Cars 3 (2017) Review

     Over this past decade I have actually come to have an affection for the Cars series (thanks to my nephew). Yes, even the much reviled Cars 2. But now we’ve come full circle with Cars 3 and I can see it being a bittersweet entry for the fans who grew up with Lighting McQueen. 

     Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) seems to be on his last legs. With a new racer named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) who is just plain faster than McQueen, causes him to question whether he can still cut it in today’s racing. With help from Cruz (Cristela Alonzo) a new trainer to help him back to the top. 

     I am such a sucker for the apprentice becomes the teacher stories, especially in franchises. The story has come full circle (hilariously) as McQueen trains his trainer. 

     Gone this time around is the grand scope of the previous film, and a return ro the small, intimate nature that gave the original its charm. Its more retrospective, even a little sad as Doc (Paul Newman) is referenced throughout the film and it brought the real theme of time fleeting. 

     Speaking of Paul Newman, Cars 3 did evoke some memories of The Color of Money a sequel to The Hustler. Now, Lightning McQueen was never disgraced like Fast Eddie Felson was, but the passing of the torch was reminiscent of it.  

     This is by no means a perfect film and Pixar has obviously made much better films, but the movie is light, inoffensive, and quite frankly, a little deeper than it had any business being. I finished the movie with a smile and that’s a lot more than most films this summer. 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Review

     I  thought that by the 4th sequel to a 15 year old franchise would make you want to question your life choices. Considering that the last one, On Stranger Tides, was a bland, uninspired affair. Maybe it’s the fact that my bar was lowered in every respect, it was delightful that Dead Men Tell No Tales is easily the best of the sequels. 

     The adventure this time around involves Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) who has made it his mission to break his father’s curse. The only way to do it is to find the trident of Poseidon. And yep, only Captain Jack Sparrow can find it along with a woman named Carina (Kaya Scodelario), and of course, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). And what tale wouldn’t be complete without some unbridled vengeance against Sparrow, by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem)?

     Every Pirates movie features some young punk on some quest for something (Davey Jones’s Locker, a coin, pussy) but this time around its something fans of the series are actually invested in: the freedom of Will Turner). It almost felt like all the previous movies were just a build up to this one. When referencing the legends told about Jack, we know these tales because we saw fucking saw them ourselves. It just added to the experience instead of making up some bullshit adventure, involving some bullshit character, for some bullshit reason. This time we actually give a shit. 

     Bardem’s Salazar is a foe worthy of his vengeance, and the first villain that actually creeped me out. A charming rogue with a clear and relatable motive. And the humor is actually funny this time around (who knew humor had to be funny to work), with Depp’s Sparrow actually coming off as inspired, rather than picking up a pay check. His would be execution scene pretty much set the tone that this movie is going to be silly. Really fucking silly. 

     Even looking back on it now, and the others, I realized that Dead Men Tell No Tales is going to be the installment that I’m genuinely going to watch more and more. Seriously, who knew that it took 4 more films for the series to get great again. I know, because I seen it! 

Twin Peaks (2017) Review: Episodes 1-2

     “I’ll see you in 25 years”– Laura Palmer. 

     That line. Jesus. I’m still reeling from this premiere. The short of it is that this is pure David Lynch: its not what I expected, while at the same time being exactly what I expected. 

     If that doesn’t describe what David Lynch is (or co creater Mark Frost), I don’t know what does.

     To attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum, I’ll just rundown some bare bones elements. Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is still in the Black Lodge as predicted by Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) 25 years ago. Now it appears that there is an opportunity to escape. Meanwhile, there’s a new mystery that seems to have popped up with a high school principal played by Matthew Lillard embroiled in a murder plot involving his possible mistress. I don’t know, I don’t trust anything laid out in front of me. 

     So getting that out of the way, David Lynch wasn’t fucking around when he said that he wanted each episode to be a movie in its own right. It pretty much is though. 

     What really gets me to be honest, is that all of the events in the Black Lodge feel like continuations of the original series, while the new storylines, as it were, have a wholly different feel from before. Lynch was wise enough to see that the soap opera satire that helped to define the original, was no longer relevant in today’s era. 

     With network restrictions a thing of the past, this series goes into the surrealistic imagery with an abundance of reckless abandon. Nothing seems to be held back, well, for the moment at least. As soon as I heard the eerie talk from the Other Place, I knew we were back home. 

     I have always attempted to make the point that it isn’t coherency that makes David Lynch projects special, but the emotions evoked from the incoherent images. There is an epicness in scope; with Twin Peaks itself getting a little short changed at the mement in these two episodes. 

     In all purity, the emotions that this series got me to explore was fascination and fear. Lynch was never one to shy away from horror, and he makes me feel uneasy. I was truly sad though that Sheriff Truman wasn’t there, and that the Log Lady was so frail (The actress would pass away after filming her scenes). But more than anything I was sad about Coop. He never deserved to end up there. 

     As melancholic as I may make this sound, I am already in love with this Twin Peaks. The murder mystery set up feels right out of Lost Highway. Hell, the cinematography feels like a cross between Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. The sound design is pure Lynch, it felt like being right at home. And as always the choice of music is just sublime, with an 80s aesthetic, commonly used, even though it was a Lynchian trope dating back to Blue Velvet. 

     I can only truly recommend these episodes to fans of David Lynch, not just Twin Peaks. The show is much different now, a more unhinged beast of not giving a fuck. I have no god damn clue what the fuck is going on, or even where it’s going, and that is exactly what I wanted out of this revival. Mr. Lynch, Mr Frost, wecome back. 

     

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) Review

     From the opening scene I knew I was going to be in for a fun ride. Living in an age where its all about the dark, gritty, painfully serious, tortured superhero film, it’s such a refreshing take when you can laugh and smile at a sentient baby tree dancing his ass off. 

     That’s the kind of joy that you cherish. 

     It’s been only a few months since the last film, when Star Lord (Chris Pratt) finally comes to meet his father Ego (Kurt Russell) and he’s happy as can be. But Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) suspects something else is afoot while Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and, somehow, Yondu (Michael Rooker) are being chased down by the Sovereign race for stealing batteries. 

      Yeah, you read that right. 

     I don’t know what surprised me more; the absolute fun I was having, or the unexpected depth there was to a story with a giant living planet. 

      Make no mistake, this is a father/son movie through and through. Here’s that rare sequel that took the foundation of the original film, and actually expanded and built upon what came before it. This felt like more of a continuation than just a straight up sequel. 

     A lot of love has to be given to one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, Michael Rooker. His Yondu got such an emotional upgrade in this entry, adding more humor, and dare I say,  a warmth that was lacking in the character the first time around. 

     No one other than director James Gunn could have made a film like this one. I just came to accept that the Marvel films have to play it a little safe in order to keep the brand going, but Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 clearly shows that you can take thematic risks, like the perils of fatherhood, the fear of abandonment, to new fucking pop culture heights. 

     I didn’t expect this movie to be on par with the last, and I sure as shit didn’t expect to be wiping tears from my eyes, especially to a movie with a baby tree dancing his ass off to ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky. 

     Well Marvel, you raised the bar again. Now fucking keep it there. 

The Ridiculous Joys of Mystery Science Theater 3000

On April 14, 2017 something happened. After 18 years, Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned to effectively grace our screens, simultaneously enhancing and ruining the moviegoing experience for all. 

     The series has always followed some poor dude up in space being forced to watch shitty movies, usually of the horror and sci-fi genre, by some crazy scientist in the name of… well science. Said dude is joined by robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, and Croooow. (Its just Crow). The opening song literally sings to you the whole premise of the show, so I don’t know why I just did that. 

     Anyhoo, this show is the definition of cult series, because not everyone will like. Most don’t, but once you experience it and embrace it, so much fun can be had. 

     I had written before about the sheer joy and lunacy of the Midnight Movie, and it’s now available on Netflix. This show, along with Monstervision, were the Midnight Movie shows for me (they never aired at midnight). 

     Watching the first episode of the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was hit with the realization that my love of unbelievably shitty films steams from this series. With the ungodly amount of bad films I’ve seen over the years, the show gave me a tool that has endured me to survive: the gift of laughter. 

     I had never seen a show where characters talked back to the screen, making witty asides that would make Oscar Wilde green with envy. Nothing can top a well delivered joke in line with the films being watched. There was never a show like this before, and I’ll be damned if there was ever a show like it since. It’s truly a unique creature, built from television and cinema. 

     Even with the show’s move to Netflix, its the same thing as before! Believe me this is such a great thing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 changed the way an entire generation watched and experienced films, the unsightly horrors from the voids of space. I’m just giddy. 

     I’m hoping a new generation will now pick up the series and have its imagination fucked with, much like mine was. And while I’ve been lamenting this whole “Reboot” fever, I’m not gonna say a bad word about this trend. Reboot All in the Family, I don’t give a fuck, I got Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

     The world isn’t such a bad place after all. 

T2: Trainspotting (2017) Review

     It’s incredible how 20 years went by in a wink. How we all reach a point in our lives, and wonder where the hell it all went. 

     T2: Trainspotting is a shockingly stunning follow-up to the original, catching up with the core group consisting of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) twenty years after Renton stole 16,000 pounds from his “so called mates”.

     This leads to not just Renton to confront his past actions, but the others as well, some in jail, some running hustles, others attempting suicide, just the usual stuff. 

     Much like the original film, the film is light on plot, but man is it heavy on the characters. This is a great thing, actually, its downright refreshing. One of the few films in years where I didn’t see the actors on screen but the characters I’ve known and loved for two decades. 

     I finally got to see my friends again. 

     I need to put these doubts to rest, something I lost hope in ever writing; A sequel that actually treats its audience with respect. 

     The first thing I was worried about was that this film was going to negate/undo the growth and catharsis of the original, shitting on the iconography that I held so dear. 

     It didn’t. My God, it actually works as a companion piece to the original. Can you a imagine, a follow-up twenty years later and it’s not a cash grab? It’s actually about something? 

     As someone who grew up watching Trainspotting the themes of regret, anger, and worthlessness hits close to the heart. That you can only run for so long before you have to stop and face it. It resonates so deeply, even I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it. 

     I can’t believe that director Danny Boyle had a film like this in him. He manages to avoid the pratfalls associated with going back to the well and made an original work that isn’t a retread of his glory days. He didn’t make the same movie twice, he gave this entry its own voice with an energy that I was sure wouldn’t even come close to the original. 

     There have been so many films, so many filmmakers who have tried and failed spectacularly to recapture the iconography of their past, or the churning out of retro properties from long ago youth, that I almost wanted to laugh at how Danny Boyle made a movie about the yearning for the past. And how terribly sad such an endeavor is. 

     It’s always about the future, it’s always about having hope. Its about choosing life. 

     

Blumhouse Productions has Lost their Fucking Minds on the New Halloween Movie…

     Alright this isn’t new news; I seriously needed a couple of weeks to process this. I’ll try to articulate this as best as I can. 

     I already wrote about how Miramax lost the rights to the Halloween franchise because it shouldn’t take you over half a fucking decade to release an installment, and they deserved to lose their cash cow. Assholes. 

     Well, it was announced awhile back that John Carpenter was going to return as a producer and maybe composer. Blow me, just make the damn movie. 

     The last idea that was thrown around was having The Shape about to be executed for his rampage back in ’78, with the kid of one of the investigators being trapped in the prison. It’s a good idea that got tossed before I could even get excited. 

     I’m just having Myers withdrawals. 

     It was announced that David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) is going to direct and co-write the script with Danny McBride. 

     Danny McBride. 

     Danny Mc-fucking-Bride.

      Yes. This fucking guy. Kenny Powers himself is going to write the new Halloween movie. 

     Let that sink in. 

     I’m just… What the fuck…? Oh, so we’re clear, I’m not upset that he’s doing the movie. I’m all for actors and writers doing something out of their comfort zone; I’m losing my shit because this needs to happen! This:

     Its fucking crazy! And McBride knows some dark shit, as a lot of comedians do, so I want to see these guys tackle the Shape like they got something to prove. Imagine that: a Halloween flick made by passionate filmmakers? Don’t let me down fuckers, make this shit happen! I don’t give a shit if the movie sucks, I just want to see how this will turn out! Blumhouse has killed it recently with Split and Get Out so make the movie already, Fuck! 

Get Out (2017) Review 

     Ever since I was in my early teens, and I caught a showing of Night of the Living Dead on tv, I was floored. The flick is terrifying, but what stands out the most is that the main character of Ben is black man. In a film made in 1968. Well, to be more accurate, what stands out is that Ben survives the night, only to be shot in the head by a posse with checking if he was undead first. It was sad, and left me in shock. 

     Jordan Peele’s Get Out is evocative of the social commentary that Night of the Living Dead had. Some overt, like the opening, some more subtle, like the attire worn at the party, but its influence is all over the picture. 

     Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is nervous to meet his girlfriend, Rose’s (Allison Williams), parents because they don’t know he’s black. But not to worry, Missy and Dean (Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford) are those cool white liberals that are so understanding. Even if there is something off about them…

     As Ipreviously mentioned, I love a horror film with some social commentary, and a big deal has been made about Get Out’s message on interracial matters, but that shouldn’t be the first thing to look at. Competency, and skill as a horror film should be looked at first, and done well, or no matter how powerful your statement is, it will falter. 

     Jordan Peele knows his horror films, Jesus Christ. 

     Peele knows that a horror film’s success or failure depends entirely on its pacing and editing. John Carpenter’s Halloween being the prime example. Peele is aware of when to hold back, when to drop hints, and to actually have likeable sympathetic characters. It’s like a foreplay before the big climax. 

     Luckily, the performances serve the material so well; Keener and Whitford know exactly the right balance between sweet and creepy. Right out of the gate, you know something is wrong, but they’re so nice (perfect metaphor for race). Kaluuya’s performance as Chris hits his beats perfectly. He is the conduit for us, the audience, and its been such a long time that I felt scared for a character in a horror movie, much less one that I was actually rooting for. Trust me, that’s all too rare. 

     I’m so happy to see a filmmaker make a film that is evocative of the horror films of the 60s and 70s, one’s were filmmakers put their fears on screen for us to experience. And Get Out is one hell of an experience. 

Why the Ending to Trainspotting was Perfect 

     With the recent release of T2: Trainspotting in the U.K. I got to thinking again about how much I’m both excited, and terrified, about the prospect of a sequel, especially 20 years later. 

     Full disclosure: I read the sequel novel, Porno about 10 years ago, and to say I was not impressed is to put it really mild. God, that book was terrible and a waste of a follow-up. So when I heard that not only was there going to be a movie, but that if anything, it was going to barely reference the novel, I felt relief. 

     But there was something still eating away at me; I still didn’t really want a sequel to one of my favorite films of all time. I loved the characters, yes even Begbie, and I did want to know what happened. But still…

     Of course the easy answer was that the ending to Trainspotting was just the perfect note to end the film on. 

     Renton is a character that goes through the perfect arc for himself. In the opening, Renton dismisses the idea of “Choose Life” and conform to the foundations of society. Well, because of the heroin. 

     Let me get to the point: The ending is such a satisfying conclusion because of the fact that Renton was put through such hell during the film. I mean the second half obviously, when he kicked his habit and actually started living a life for himself. 

     Then Begbie and Sick Boy show up and mess it all up for him. 

     Renton was in a real tight spot, and finally had enough to the point that he straight up stole 16,000 pounds. Any one of us could only wish we had that kind of reckless courage. 

     But what brought tears of joy when I saw the film the first time was this line:

         “So why’d I do it? I could offer a million answers, all false. The truth is that I’m a bad person. But that’s going to change…”

     To fully recognize that you’re a “bad person” when you so clearly are, is such an overwhelming positive realization, that you can help but smile, at least, at such self discovery. I applauded in my room, and I was so content. 

     I’m not gonna lie, I always caught myself wondering what happened to the guys; what became of them. I especially thought of Renton and hoped that he chose life, and settled down to a blissful life. That was the beauty of the ending: the possibility of hope to a character that more than earned his happiness. 

     That sums up why, ultimately, I am worried about T2: Trainspotting. The ambiguity will be gone, and I will find out what happened to them. I guess I don’t want the ending negated because the filmmakers couldn’t think of a decent fucking story. I hope that isn’t the case, but there’s only one way to find out. 

Moana Review 

     It still astonishes me that Disney can still make a movie like Moana. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Disney can still phone it in and they’ll make a shit ton of money. A shit ton. But with the advancement of technology, which makes for an abundance of lazy animated films, the filmmakers here took such care of the story, and the technical elements, that the company just keeps setting its own bar higher than before. 

     Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has just been made the chief of her tribe, but harsh times have fallen upon the tribe; fish, coconuts, you name it have become scarce. So its up to Moana to find the person responsible for upsetting the gods. Yep, she has to find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in order to set things right. 

     It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Disney princess movie where so many elements just fell perfectly into place. The humor, the animation, everything. Moana is a technical marvel to behold. The fact that while CGI animation is pretty much the standard nowadays, but the filmmakers also use traditional hand drawn animation as well (in particular Maui’s tattoos) just floored me. On that level, the movie needs to be studied in film courses. 

     I am fully aware that pretty pictures do not a good movie make; Moana herself as a character is such a revelation. It wasn’t until the end that it dawned on me that she has no love interest at all. Let that sink in…

     A Disney princess without a love interest. 

     All she gives a shit about is saving her home and her people. That’s all. This is so different from any other Disney princess movie. To break away from an almost hundred year formula just makes me question existence itself. Believe me folks, this is not the norm. 

     God knows when was the last time I had a shit eating grin throughout an entire Disney movie. The lush colors, the strong characters (HeiHei is my spirit animal), just the exuberant joy that seeps through every frame, every song, is something that is sorely lacking in not just family fare, but films in general.