Category: Movie Reviews


 

batmanninja

Have to start the week with this trailer, that spread like wildfire, and with good reason.

Such an obvious concept and genre turn, that we haven’t seen done exactly like this…

Until next year apparently.

Wow…

 

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DC finally got the formula right for the most part.  Now can they get the general goodwill of the fanbase back?

To the degree you can put away what came before it, ‘Justice League’ is actually enjoyable and has some fun moments.  For this generation, Superman has never felt more like Superman, the Flash is fun without feeling like a knock off of the current Spider-Man (which I worried about before I saw the film), the Aquaman take is fresh and different.  We’ll never know how much credit goes to Josh Whedon and how blame goes to Zack Snyder, but this one was fun without feeling like a complete Marvel copy cat.

Are there flaws?  Definitely.  It irked me to hear Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent being referred to, in public, by their alternate identities.  But as opposed to episodes in the past, it didn’t pull the whole movie down.  If, as it seems, Batfleck is done putting on the cowl, I think it’s a little unfortunate he never got a full solo run with the character.  He’s above average as both ‘Asshole Bruce Wayne’ and ‘Older Batman’.  It is what it is.

Ignore the negativity.  Give this one a chance and judge it for yourself.

 

 

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I had no expectations for the Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’  We have ‘Insecure’ now.  We have ‘Dear White People’.  We have ‘Master of None.’ We have ‘Atlanta’.  All good to great in different ways, all cover being young and/or black, and/or single, and/or living in New York City.  That’s one.

Two: for all the shows listed above, part of my (selfish) enjoyment is being a generation removed from the ‘voice’ of the show.  Spike is of the generation before me, so right or wrong, I had concerns about someone two generations removed writing about the current scene.

Very happy to say I couldn’t be more wrong.  The Netflix version of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ is very much its own thing: funny and serious and topical and told through the ‘Spike Lee New York City’ lens.

Add Dewanda Wise to the list of talented, beautiful dark skinned actresses who are taking advantage of the shots they’re given.  The 2017 version of Nola Darling is still a proud Brooklynite with three male suitors; the series fleshes out her artistry and her interest in each of her suitors very well.

I know how problematic Spike has felt about certain elements of his first film.  Pretty much every adaptation here works for the better.  Mars Blackmon in 2017 is a half Puerto Rican hip hop head? (Genius.)  Opal feels less like a lesbian predator and more like, possibly, Nola’s true love? (Brilliant.)  The post-Thanksgiving sexual assault is now a script flipping, female gaze on male sexuality?  (Outstanding).

It was a perfect binge for the holiday weekend.  Well worth checking out when you have time.

 

‘Mudbound’

 

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Dee Rees’ latest feature might be the first great film of this era that ‘doesn’t take place right now’, but speaks directly to ‘right now.’

‘Mudbound’ tells the story of two families, one white, one black, both struggling to make ends meet while working the land in Mississippi, circa World War II.  The film/story is structured so no one actor stands out above the rest, but everyone in cast plays the hell out of their parts.  The poor whites may not be inherently racist, but they are fully aware of the benefits their skin color provides.  The older black generation is proud but they know all too well the consequences of rocking the boat too hard (translation: death).  The brothers who left America (Jason Mitchell is the standout if you had to pick one) see there’s another way to live, and has an understandably hard time coming ‘home’ and swallowing his pride and taking shit from the people whose lives he protected.

Really strong outing by all involved.  Streaming on Netflix. Worth checking out.

 

‘Nature Boy’

 

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The first 30 for 30 that focused on professional wrestler did not disappoint.  For the hardcore fans, Ric’s biography is well known but the joy comes from hearing so many of his Hall of Fame contemporaries (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, Hogan) speak of his obvious strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re coming in with a fairly clean slate, then ‘Nature Boy’ is a great primer into the wrestling business through one of its most iconic stars, while also pulling back the curtain to show us how damaged/flawed someone so beloved and influential as Ric Flair is.  The father/son dynamic is a major theme of the story here, and for a lot of wrestling fans a key component for how we were introduced to wrestling in the first place.  (Saying too much more would take some of the steam out of the story.)  There was a very close call not that long ago, but Naitch is still with us to appreciate the respect so many of us have for him, and this film certainly did nothing to diminish the humanity of Richard Fliehr, or his much more famous alter ego.

Highly recommend.

 

‘Thor: Ragnarok’

 

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So we all agree this was fun right?  Good.  So this will be an ‘actor’s review’…

If one thing bothered me consistently, it was Idris Elba.  Not as an actor or a character, but ‘how is Idris Elba the movie star the sixth wheel in this?’  Having said that, I’m sure one ‘third sequel on a Marvel franchise’ paycheck is equal to ten ‘leading man in movies only film geeks see’ paycheck (and that’s being extremely generous.  So it is what it is.

For we Adler disciples, seeing Mark Ruffalo inhabit all the best parts of Brando (just becoming the character, even in a popcorn movie) is a joy.  And in a time of deconstructing our Hollywood idols, by all accounts he’s a nice guy who is genuine in his social activism.  So double cool points.

Speaking of people ‘above’ being in movies like this, Cate Blanchett has always been in that tier right behind Meryl Streep in ‘she can play anyone convincingly’, so watching her ham it up for two hours was joyful too.  Really, this whole movie was well written and casted.

And as far as Tessa goes…beyond being a bad ass…using the ‘proper’ English accent, well…

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So yeah, all the recommends for this one.

 

 

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Finally got to see ‘Dunkirk’ on the big screen last week, courtesy of Warner Brothers.  There was a dessert service after the Q&A with Nolan, so yes, ‘For Your Consideration’ season has begun!

I’m not a World War II buff by any means so Dunkirk didn’t hold a strong meaning to me beyond doing a cursory Google search on why it’s important. After I did that though, it made complete sense to me why the British hold it in such high regard, and why Nolan wanted to make this movie.

Interested to note during the Q&A, how they decided early on to ‘not’ try to be ‘Saving Private Ryan’.  A, because he considers it a masterpiece and B, in true Christopher Nolan style, he wanted to focus on the practical details of ‘how would this happen in real life?’ as opposed to ‘this is how these things play out in a movie’…

(Prince of Gotham nodding….)

Relating directly to war (without spoiling some of story points of ‘Dunkirk’), Nolan also says he was attracted to doing a different type of war movie, because, in talking to veterans, war is very much like life in that, death often happens completely randomly, and the ‘good guys’ or ‘heroes’ may never get the credit they really deserve, and ‘the bad guys’ may not always suffer in proportion to the damage they’ve done.

(cueing up the Hans Zimmer as my eyes mist up…)

As far as ‘Dunkirk’ the movie goes, I personally wouldn’t call it Nolan’s best, but it’s solid.  With the studio backing him up, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t finally get a Best Director nomination this year.

 

 

defjam

Part high school reunion, part interview show, ‘Def Comedy Jam 25’ is a fun 90 minute journey on Netflix.  As more than one comedian noted, there was a time when black comedians could be killing it for years and never even dream of being on the Tonight Show.  Russell Simmons recognized the void and got HBO to buy in.  Everyone from household names like Rock and Chappelle to the Kings of Comedy pay their respects in this show.

I’m old enough to remember Def Jam at its peak, but whoever organized the clips still did an excellent job of pulling from some classic sets and one liners you’ve just forgotten about if you haven’t seen them in 20 years.  There was a nice tribute to Bernie Mac; I still feel his Def Jam set is the best stand up routine I have ever seen (way too X rated to repost here but not that hard to find).

As for the Netflix episode, there’s a part near the end where DL Hughley and Chappelle go off script…  That’s all I need to say, isn’t it?  Best part of the show.

Worth watching if you’re a fan of urban comedy.

 

‘Battle of the Sexes’

 

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‘Battle of the Sexes’ sits in a weird spot.  It’s a fun movie while not a straight up comedy; it covers a serious topic while also not being too heavy handed about it.  I think that’s why I enjoyed a lot of its individual parts more than I liked the movie as a whole.

Emma Stone puts another notch in her ‘serious actress’ belt, playing feminist icon Billie Jean King, at the exact moment in time when multiple stars were aligning.  Professionally, women’s tennis players weren’t even being offered half of what the men were making (in terms of the purses of major championships), and Billie Jean King was in the center of rectifiying that wrong.  On a more personal level, Ms. King was ‘married to a good man’, but her desires were being awakened in another direction (Alan Cumming is brilliant as the gay costumer who sees the writing in the wall before Billie Jean is ready to fully comes to terms with it, privately or publicly).

Steve Carell is equally great as Bobby Riggs.  Movies are made a year out, but even with unpredictable outcomes in real life, it’s interesting to watch Carell play Riggs as this showman/hustler who doesn’t seem to completely believe the things he says publicly, but he knows its what his benefactors want to hear, and he knows it will make headlines.

Not a Hall of Fame movie per se, but a story that surprisingly hasn’t been captured as a movie until now.  Worth seeing for the performances alone.

 

 

frankvincent

The role player/character actor tribe lost a good one today.

In retrospect, the first time I saw Frank Vincent was the ‘fire hydrant’ scene in ‘Do the Right Thing’.  Like most of you though, I’ll always associate him with gangster flicks: ‘Raging Bull’, ‘Casino’, ‘The Sopranos’…

and of course, this all-time, all-time classic scene in one of the best movies of my lifetime…

Rest in Peace Sir.