Title: The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel
Starring: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Ethan Suplee, Wayne Duvall, Emma Roberts
The Hunt is not a great movie. However, it is wildly entertaining. It's vile, raucous, gory, funny, perplexing, and fun to watch. The biggest thing anchoring the film down, is in its screenplay. I get what they were trying to do. The problem is the writers aren't nearly as smart, as they want you to think. They try so hard to give you deeper themes here. None of it quite adds up to what I believe they were intending. Not surprising since, Damon Lindelof, is involved. He basically made a career of that (see Lost for evidence). However, kudos to director Craig Zobel, and stars, Betty Gilpin, and Hilary Swank. They are the ones that sell this entire thing. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting here. They are the ones who have made something worth a damn to watch. Betty Gilpin is phenomenal in this thing. She kicks ass, and has a wicked sense of humor. You really root for her here. Swank, is deliciously devious, as well. I couldn't help but want a movie starring Gilpin's Crystal, and Samara Weaving's Grace from Ready Or Not, after The Hunt. Those two characters in one movie, would be amazing to watch. Overall, The Hunt is worth a viewing for its zaniness. I laughed a lot, and had a good time. And the performances from Gilpin, and Swank, are worth a look.
Title: The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman
Oh, boy. This movie is insanely good. I was one of the ones, who had hope for this after the trailers got trashed on. Everything that was in place, told me this was going to be something special and different. My word, is this thing good. Leigh Whannell, has come a long way from penning a tiny torture porn diddy, that exploded into a mega franchise. Of course his cohort on that film, James Wan, has also gone on to great things. Whannell, proved himself a capable director with Upgrade. We're going to forget about his Insidious outing behind the camera. He is also a solid writer, and his talents shine through with The Invisible Man. This is Hitchcockian 101. The film is boiling over at the brim with tension, suspense, drama, action, and everything in between. Elisabeth Moss, is great as Cecilia Kass. She's so good at both making you feel for her, and also taking you to the edge of insanity. The surrounding cast is also great. Aldis Hodge is fantastic, and young Storm Reid is also good. Oliver Jackson-Cohen, is delightfully devious too. The direction this film takes, and how Whannell grounds this story for our time, works really, really well. There's a lot of smart in The Invisible Man. I love the camera work here. It adds to an already healthy supply of tension. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch, is superb. It has a nice string vibe, that echoes to the original Universal Monster films. There are a lot of surprises here. Try not to be spoiled, and let this thing take you on a journey. Run, do not pass go, do not collect $200, to see The Invisible Man.
Title: The Call of the Wild
Director: Chris Sanders
Starring: Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Cara Gee, Dan Stevens
The Call of the Wild is a very weird movie to talk about. On one hand, Harrison Ford, is pretty good in it. His interactions with the MOCAP man playing Buck on set, almost sells this whole thing. Almost. The problem is, the all CGI Buck doesn't always work. In fact at times, it is downright distracting and takes you completely out of the movie. I get it, they wanted a little bit more expression from the dog. However, I don't think it was entirely necessary. Sure, there are some things a real dog couldn't do. However, they would have just CGI'd that anyway. The normal Buck interactions, could have easily been played by a real dog. That being said, there are moments that work, but the vast majority of it comes away with middling results. The more CGI, cartoony dog works for the little ones. They go for more expression, and more "awareness" from Buck. Buck, understands and responds to humans, with more purpose than most humans these days. Dan Stevens, is chewing the scenery as the bad guy, and there are few walk-on roles that while cliche', work just fine. All in all, The Call of the Wild is an average family film, with a solid performance from Harrison Ford. The book is timeless, but I'm not so sure how this adaptation will fare in time.
Title: Sonic The Hedgehog
Director: Jeff Fowler
Starring: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub, Adam Pally
We live in a very cynical society today. Hard to believe, I know. I would like to think that Sonic The Hedgehog, is a positive product to come out of internet cancel culture. Even before the character design backlash, people were ready to kill this thing before seeing a single frame of footage. While I don't think Paramount should have caved, it's easy to see why. Someone recognized that they had an enjoyable film on their hands, and something that would settle well with general audiences. So, they did what was best for the film. While the more cartoonish version of Sonic running around the real world may not totally go with the realistic vibe, it works within the context of the film. The cartoonish version only enhances what is an enjoyable, fun, and often times sweet ride. Sure, the story isn't going to break new ground, however, Sonic The Hedgehog is a lot of fun. James Marsden and Tika Sumpter, are really solid here. They have great chemistry with each other, and I'm glad that Tika wasn't just sidelined as a character. She has stuff to do, which is nice. Ben Schwartz, is great as Sonic. He's manic, but grounded, and adds some heart to the character. However, lets talk about Jim Carrey. Forget the Sonic redesign. This film wouldn't be half as good, if Jim Carrey wasn't in this. He is dialed up to a trillion here, and it is glorious. Imagine if Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, was doing an impression of Ace Ventura the entire time, and you have some iota as to what to expect. His performance needs to be seen to be believed. It's great to watch. Overall, Sonic The Hedgehog is a good time. I'm glad it turned out the way it did. There will be sourpusses who will shit all over it, but it's not bad. It may not be Oscar worthy, but it's enjoyable, and a pleasant surprise.
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong
I have to be perfectly honest; when I first saw the trailer for 1917, I thought it looked cheesy as all hell. The marketing campaign for this film, was pretty off. The punctuated ending with the see-through text of 1917, was very film school, and overall it looked...bland. As 1917 began showing, the buzz that had swirled around it was loud. There was a part of me, that doubted the buzz. Universal should probably thank the buzz, and 1917's recent Golden Globe victories. It probably saved 1917 from being an underrated, forgotten, gimmicky war movie. Sure, Sam Mendes, uses the single take gimmick to strengthen a simple story. However, he uses it to tremendous effect. While there are a few moments where the effect gets tiresome, for the most part, it enhances almost everything on screen. 1917, feels like a war movie we haven't really seen before because of it. I had similar reactions, when I saw Saving Private Ryan for the first time. Roger Deakins, deserves all the accolades he gets for this film. On top of the "oner" aspect going on here, 1917 is beautiful to look at. From haunting battlefield imagery, to burnt-out towns, the film is purdy. The score by Thomas Newman, is fantastic as well. 1917, does suffer from a little too thin of a story, and some of the acting is a bit bland. However, 1917 is a great war movie. It's a fine film altogether. It's a cinematic experience so if you get the chance, see it in a theater.
Title: Star Wars: Episode IX- The Rise of Skywalker
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Naomi Ackie, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher
I have to wonder if J.J. Abrams, asked himself once the final cut of The Rise of Skywalker was completed, "How did I get here?" I lived through the Special Edition era of Star Wars. I lived through the prequel era of Star Wars. The Disney era of Star Wars, has been a weird one. Set aside the standalone films for a moment. I know people really like The Last Jedi. I am not one of them. The more I watch that film, the more I hate it. I think J.J., hated it from the beginning. The Rise of Skywalker feels like a desperate attempt to course correct into the story that J.J., wanted to tell from the start. Throw in the tragic, untimely, death of Carrie Fisher, and all bets were off. The story here is rocky. Things are rushed during the first half, especially the dynamic between Rey and Leia. It's obvious this entire trilogy had a different trajectory in mind; or no trajectory at all, if you want to be really cynical about it. However, I can see the seeds of what J.J. really wanted to do. And then there is everything else that happens. There are enormous leaps that are attempted, and you're either going to buy them, or not. Despite some of the rocky story, I found myself really enjoying this. Somehow, the film still finds a way to be immensely entertaining. I even really like Rey, whom I haven't been a big fan of as a character. Things are done to Kylo Ren, that I didn't think I would ever buy either, but still somehow worked for me. The entire cast is solid here. The film still works as a whole. How you gravitate towards it, will depend on how you feel about the other two I think. If you liked the direction of The Last Jedi, you will probably hate this. And if you're willing to forgive some of the leaps, you will probably like this. Setting all of that aside, I do like some of the crazy insanity that's going on in the third act of this film. And I still think overall, it's a satisfying end to this trilogy. I had a lot of fun with it. The flick's clumsiness is glaring though, and that's a shame. We've come a long way since the nostalgia bait of The Force Awakens. I never thought we would end up here. Oh, and John Williams is the real hero here.
Title: Knives Out
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford
Knives Out can be a chore to sit through. There's a lot to like, and quite a bit that's frustrating. Rian Johnson, seems to over complicate things here, where he doesn't need to do so. Sure, it's a whodunit, but a lot of times things happen that just seem like filler. A lot of Knives Out comes across like Johnson, is trying to be smarter than the audience. However, it's not THAT smart, and it's a bit over-writing for the sake of over-writing. The social commentary happening here, can feel really forced, and it took me out of the film at times. This also bogs down the movie, and it can feel a bit boring. That being said, the entire thing works because of the cast. There's a lot of stunt casting happening here, which helps to throw the audience off the trail. With a lot of movies like this, usually we have one, or two pieces of stunt casting which give the entire thing away. Here, it works, and the performances are all top notch. Daniel Craig, is wonderful here. He is the glue holding this together. His delightful, southern, detective, is fantastic. I would love some kind of spinoff, with his character. I want to see more of him. Like, now. Despite my issues, I had a good time with the film. All in all, Knives Out is an often times charming, funny, modern, mystery, with some rocky roads. The less you know about the plot, the better.
Title: A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks. Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Christine Lahti
As the Mister Rogers revival tour continues, it's clear that we as a species may not have deserved him. And I don't think we deserve Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers either. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood frames a redemption story, around the show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, along with the titular character. While the framing is a bit unconventional, this is 100% sold on Tom Hanks' performance as Fred Rogers. Sure, Hanks may not totally look like Mister Rogers, but his performance melts it all into one big package. Hanks is pitch perfect here. He's mesmerizing on screen, and he embodies the soft, kindness that Mister Rogers brought to millions of people around the world. I have no doubt, that Hanks, will be nominated for an Oscar here. While a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a good film, there are some things that don't quite always equal 100. For starters, the character of Lloyd, is really unlikable. While I get that is pretty much the point, I think they went a tad too far depicting that here. Ultimately, it all works out in the end, but sometimes it is hard for us to root for Lloyd. This whole thing is told from his point of view, so at times it can be a challenge. However, as the film progresses, we do end up in Lloyd's corner, so all is not lost. Matthew Rhys, is solid as the character, so that helps a lot. The entire cast is great here. This is a crowd pleasing film. Its heart is in the right place, even though some of the gears may be a bit rusty. There's a lot of stuff to like, and Tom Hanks, is just too good to ignore.
Title: Ford v Ferrari
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Josh Lucas, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Noah Jupe
Ford v Ferrari is an enjoyable look at this true tale. Both Christian Bale and Matt Damon, carry this thing all the way to the finish line. While James Mangold does a great job here, it's in the racing scenes where he really gets to flex his muscles. The Le Mans sequence alone, is among the best racing stuff I've ever seen on screen. However, the story here can feel really cliche', and it tends to bog down quite a bit of the pacing. That being said, it is indeed Damon and Bale, who sell the lulls in the film with their charismatic performances. It's a shame really. It probably doesn't help matters, that Josh Lucas, is such a one-note caricature here. Both his character, and the Henry Ford II character, are so damn unlikable, that it can be hard to root for the main cause. On that note, the story becomes one of Bale's Ken Miles, and rooting for his cause. Whether on purpose, or by accident, it works either way. By the time we end, it's a poignant look at this rivalry, and the men and women who helped make it so.
Title: Jojo Rabbit
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Archie Yates
While sitting through the first fifteen minutes of Jojo Rabbit, I'm not going to lie, it was a bit uncomfortable. It was quite jarring, and I wasn't exactly sure how to feel, or how to take it. However, as the film progresses, everything that is going on here starts to make sense. Jojo Rabbit is a bold film, that makes bold decisions. It's masterfully crafted by Taika Waititi, and as everything unfolds, you practically feel yourself getting pulled along by him. Every performance in this is pitch perfect. Scarlett Johansson, is fantastic here. The young cast, is so, so good. This thing practically rides on all of their shoulders, and they nail it. Sam Rockwell, gives a superb, understated, funny, but important role here as well. Everyone gets what they are doing, and they understand what is trying to be said. While some elements of the story can feel a bit heavy-handed, the unconventional nature of the storytelling, helps sell it all. There are moments that are laugh-out-loud funny, and there are moments that wrecked me. Most importantly, Jojo Rabbit is extremely entertaining to watch, and because you are along for the ride, Waititi knows when to pull the strings out from under you. The film understands that what it is doing, may not be the most...conventional. However, the powerful nature of the message here, outshines everything else. Jojo Rabbit isn't just a great film, but one of the best of the year. Seek it out, and go in with an open mind. You may be a bit surprised.