Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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IT is the second cinematic adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel and through director, Andy Muschietti's brilliant vision: expands the source material properly by splitting the story into two separate, R-rated chapters for maximum effect. Straight out the gate; this is a phenomenal adaptation that far surpasses the highly uneven, but somewhat iconic TV mini-series version starring Tim Curry, with a much sharper focus on building tension, has an A-plus cast of child actors, and of course, Bill Skarsgård as the most terrifying clown the big-screen has ever seen! Being part one of the larger story, this film only features the characters as adolescents, and with the help from an R-rating, they actually get to talk like how young kids do; cussing and all. The young cast is comprised of mostly unknowns, with the exceptions being Jaeden Lieberher and Stranger Things', Finn Wolfhard, who completely steals the show as the foul-mouthed, but hysterical, Richie. All of the performers do fantastic work and you find yourself invested in all of them, even if some have less screen-time then the others. The film follows the novel extraordinarily well: opening with the infamous death of one of the young children by Pennywise, leading the rest of the kids to band together to defeat this evil before he can claim more victims. Speaking of Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård is an absolute revelation in this film with a truly unique interpretation of the evil clown which ultimately eclipses Curry's own take. The crowning achievement of this film is its ability to be both frightening and side-splittingly hilarious, and thus made it one of the most enjoyable theatre experiences I've had. The studio really took a gamble with this one, an R-rated horror film, starring children, that runs over two hours, but thanks to Muschietti's skill and the studio's confidence, this has become one of the most successful horror films of all time. Really looking forward to part two and fingers crossed they don't ruin all of the goodwill built-up by this exceptional film!
(1.5 out of 5) Bad Moms is another failed attempt at duplicating the success of a female-led comedy like Bridesmaids, where the women can be "just as raunchy as the men", and while it has a legit concept, the execution is very poor and the laughs were almost non-existent. The film follows a trio of moms, played by Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Katherine Hahn, who are fed up with the overbearing responsibilities of motherhood; whether it's out-of-control children, a deadbeat husband, or the incessant meetings and annoyance of the PTA, and decide to rebel against the system and become "bad moms". The chemistry between the central characters is fine, but you never fully buy their abrupt switch to the juvenile behavior; so the film loses credibility almost instantly. The rest of the cast features Christina Applegate, Jay Hernandez, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Annie Mumolo, the co-writer of Bridesmaids. Applegate somewhat shines as the bitchy and unnecessarily over-the-top leader of the PTA, but her character goes so far over-board that her character becomes a total cartoon. This film is written and directed by the guys who wrote the Hangover series and helmed the very lame, 21 & Over, so it's really not surprising that the jokes don't land (first Hangover movie aside). Much like the film Sisters, the cast dumb-down their characters and get into Will Ferrell-esque shenanigans, which don't work when all the characters are successful women with jobs and responsibilities. All things considered, this film had potential to be very funny, but the overly crude dialogue, cringe-worthy montages, and overall unbelievability of the sequence of events didn't work for me. The best thing this had to offer was the end credit scene with the female leads conversing with their real-life mothers - a sweet note to end the dreadful experience on.
Hacksaw Ridge is hands-down one of the most impactful war films ever put to screen, and is a triumphant return to acclaim for Mel Gibson behind the camera. This film disturbed me, haunted me, and sent shivers down my spine during its many lengthy battle sequences, which were shot with gruesome realism and likened to that of a horror movie with heavy emphasis on the expression: war is hell. The story follows real-life army medic, Desmond Doss, who was a conscientious objector to violence due to some elements of his past, and through faith and unwavering courage, decides to enlist in the army to save lives, rather than take them. His journey takes him to the infamous battle of Okinawa, where the Americans fought the ruthless Japanese soldiers and though many lives were lost, Desmond managed to save approximately 75 wounded soldiers without firing a single bullet. Andrew Garfield gives the performance of his career as Doss, a simple-minded, but determined-as-hell lover, rather than fighter, whose spirituality gets him through his considerable obstacles in the army. He is ridiculed, beaten, and named a coward for his non-violent tendencies, leading to harsh treatment from his peers throughout boot camp. The supporting cast is also excellent here with Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey giving career-best performances as fellow soldiers, and a nearly unrecognizable Hugo Weaving was OUTSTANDING as Desmond's alcoholic veteran father; whose biggest fear is having his sons buried before him. All that said, Mel Gibson is the true star of the show here and it is wonderful to see him being embraced back into the public consciousness thanks to this incredibly powerful and assured film. Hacksaw Ridge is the best war film since Saving Private Ryan, and the impact this film carries left me in complete, stunned silence once it ended.
Arrival is the vastly overrated, but very well-made science fiction tale about alien spaceships who arrive on Earth seeking our help, and the fate of humanity rests in the hands of an accomplished linguist who learns how to communicate with them. This film is less of an alien invasion story and centers more on the themes of communication, linguistics, and fate; a cool concept, but to me, the execution left much to be desired. It's directed by Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Forest Whitaker who all deliver solid work, but the storytelling and pace put me to sleep. Critics are raving that this is a "thinking-man's sci-fi", which I'm all for, but not at the expense of entertainment purposes and this film was a DRAGGGGGGG to get through. Adams and Renner have very little chemistry throughout; her character being extremely bland didn't help, and I was largely unsatisfied with where their characters ended up. The pacing is also unbearably slow which left an air of self-importance around the film that honest-to-goodness, made me fall asleep while watching it. The big reveals that come at the end are admittedly very cool, but once again, the execution of said ideas is very uninteresting and were not nearly as mind-blowing as the movie thinks they are. I REALLY wanted to love this as I'm a big fan of the director's work, but perhaps the enormous praise this film got and massive hype surrounding it worked against my expectations by the time I finally saw it. I thought the technical aspects of this film were great, but to me, story comes first, and this film didn't impress me nearly as much as the film community wanted it to.
Keeping up with the Joneses is the latest, in a long string of suburbia-based comedies, where the new neighbors may not be so normal after-all, and with this particular incarnation: are they spies? This type of premise has been done-to-death and even shares similarities with the dreadful film, Killers, and although this is much better, it still breaks absolutely no new ground. The film stars Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis as a dull, suburban couple who have no sex life, boring jobs, and a lack of drive to their marriage. Enter: Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot as the ever-perfect and unbelievably gorgeous new neighbors, whose suspicious personas give Galifianakis and Fisher a new purpose. This is a dopey comedy for sure, but I found some entertainment value in the sporadically funny lines and so-so action sequences and I was never bored. It's directed by Greg Mottola, who's made much better comedies in the past (like Superbad and Adventureland), and here he does a commendable job, but nothing stands out as innovative. The big problem with this film is it's a lot of been there, done that material, and when the jokes aren't punchy enough, you're not really left with much. Overall, it's a film that passed my time well-enough, the actors do a decent job (Isla Fisher being the stand-out), and I got just enough chuckles out of it to make it worthwhile.