) when he killed himself. A year later and still unable to put it to rest, she begins investigating under the suspicion that he may have actually been murdered.

Coincidentally, I slept on this movie, and now regret it a tiny bit. There's been plenty worse this year.

It was the noir part that drew me to this, and it was the noir part that I enjoyed the most. It had the noir tone, and yes, the noir pitfalls too. At least one big plot hole I noticed when it was all said and done, and as sometimes happens with noirs, the story gets increasingly distracted from the mystery and turns its attention toward character. Katherine was an interesting character, classically broken and cynical for the genre, and I enjoyed watching her go around all depressed and confused, pursuing what she needed to in order to move on. My favorite parts specifically were her conversations with Shannon's character.

I guess you could say they had good chemistry, but mostly, and most importantly, what they had was good writing: conversations and lines that revealed character in subtle and fascinating ways. Their conversations progressed their characters; something that is all too often missing from scripts it seems. But though it has that one aspect, that doesn't make it a decidedly good script. It still was insensible at times, and doesn't follow through on too many of its promises. Viewers looking forward to a meaty mystery will certainly be disappointed; fans of mind-bending conclusions, the same.

I like the idea of the movie more than I do the movie, I think.

The plot effectively drifts away, and while this does serve the character in its way, it will easily leave viewers dissatisfied, especially when they don't know what to expect and then are encouraged by the early stages of the plot to expect a solid and satisfying mystery. So take this review as a disclaimer. Those more interested to see a noirish character drama play out between Katherine and Michael Shannon, Katherine and Michiel Huisman, and Katherine and Katherine will get more mileage than those looking for a sordid mystery to chew on.

Even with that disclaimer, the movie is not exceptional; you've likely seen it all done better elsewhere. For me, with the drawing and talented cast, and my insatiable appetite for noir films, it would have been hard to disappoint me completely. Still, I wish I had read a review like this to point my expectations in the right direction; so maybe with this I can help potential viewers get the most out of this movie's less than giving state.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Time Lapse

Spoiler-free!

In this 2015 science fiction indie, a waitress (Danielle Panabaker) her starving artist boyfriend (Matt O'Leary) and their shady roommate/friend (George Finn) band together to improve their collectively unfulfilled lives when they discover that their missing neighbor across the way has a camera that takes pictures of them through their window -- pictures of them 24 hours in the future.


It's a simple scifi premise. Prefect for the low-budget, low-fi indie endeavor that this movie is. It doesn't attempt anything beyond its ability, and doesn't need to because of how small, contained, and practically doable the story is on a penny. It's a premise ripe for character dramas and dilemmas, and for pondering on causality, and the effects of something even so small as 24-hour future-prediction has on a person; how far they will go to use it to their advantage, how dangerous it could be, and the natural degradation of humanity it would easily bring.

And that's where the movie delivers most and finds its worth. It may look at first glance like an everyday scifi indie that's decent but ultimately forgettable, but with a sturdy script that focuses on one great idea, it separates itself in the end and sticks in your memory. I've seen it perhaps four times now, and I still lie awake in bed at night from time to time, pondering on it. It's the conclusion that brings everything together in a superior way. Your mileage getting to that great end may vary however, as the middle section is the most obvious direction-wise and the quickest to dull.


And while we're on questionable content quality, you may expect, and be correct about it -- that the acting isn't the greatest, nor the visuals anything to write home about. They get the job done, and that's all. They don't cut any corners, and the main pair of Panabaker and O'Leary (two fairly recognizable faces especially for anyone who watches The Flash and Agents of SHIELD) they are capable and clearly give it a good effort. It's just not exceptional. And I say that to point out that it doesn't matter; the exceptionalism comes from one specific place, and elevates the rest from fine to great.

I watch smaller flicks that don't provide anything more than mediocrity all the time, especially in the scifi genre because I can't get enough of scifi of any sort. So I don't mind the bits of lower quality this film brings. I wanted to mention it anyway in order to encourage you to give it a change even if you usually wouldn't. Some may predict mediocrity as first glance; they would do the movie a disservice. I can't tell about the impact it has, or specifically about the brilliance it brings because I don't want to spoil anything. But it's there; hidden and waiting to be discovered.


So what if this movie only had budget for two decent actors and a photo of John Rhys-Davies? Good stories are more than the tools used to tell them, and this movie makes the tools work for it; making an admirable and dedicated effort, focusing down on the core elements to make the story impactful, and pulling it off magnificently. A small budget must-see for fans of scifi and time-travel!

(Currently streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Ready or Not

Spoiler-free!

Don't make pacts with the devil for success and riches, kids. If you do, it will only end one way: with laughter and splashing blood. The laughter won't be yours, but the blood probably will be.

It sure does make for entertaining fiction, though!

The Le Domas family did make a pact with the devil for riches. Specifically, a game empire. As part of the deal, anyone who marries into the family must draw a magic card and play the game written there. But if they happen to draw the game Hide and Seek, they have been chosen to be a sacrifice and must be killed before dawn. That's what happens to Grace (Samara Weaving) when she marries Alex (Mark O'Brien). And she's not happy about it.

When a movie has a premise this good, it seems a terrible waste of it all to make the ultimate point simply that, "Rich people are crazy." Make a movie -- any movie -- in which a rich family worships Satan and sacrifices their in-laws to him and you'll get that point across. About the third time you reiterate it, I'm going to start wishing you had something more to say. This movie does a great job defining its villains, showing their motivation and the depths of their selfish, evil ways. But it doesn't balance all that with equal amounts of good.

Only one character does something selfless in this movie, and it's not the lead.

Grace is a solid heroine and easy to root for simply because she is over her head and fighting to survive in a wild situation. She's also scrappy and unrefined, details that I liked. A solid character. In a great dress! But she only ever protects herself. She lets others sacrifice for her instead of risking herself for anyone, and doesn't quite come into full hero status before the film ends. I can only suppose the end intended to be spiteful; there was a clear and far more satisfying path there that was ignored in order to stubbornly eek out the desired result.

So it's unfulfilled, but as I said, the premise is strong. Strong enough to carry the movie well into the third act before you realize it has strayed from the mark. It could have been funnier throughout as some of the jokes were a little cheap. The good humor came from a sharp wit and I could have done with ten times more of that. But the tone struck was fitting; with high drama and high energy, but not too flippant as horror-comedies are so often in danger of being. I mostly wish it hadn't fallen back on the old "saying the f-word makes it funny" trope.

Its swearing comes across like a kid trying to be edgy.

The premise could have gone off in any number of narrative directions, and though I don't think they chose the best route, I also think they were very far from the worst. I was always engaged with the action though it wasn't exceptional in either concept or execution. And several of the characters had great arcs, or little backstory tidbits that brought depth to the story. It was the attention to character early on that made the conclusion feel so incomplete later.

I don't think it was due to my already being a fan of Adam Brody that made Daniel my favorite. He hit the movie's dark wit most consistently and took the best character direction. I also liked the direction Alex took; and Andie MacDowell's mom character. Then quirk characters like the hyper sister or grumpy aunt worked great to keep all the characters straight and keep the humor going. And like I said the lead was super solid; the thing about this movie that lingers in the mind once it's over. Even though she shoulders much of the film's flaws, she takes it all like a champ.

It reminded me at times of The Cabin in the Woods, and I wish they'd gone even further in that direction.

Not up to the standard of its greatest peers, but no slouch either, Ready or Not is a mixed bag that doesn't jive with its either/or, black and white title. Neither a winner nor a loser; but at least genre fans can be happy the game was played.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Upcoming Movie Roundup - September

In August, I only saw one of the four movies I was especially interested in, but that one already improved the movie year significantly. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (review) was wonderfully entertaining and moving, a great character piece, and a stylishly laid-back epic. It may be my favorite film of the year! I still need and plan to see The Peanut Butter Falcon, Blinded by the Light, and Ready or Not, but 2019 is maybe beginning to look up.

And the looking up continues into September, where there are two must-see movies for me! What looks good to you this month? Hope you all had a wonderful summer!



It Chapter Two
In theaters Sept 6th; R
Must see of the month number one! I've been anticipating this one since Chapter One released and even though some are saying it's not the greatest, that was said about Chapter One too, so I plan on enjoying it all even if it's flawed. I love the long run time and I love that it will give me a good excuse to rewatch Chapter One beforehand. The cast looks great, (I'm glad the kids are back too) it looks epic and not too scary for me (hopefully! haha) -- I think I'm ready!




The Goldfinch
In theaters Sept 13th; R
I'm not usually so interested in straight-up dramas, but this one's cast grabbed my attention. Ansel Elgort, Aneurin Barnard and Finn Wolfhard playing the same character, Luke Wilson, and Nicole Kidman to name a few. And it's based on a book so the plot is likely to be worthwhile -- though I have to say, based on the trailer it's hard to tell what the movie is really about. Someone stole the painting before the explosion or something? (Maybe I'm supposed to read the book first, haha.) The cast will get me to watch it, and we'll see for the rest!




Freaks
Limited release Sept 13th; R
I'm going to keep this one on my radar for whenever it comes to streaming. Could be interesting (reviews suggest it's good) or it could be not my thing. Or mildly my thing which is most likely. As long as they don't stay inside the whole movie, I expect it'll be worth a watch! Looks kind of like what an indie X-Men movie might be like.




Monos
Limited release Sept 13th; R
Nice looking trailer, but what does it all mean? What's the plot, the point? I guess we have to see the movie to find out. Not exactly motivating for me though I'm sure the whole thing will be visually fantastic.




Ad Astra
In theaters Sept 20th; PG-13
I was already on board when this trailer released because I will see anything that's set in space, and this one is particularly epic-looking. And now, since I saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and liked Brad Pitt in it so much, I'm double on board, and excited to see another potentially great character and performance from him. Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland round out the cast. Also, Loren Dean likes to come out of the woodwork for scifi films, doesn't he? Anyway, this could be a favorite of the year for me, if it goes well. Looks beautiful, with a broad scope and intimate detail. Must-see number two!




Downton Abbey
In theaters Sept 20th; PG
This has no appeal for me but I know there has to still be people out there who are sad about Downton Abbey ending and are probably over the moon about this film. It so fan-service-y but I guess that should be expected. It exists to serve fans. So y'all enjoy.




Villains
Limited release Sept 20th; R
A horror comedy with Maika Monroe and Bill Skarsgård? Sounds like a yes to me! Seems like the sort of plot that would only work if done really well, but it being a comedy is going in the right direction. I expect it would be a fun watch even if it's not exceptional. Maika Monroe rules stylish horror films and Bill Skarsgård should be in all the movies.




21 Bridges
In theaters Sept 27th; NR
The plot is like the end of Batman Begins where they close off the island to contain all the escaped villains. Otherwise, this doesn't have a big draw. Even the movie thinks its biggest draw is the Russo Brothers producing. Producing doesn't mean much, I'd rather know who directed, or who wrote it. Nice to see Chadwick Boseman do non-superhero stuff but he might as well be playing T'Challa here too. One thing I really do like the look of here is that it's not a blatant anti-police movie. It's just an action-thriller about justice, plain and simple. I'd watch it; depends on reception as to when.




Abominable
In theaters Sept 27th; PG
I'm willing to give this one a chance but to be honest it doesn't look very good. If the movie has as much cliche writing and benign jokes as the trailer, it'll be the sort of thing that only kids will enjoy. Making animated flicks to only appeal to kids is such a waste.