Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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While certainly a fun spectacle that Disney has become the master of delivering, the film is just that - a Disney spectacle. Emma Watson is an admirable actress as always, but unfortunately her singing didn't really add up with the rest of her star-power. The rest of the cast also holds their own (particularly Dan Stevens, who brings a marvelous reimagining of the Beast to the table), but as enjoyable as it is to see the magic of Beauty and the Beast back up on the screen, it doesn't really take a lot of risks. In moments where it hinted at becoming bigger, grander, bolder, it just doesn't take it all the way. It left me yearning for more, and feeling disappointed at what could have been. While it could have totally defied expectations, it played it safe, which ultimately was the smart idea to avoid altering the original animated classic, but it pulled back almost a little too much. Enjoyable? Certainly. Magical? Sure. A masterpiece? Eh. Honestly I preferred The Jungle Book.
While I'm still partial to the magic of The Lego Movie, this installment is a brilliant second. It's flashy, it's funny, it's satirical, and it's surprisingly touching. I was not expecting any emotional edge, and I was pleasantly surprised! This is the perfect family movie; it's got the animation and story to keep your kids entertained and it's got the heart and wit to delight adults.
Damien Chazelle is the Lin-Manuel Miranda of movies: a young newcomer dazzles with a brilliant small project (Chazelle's Whiplash, Miranda's In the Heights), then comes back swinging with a larger and arguably even better project (Chazelle's La La Land, Miranda's Hamilton). La La Land is one of the most fun and entertaining movies I have seen in a long time. The acting was lovely, the music was superb, and the direction was flawless. The film manages to expertly balance the feel-good homage to Old Hollywood with the genuine moments of "real life." It was an excellent piece of cinema that gave me enough warm-and-fuzzy moments to last the rest of the month, and it proved yet again that superb writer/director Chazelle is not going anywhere.
Masterpiece. A gorgeous masterpiece. I was floored by this magnificent work of cinema. Barry Jenkins is a master of his craft, and the three actors portraying Chiron were superb. Jenkins created a film straight out of a film studies class. His use of intense and very specific detail told the story. There was no excessive dialog needed, there was no beating you over the head with exposition, there was just pure, honest, storytelling. Jenkins' ability to tell a story that was so genuine is something that I crave in good cinema. It falls in a similar vein to movies like Blue Is the Warmest Color, in which it just shows a life in its most sincere form. I was blown away, and I adored every moment of it.
Well dang. I'm kind of let down. Pros? It was beautiful to look at. The third act battle was absolutely gorgeous and intense, and I'm happy it ended on a high. It lead nicely into the original Star Wars, save for a couple of fan service moments. It played off excellently as a war scene. Darth Vader was also dynamite for the moments he was on screen. Cons? It was underdeveloped. I did not buy into any of the characters until much later. I learned almost nothing about the other characters and how they got to where they were presently. Jyn Erso could have been a really cool heroine, but she lacked in energy and emotion. The rest of the characters exposition was almost all in introductions and stating names. The direction and editing was only average, and everything felt rushed. That could have been due to its reshoots, which will always take a toll on any movie. And Darth Vader was woefully underused. Is it a bad movie? Of course not. It is lightyears ahead of the prequels, and it's fun. The third act was great fun. But coming off of the high of The Force Awakens (and I am in love with TFA), I was expecting this one to have some more substance. At the very least I would have liked to see memorable characters that have dimensions. Fingers crossed for next year's space opera.