Title: Doctor Sleep
Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, Rebecca Ferguson, Emily Alyn Lind, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon
What a ride. There are going to be aspects to Doctor Sleep, that will drive die-hard fans of Stanley Kubrick's film nuts. My feelings on Kubrick's classic are pretty well documented, but I will re-share briefly here. I like his film. I'm a bigger fan of the book, but the film has been forever ruined for me. While in film school, I had to endlessly study The Shining. So much so, it tarnished the film for me forever. I can never watch it the same way again. One aspect to Doctor Sleep that I enjoyed immensely, is that it invigorated something new and fresh, into The Shining for me. Mike Flanagan, has made something that is completely his own, but still feels like it belongs with the original film. While Doctor Sleep has a few issues here and there, this thing took me on a journey. Sometimes that journey annoyed me. Sometimes that journey excited me. Sometimes that journey bored me. Sometimes that journey scared me. I went through a myriad of emotions while watching Doctor Sleep. However, I enjoyed the ride immensely. Flanagan directs the shit out this film. The visual style here, helps keep this thing floating. Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson, are fantastic. Ferguson, especially, is so deliciously chewing the scenery here. She is so much fun to watch. Young Kyliegh Curran, is also great. The score to this, is fantastic. It has its own flare, and calls back to the original nicely. Doctor Sleep is a slow burn, much like the original. Sometimes that slow burn though, can be a problem. The flick can feel its runtime here and there, and that's unfortunate, as when this thing is firing, it's firing on all cylinders. I like this film a lot. I may even love it. It's one of those that I am still thinking about. I can't wait to see this again. What a ride.
Title: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Emile Hirsch
Your adoration for Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, is going to be very reliant on how much you love Tarantino. I guess, to be fair, most of his films are like that. However, a lot of Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, feels very self-indulgent. More so than normal for Tarantino. It reeks of a film that only Quentin Tarantino can get away with...and he knows it. He knows that his devoted fans will love it no matter what, and his critics will critique it no matter what. So the hard part, is separating the two forces. Where the film succeeds, is in the stellar performances by Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The two, carry this thing all the way to the finish line. It's because of them, that this works at all. Margot Robbie, does a fine job as well. Tarantino does, what Tarantino does. While I don't think it truly works, overall, it's enjoyable to watch. The film is immensely overstuffed. He tugs you along here and there, but nothing every really amounts to much. There's a lot of waiting for the "point" to happen. You feel a lot of the run-time here. While that's typical of Tarantino, the material isn't quite as good and the entertainment factor, is kind of hit or miss. Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood is still entertaining overall, thanks in large part to its performances. While I think that a lot of what happens here is a bit messy, it's a fascinating mess to watch at times.
Title: The Lion King
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Donald Glover, Beyonce', Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, James Earl Jones, Keegan-Michael Key, John Kani
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to thing if they should." 2019's The Lion King is one of the most bizarre movie-going experiences I've ever had. The original The Lion King isn't just one of my favorite animated films of all-time, it's one of my favorite movies of all time. It is still to this day, one of the only films that can make me weep like a little bitch. The movie does something to my soul. It digs deep into me like few films ever have. 2019's The Lion King, for all its photorealism, is almost completely devoid of all emotion. Sure, the effects wizardry on display is something quite extraordinary. However, there is something so soulless about these characters, it's really hard to grasp onto anything. Nostalgia, plays a big part in getting enjoyment out of The Lion King. Favreau, obviously knows the ropes when it comes to the effects here. He's taken what he learned from The Jungle Book, and improved on that tenfold. That being said, throughout the course of the film, one can't help but wonder why they just copied and pasted the original films' script. The original is so ingrained into my brain, it is really hard for me to hear the exact same movie coming out different voices. It is literal the same movie, almost shot-for-shot, with a few new things thrown in for good measure. The line deliveries here, are really weird as well. To reiterate what I said before, a lot of this feels very lifeless. The stilted delivery, almost feels like a conscious choice here. The animals act like real animals, and they very rarely show any emotion in their facial expressions. The mix doesn't really work, with a few exceptions. Enter Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen, who both inject a spirited liveliness into their performances. They basically saved the film for me. Chiwetel Ejiofor, is also good as Scar, but not nearly as memorable as Jeremy Irons. I actually really liked how they handled the Be Prepared scene. Overall, The Lion King isn't exactly bad, and it's not exactly good. It's not quite Psycho remake territory, but it teeters on that a lot. It's an odd experiment of a film, that I'm curious to see how it stands the test of time.
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kaya Scondelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson, Ami Metcalf
Crawl is a movie where if you don't get the joke in the opening scene, you're not going to get it at all. Aside from that, Crawl is a mostly effective, thrilling "B" film. Alexandre Aja, is no stranger to fun, over the top horror thrills. Crawl lives somewhere in between Aja's The Hills Have Eyes remake, and his Piranha 3D remake. I was a little disappointed in how subdued Crawl is, given what Aja has given us before. That being said, Crawl is entertaining, if at times a little clunky in its execution. Kaya Scodelario, is great here, and Barry Pepper, does a nice job as her dad. The father/daughter story going on here, is done really well, aside from some of it being a little too heavy handed. Scodelario and Pepper sell it all, despite some of the shortfalls. The alligators, are done mostly well. Some of the effects on them aren't exactly the best, and it can take you out of the movie sometimes. However, it's the effective way Aja sets up the thrills, that will work around some of the CGI that isn't quite up to standard. Overall, Crawl is a fun, tense "B" film, with some disappointing points in its execution. It's a summertime popcorn flick, which brings the goods it promises.
Title: Spider-Man: Far From Home
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei
I personally realized while watching Far From Home, that I don't think I totally connect with any of these new characters. There's something about how they are portrayed, that just doesn't totally click with me. And I don't think that will ever change. That being said, I enjoy what Tom Holland does with the character. While I still feel that his nervous, borderline neurotic delivery gets a little annoying, he does a decent job in the role. Despite my issues with the characteristics of some of these characters, all are pretty much likable which helps. I found most of Far From Home to be fine. The story gets a little dragged on too much, and it tends to linger on plot threads way too long for my taste. If you are totally invested in the relationship between Peter Parker and Tony Stark, I suppose one would get much more out of what's being done here. Jake Gyllenhaal, as Mysterio, is probably the best possible way this character could have been portrayed on screen for a modern age. Gyllenhaal, is strong, if not a little hammy in some places, but it works quite well. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the surprises they had here. That mid-credit scene is quite good. Far From Home feels like it's stretching a lot to get to its point. It feels far too long than it should, and it doesn't quite reach the heights it sets out to climb. Easter eggs, and fan-service, aren't quite enough for me though. A lot of stuff in Far From Home, tends to get a little fan service-y for my tastes. Overall, Far From Home is an enjoyable entry in the franchise. It's a fun time.
Title: Child's Play
Director: Lars Klevberg
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Mark Hamill, Beatrice Kitsos
Child's Play is good. There, I said it. And by Child's Play, I of course mean both. Look, yes, they remade it. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that the original, will always exist. That film is good for what it is. I love the Child's Play series. Yes, even at its low point, I enjoy the series quite a bit. What kept that series going, and still keeps the series going, is Brad Douriff. He's iconic as the character; as THAT version of Chucky. This is a different interpretation of Chucky. And while I'm shocked that 2019's Child's Play is as good as it is, I'm not entirely shocked as some people may be after seeing it. I was actually on board with this after the first teaser. And once Mark Hamill was added as the voice, I was buying a ticket. Child's Play 2019, is a lot of fun. It's creepy, bloody, funny, and a solid horror remake. It takes elements from the original formula and both updates, and turns it on its head. Everyone in this film is solid. From Aubrey Plaza, to Bryan Tyree Henry, to Gabriel Bateman- they are all fun to watch. Mark Hamill, is PERFECT as THIS version of Chucky. It works so well that after you see it, you will instantly know why they got him to do the voice. The film has a few flaws. Particularly in some misplaced line readings, and a little bit of a weird middle act. However, the magic here, is in the character of Chucky himself. What they do to the character is smart. It's a great balance of heart, emotion, and creepiness, all thrown into the mix. Child's Play, is a genuine surprise. It's a crowd pleaser of a film, and fun time at the movies.
Title: Men In Black: International
Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Emma Thompson
Dull. If Men In Black: International could be summed up in one word, it would be dull. It's not particularly funny, the story isn't particularly interesting, it's painfully predictable, and I'm afraid this entry will kill the franchise for a long time. It's actually kind of a shame. The premise here, feels like a natural progression for the franchise. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, try their best to do what they can. They have really good chemistry together. However, we already know that, as they also had good chemistry in Thor: Ragnarok. Both have a few chuckles here and there, but the screenplay doesn't exactly give them great material to work with. The bulk of the laughs, come from Kumail Nanjiani's Pawny. Liam Neeson, is sleeping through most of this. A lot of the film, feels like it's coasting by on the bare minimum in fact. I found myself struggling to stay interested during most of this. There's a lot of wasted talent and money on screen here. Men In Black: International, is almost as bad as Men In Black II. I love this franchise. Both good and bad. However, this one is rough. There's very little to even get excited about in this. At least MIB II had Frank The Pug, and Will Smith. This has... ah, hell. It's just really damn dull. I was rooting for you MIB: International. I really was.
Title: Dark Phoenix
Director: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Tye Sheridan, Michael Fassbender, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain
Well, the X-Men proper series of films under the Fox banner, limps to the finish line. The main issue with Dark Phoenix, is that nothing particularly exciting, or important happens. There are glimpses of what first time director, Simon Kinberg, wanted to do. The problem is, I don't think he should have been doing this all on his own. He never gets to where he wants to go, fully. Credit to him though; for a first outing, this could have been a lot worse. Working in his favor here, are three solid performances by McAvoy, Fassbender, and Sophie Turner. They manage to keep this excruciatingly dull story, interesting enough for us, as we drag to the credits. I believe it was something like and hour after the open, before an X-Man, or Woman, uses any power to, well, do anything. Aside from that, the only reason why this version of the Phoenix Saga is even watchable is because of Sophie Turner. The story itself, just isn't interesting enough. It's a repetitive slog of either talking about, Jean and how powerful she is, or, Jean pouting about what is happening to her. Kinberg, tries to sell us of this great threat, but it always falls into flat, cliche' territory. A lot of people just talk to each other about the threat. In between all of this, Jessica Chastain shows up, in a borderline embarrassing performance. Her character has virtually nothing to do here. And when she does, it's all just silly nonsense. That being said, there are a few moments throughout that are worth a look. The ending sequence is quite nice, and it shows that it was a re-shoot. The whole thing feels like a different movie. Dark Phoenix skirts by on very little. It's not overly terrible. It's watchable. I guess it could have been far worse. It's a dull, ending chapter for the Fox era of X-Men proper.
Title: Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Charles Dance, Bradley Whitford
I absolutely abhorred, Gareth Edwards' 2014 misguided Godzilla-less snoozefest. Besides the lack of the titular character in that film, the constant cutting away from the action onscreen, was a cinematic sin I will never forgive. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, we do get more Godzilla. We do get more monsters. However, someone please tell me why in the ever loving fuck, are we constantly cutting back to a hamfisted family drama in the middle of an epic monster battle? AGAIN?! Nobody. Fucking. Cares. These characters are so thinly written, I didn't even remember their names in the film. If we are going to do stuff like this, write your damn characters better. Nobody bought a ticket to Godzilla: King of the Monsters, to watch a family go through therapy. And make awful, world-ending decisions, because of bad family history. And the cutting away from the action. Why are we still doing this? There is a shot towards the end of the film, where a plane purposely flies into frame, to BLOCK the action on screen. It's the same shit we did in 2014. Stop it. Do not do this in Godzilla Vs. Kong. For the love of Jebus, don't do this anymore. That being said, forget the story here. Forget the characters here. The monsters and the battles, are the bread and butter. Any time there is a monster onscreen, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is spectacular. It's a damn-near masterpiece. Until we have to cut away to catch up on family therapy, or read the book of plot exposition. It's a freaking shame. Because of how badly written these characters are, I have to wonder who's idea the family drama story was. It's clear Dougherty respects and loves these monsters. It's shown onscreen every time we see a Kaiju. That's the freaking movie. This family story is so bad, it feels out of place in this. It feels like an afterthought. The monster stuff is so well done, I have to wonder if that's the movie Dougherty wanted to make. And then some Warner Bros. Executive saw an episode of Stranger Things. Look, there's nothing wrong with cutting away from monster action, to catch up with characters and plot. To see how this is done properly, watch Jurassic Park. All of that being said, the epic Kaiju battles are worth a ticket. Just ignore everything else.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad
During the first fifteen minutes of Aladdin, every single one of my cinematic synapses was firing on all cylinders. This was going to be bad. I was bracing myself for the next two hours. And then, something happened. I'm still not sure what it was. However, Aladdin turned out... good. Truth be told, the film has quite a few issues. Guy Ritchie, was both the wrong and right person to direct this thing. It's clear that he has no idea how to shoot a musical. So instead, he relies on things he watched in other musicals. Yes, even the animated Aladdin. Aladdin very much feels like a traditional musical. It all looks like something you saw in another musical, and not just the animated feature. There's also a weirdness that shows through, which actually plays in favor of Guy Ritchie. There is a charm to all of this. It is this charm, that propels Aladdin to the finish line. This is very much a crowd-pleasing film. It's easily digestible, with a few pieces of gristle in its bite. Mena Massoud, and Naomi Scott, are both solid as Aladdin and Jasmine. However, let's talk about the big, blue, elephant in the room. Will Smith is really good as the Genie. In fact, I would say he's perfect. Oh, no, not Robin Williams perfect. He's Will Smith perfect. This is his Genie. And he does his Genie well. He's funny, he can sing, he's charming, he has heart, and he's basically carrying this entire thing on his shoulders. You could feel the tension in the theater the moment Aladdin, starts rubbing that lamp. Everyone basically stiffened and waited for blue Will Smith to appear, and say something. And once he did, you could feel everyone collectively sigh in relief. Marwan Kenzari, I would say is the weak link as Jafar. It's... a different take, but I kind of dug what he did. Bottom line is, Aladdin isn't bad. It's good. It has issues, but it's really entertaining to watch. I'm actually glad the internet didn't kill this prematurely. Especially, Will Smith's Genie.