Toy Story 4
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There's an easy joke for a critic of this film to make: "I wish I could use that mind-erasing neuralyzer to forget how bad this movie is!" That reference is not only hacky, but irrelevant. For something to be erased from your memory, it must have some sort of impact on your brain. This 20+ year old franchise has always been hit-and-miss, but it's never been this boring. Men in Black: International is so utterly unremarkable and forgettable that it basically works as its own mind-erasing neuralyzer.
Spinning off from the original trilogy following Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, we find new, precocious MiB recruit Tessa Thompson being shown the ropes by a less-than-enthusiastic elder agent in Chris Hemsworth. Hilarity is supposed to ensue from there, but unfortunately this is a classic case of the best moments existing in the trailer; even more unfortunately, those trailers aren't good.
It all suffers from an anemic script that offers nothing of value to a franchise that should've stayed dormant. None of the storytelling shows a hint of passion or care by the filmmakers, painting in cliched plot points and nonsensical character moments just to simply get from one moment to the next. Worst of all, it's oppressively unfunny, substituting actual humor for annoying sarcasm and side-eyed cynicism.
It's desperately missing the dry delivery of Jones and charismatic strength of Smith. Not that Thompson and Hemsworth aren't talented, but they don't have the specific skills to elevate such wretched material; though I'm not sure anyone would. With sci-fi this uninspired, a mystery this uninteresting, and comedy this lazy, MiB: International is one of the most unwatchable movies I've seen in awhile.
A mediocre film, but a great watch to see how the staples of Spielberg's style were there from the earliest stages. Themes of family, mystery, absent fathers, and suburban danger are already on display in what is essentially an early version of Poltergeist. He's already so effectively stylish with the camera, even if the savviness to use it more subtly wasn't quite there yet. Corny but integral piece of cinematic history.
I know people love this movie, and Paul Newman is certainly the man…but mostly this just hit me as a languid, depressing and dowdy portrayal of how Man's pride hurts everything and everyone it touches, which is far from a unique story and often told with much more entertaining and effective results (Wolf of Wall Street, Scarface)…but maybe I'm missing something.
That sentiment, spoken directly at one of the X-Men in Dark Phoenix, sadly seems to be the sentiment of the world right now, but I'm not sure why. It feels like there's a conspiracy against this universally-panned and barely seen movie, which is, to me, the best of this new-gen X-Men franchise.
It's not perfect (highly melodramatic, comparatively lacking in emotion, somewhat familiar and silly), but what modern superhero movie is? Why are we holding this one to higher standards? From my vantage point, Dark Phoenix is an appropriately tragic and heartfelt ending to the Fox-X-Men series that boasts some of the greatest action in any superhero movie in years.
After a rescue mission goes awry, X-Men stalwart Jean Grey (played wonderfully by Game of Thrones' Turner) finds herself battling her inner demons and her fellow heroes as her powers become too much for her to handle. What proceeds is what this year's Captain Marvel should've been: a genuine, morally interesting film about a superwoman in a superman's world. It's a true feminist film that doesn't have to didactically force its message with insecure signposting, but instead lets the character's femininity be her strength.
As much as I love Endgame these X-Men movies have been a nice reprieve from that form of serialized storytelling. Less concerned with each entry being in service to the overarching lore, each movie gets to just be a movie. That smallness allows the story to be more personal, the action to pop with character moments, and the philosophical underpinnings to shine. Like Glass, it's another underrated 2019 superhero-horror film that seems poised to only grow in our estimation as years pass.
Rocketman has something very specific in common with (believe it or not) Deadpool. Both hang their hats on the idea that they are uniquely subversive stand-outs in their particular genres: Rocketman being a psychedelic, non-linear musical biopic, and Deadpool being a fourth-wall breaking, tongue-in-cheek superhero flick. While the skin and dressing of these films is certainly noteworthy, the soul of them is never far from their genre trappings. If you've seen Walk Hard, it's hard to miss the genre clichés Rocketman is playing in. Nonetheless, the highly-stylized musical numbers, along with the sheer amount of unexpected weirdness, make Rocketman fly above its banal shortcomings.
The comparisons to Bohemian Rhapsody are inevitable: the true story of a closeted British rock star from the 70s dealing with his success through sex and drugs, peppered with classic pop songs. Both are "greatest hits" biopics, less concerned with over-arching storytelling than with hitting the high notes and corny clichés.
However, what Rocketman gets right are its oddities. Like Elton himself, the movie is a cinematic display of flamboyant excess, with a dark sadness flowing just beneath the surface. Egerton continues his star ascension here, and he's strong with the little story he is given (most successfully centered on his relationship with writing partner Bernie Taupin). Instead of a linear "here's-how-this-song-came-about" storyline, it's a jukebox musical, with entire scenes bursting into unexpected song-and-dance numbers.
Could easily see this being on Broadway someday, and maybe that's where it really belongs, or as viewed as a string of high-production music videos. Nonetheless, in its current theatrical form, it's a toe-tapping good time that does justice to some truly incredible music, and leaves you wanting more Elton.