Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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I saw The Invitation at an advance screening two weeks ago and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. The film as a whole is a force to be reckoned with, but it's in the last thirty seconds that The Invitation earns the hype it's been given as it presents an intensely chilling conclusion that left me sitting in the dark theater long after the credits rolled.
It takes a lot to get me on the edge of my seat, but Green Room got me there and kept me there, and it would have taken a lot for me to sit back and relax. The production design, acting and story are top-notch and carry the film into brilliance. Green Room is an absolute thrill, truly delightful (in a murderous way), and wholeheartedly original through its last bar.
It's nearly impossible to imagine another adjective to substitute "hardcore" in "Hardcore Henry" because "hardcore" encapsulates the film in every ideation of the word. Hardcore Henry is a thoroughly crafted balancing act between unbelievable stunt coordination, solid writing, outstanding camerawork, and a knockout performance from Sharlto Copley, all of which pile atop one another like Henry's victims after he punches them in the face with the same surprising power and form with which the film is armed. The laughs, winces, and gasps come from every angle at all times until you're left in a dark theater thinking there's nothing more hardcore than this film.
The biggest question I was left with at the end of The Good Dinosaur wasn't whether or not everyone lived happily ever after, nor was it about how their version of earth missed a devastating asteroid hit (although that would be my second biggest question)-but rather, who on THIS earth made the creative decision to photorealistically-skimp on the rendering of the dinosaurs?! The environments in which the dinos lived were stunning and so authentic they could have been actual film footage. But the dinosaurs? Cartoonish, bulky and the polar opposite aesthetic pairing to the gorgeous landscapes, breathtaking water and rivers, and overall hard-to-believe natural setting. Even though I was left sobbing in the theater by the end of the film (the storyline was moving albeit generic, singular and lacking in scope), the overall impact was cut in half because of the artistic choice a Pixar honcho made to style the dinosaurs as if they were for a low-budget remake of The Land Before Time.
Bridge of Spies achieves the same suspenseful, intense war horror as films that rely on heavily CGI-ed explosions and gunfire, but did so without the explosions and gunfire. The edge of war and overall story are grounded in reality, and the powerful work of Spielberg, Hanks' smart and ethical Jim Donovan (who you can't help but love), and Mark Rylance's stunning performance as Rudolf Abel draw you close, politely ask for your time, and present a story that needs telling.
Rogue Nation got the overly-advertised, poster shot airplane stunt out of the way as soon as possible-the film opens with the high-octane stunt and juxtaposes it with a calm Brandt (Renner) in HQ and a goofy Benji (Pegg) covered in faux dirt and grass. At first I was jarred by the stunt's premature appearance, but in retrospect, the trailers avoided spoiling any of the other insanely awesome, jaw-dropping stunts that comprise the entirety of the film. The story was paced evenly and never felt slow or fast. The laugh-out-loud moments, most of which were spurred on by Pegg and Cruise, were frequent and genuinely hilarious. There's no such thing as too much Simon Pegg, and Rogue Nation focuses on his character almost as heavily as Cruise's Ethan Hunt. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is insanely fun and is well-aware of itself in the best way possible.
The power of Ant-Man's punch lies in the wrinkleless face of Paul Rudd and his comedic timing. Slow at first but picking up speed once we meet Ant-Man's crew of misfits, the film prides itself on its modest ant-sized steps toward a conclusion. Edgar Wright's brilliance flickers on and off screen so quickly that you wonder if he actually had a hand in the film's development, or-perhaps worse-you were attempting to fill his void by imagining vague shadows of his humor. Nevertheless, Ant-Man reminds us that some Marvel movies can exist (and survive) without steroid injected CGI (not to say this film did not have a fair dose of CGI: it did, but it was done gracefully), and that Paul Rudd is a timeless reminder that comedy can be tiny if done correctly.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a fire-rocketed shuttle barreling through an expanse of stormy, brooding madness emptied by an apocalypse and harvested into death by tyrants like Immortan Joe (a resurrected Toecutter?). Tom Hardy's 90%-insane, 90%-broken Max stumbles into the 100%-insane/broken world before pairing up with Charlize Theron's furiously fearless Furiosa to regain his footing (and driving) and become the Mad Max who's been boiling for three movies. The film thoroughly constructs a hell-born society existing in the barren Earth, and rewards the audience with incredible references and callbacks to the first three Mad Max installments. Mad Max: Fury Road transports the audience through time and space to ground them in the Wasteland, and solidifies the necessity of theater-going while doing so.
To say The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was anything less than warmhearted, fun, and silly (in all the best ways) would be as wrong as Plankton is right. As a kid who grew up during SpongeBob's golden years on television, this movie hit home with me and felt extremely genuine and true to the 16-year-old franchise. The most suspenseful part of the movie was waiting for the arbitrarily in-canon "MY LEG" shout from a nameless secondary character during a time of despair; when it finally came, I burst into SpongeBobian giggles. The laugh-out-loud moments continued throughout the movie, especially during the 85% that took place in the 2D underwater world.
Perhaps my favorite elements of the movie were its meta-ness and adult humor. During the time travel sequences, Stephen Hillenburg and his team transcended the Bikini-Bottom-centric scope. Complete with an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, SpongeBob and Plankton travel to space 10,000 years in the future and meet Bubbles, an omnipresent dolphin (Star-Child?) who watches over the entire universe. The last scene is a rap battle between Bubbles and the deranged seagulls. At one point during the rap, the picture-framed-pirate yells, "You're making the movie too long!" How meta.
The SpongeBob creative team ("TM") stuck to what they know best and stayed true to their Krabby Patty, pineapple house, and squirrel-under-water origins. For me, the connection between the pirate from the movie and the theme-song-singing pirate from the show was the perfect ending to what I believe is the perfect SpongeBob movie.
As a musician in an earlier part of my life, Whiplash--despite the fear it evoked--had me yearning to get back on stage. Every drumbeat was a note building in a suspenseful crescendo. J.K. Simmons is deserving of every award he's been nominated for and every award he's won for his role as the terrifying Terence Fletcher. Whiplash was intense, thrilling, and absolutely one of the year's best.
I had such high hopes for this film. The critical acclaim got me so excited. But as it progressed and Mason reached the generic, contrived doldrums of teenage angst, I almost couldn't bear the poor writing and acting (aside from Ethan Hawke). "Moments seize us" was as corny as the remnant kernels in my popcorn bowl, emptied after three hours of waiting for something relatively exciting or meaningful to happen.
This movie simply cannot be compared to Birdman, Whiplash, or any other film it is up against. Yes, filming over 12 years is a feat and I respect the dedication it took. But the result of those 12 years lacked resonance. I really wish I could understand why it is receiving such high praise. I'm a real sucker for emotional, impactful movies that epitomize human connections and life (i.e. Magnolia), and absolutely believed I would be a sobbing mess by the end of Boyhood, awed by its scope and ability to reflect a coming of age story similar to my own. Instead, I was left disappointed in every aspect of the film. The existential crisis Boyhood tried so hard to solve ("What's the point of it all?" Mason asked his father) only manifested itself in me ("What's the point of this movie?" I asked myself) after it cut to black.
Rarely can one say that a sequel lived up to its predecessor. Even more rare is when the sequel surpasses the first in nearly every way.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was an immersive, tear-jerking, twisted story that both built upon the first film and set up the next one, ultimately leading to the expected demise of the human race in the third film. The CGI-ed apes were impeccably crafted and felt more real than the humans they trounced. Caesar's reign and the fall of it was intense, riveting and heartbreaking. I am equally excited and nervous for the third installment and the outcome of this strange, darkly devolving world.
I was a blubbering mess by the final scene of Interstellar, caught in a 5-dimensional box constructed out of the universal existential crisis. Nolan told a story with extremely compelling visuals about humanity's future, and as a human in that future's past, watching the demise of our Earth reverberated through me. McConaughey gave us yet another career-changing performance; his character's role as a father vs. his selfless need to save humanity was the centripetal emotional force of Interstellar. The spellbinding visuals rotated around the story and the two pulled on one another throughout the film, and left me listening for an echo from our future--this is where we're headed, this is how we get there.
This fast-paced, road-raged, conglomeration of cars, love and friendship is a film that can stand on its own outside of its franchise. Vin Diesel brings the intensity and Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris are there for the laughs. It's hard to imagine how the stunts were pulled off but the curiosity adds to the overall enjoyment of this furiously fast film.
It's hard to sit still during this over-the-top comedy that constantly goes for laughs. "This Is The End" reminds you that the industry of Hollywood is in fact all about who you know, and these protagonists know a whole lot of funny people. The storyline has some bizarre twists that create a truly unique film that pushes the boundaries of comedy and slowly taps down the fourth wall.
J.J. Abrams may not be an original Trekkie but he sure does know how to immerse an audience into the world of them. Quinto knocks it out of the park as Spock and Pegg brings constant laughs as Scotty. Grandiose CGI brings it home for "Star Trek Into Darkness," but it's the strength of the script that makes this film emotional and memorable.
This film failed to deliver a lasting impact. "Safety Not Guaranteed" felt like a gift without any wrapping; it couldn't figure out how to tie up its many loose ends. The gem of "Safety" was the backstory of Jake Johnson's character, a love story broken, healed and broken again by time. Audrey Plaza played a monotone, angst-ridden intern with no hope in anything until falling for Mark Duplass's quirky and like-able nerd with a seemingly inherent knowledge of quantum physics and time travel. The film lacked pace - for a story about time travel, its sense of it was only half calibrated. An okay attempt at a story with a lot of potential.
Gorgeous film. An absolutely engulfing, beautiful story.
Whimsical, colorful and bright, "Monsters University" stands out as Pixar's own personal coming-of-age story (with the recent overhaul of animation techniques), as well as a tale about growing up for Mike, Sully and the college-bound gang. Pixar's new and improved animation, lighting and coloring techniques make the world of these monsters as realistic as our own. A wonderful film filled with surprises and laughs for these always lovable characters.
Robert Downey Jr. plays the character of Tony Stark with such fantastic consistency that I imagine he is what Downey is like in real life. "Iron Man 3" is a wonderful addition to the franchise and brings more laughs than usual from unlikely places (Ben Kingsley was an absolute home run). A fun summer flick.