Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe – A Movie Review

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Maybe you’re like me and you intended to watch Always Be My Maybe with your significant other but you just never got around to it. I’m guessing that–also like me–you’ve found yourself with some extra time and are in search of viewing pleasure. My wife and I watched Always Be My Maybe the other night and we both loved it.

The premise is simple in nature. Sasha and Marcus were childhood friends who spent every moment together because Sasha’s parents were never home–they ran a restaurant. Marcus and his parents, Sasha’s neighbors, pretty much made her a member of their family.

Eventually, during Marcus’ senior year, they drifted apart–the kind of apart where you don’t speak, see each other on Facebook, nothing.

Then, around twenty years later–bam! Fate brings them back together. What happens from there on you’ll just have to see for yourself.

As far as romantic comedies go, this is right up my alley. It’s got some touching moments, but, for the most part, this is very smartly written dumb comedy that comes at you a mile a minute.

Ali Wong and Randall Park have insane chemistry. You will immediately fall in love with both of them. When you see them separately in movies they always shine. But when you put them together it’s a whole new level of likability.

In fact, I challenge you to find any character in this movie who isn’t likable. Even Daniel Dae Kim, who sort of plays a jerk, is likable. Of course, there’s the special surprise cameo … I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know what I’m talking about, but it was hilarious.

For a romantic comedy, the story really held up well. It actually made sense, seemed to have a target, and unfolded fairly naturally. Sometimes comedies are just a series of gags–not so with Always Be My Maybe. Everything had a purpose.

If you’re looking for something light and funny to watch as a couple, I cannot recommend Always Be My Maybe highly enough. It kept us laughing and entertained throughout.

Netflix’s Extraction – A Movie Review

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If you’re thinking of watching Netflix’s new movie, Extraction, get ready for a wild, entertaining, and ultimately meaningless ride.

Extraction stars Chris Hemsworth as an Australian mercenary hired to retrieve the son of a powerful drug lord who was kidnapped by another powerful drug lord. Much of the story takes place throughout southern Asia and appears to be filmed on location. Hemsworth’s character is the best at what he does, but he’s also a broken, saddened man who seems perfectly fine with dying.

I’m sure this is all nice to know, but none of it really matters.

This is an action movie–through and through. The action, by the way, is hypnotic. There are incredible fist fights, gun fights, knife fights, fist fights with guns, gun fights with knives–you get the idea. I also enjoyed the style of the film. It cut from scene to scene to scene very quickly, almost as though it dared you to look away. Furthermore, the action scenes looked very similar to what you might find in a top-rated video game. They were very tight, almost intimate.

Consequently, like an over-the-top video game, this is an unabashedly violent movie. It’s not gross, but there are lots of blood splatters, blood pools, and just blood in general.

Unfortunately, once you get past the frenetic action, there’s nothing substantive about Extraction. We don’t get much of a chance to care about the boy, Ovi Mahajan, nor do we really even get much opportunity to invest in Hemsworth’s character, Tyler Rake. We’re told why we should care about him, but that’s not the same as actually creating investment in a character. I’d argue that only one character actually demanded our interest, and that was in the form of a quick cameo by a Netflix superstar. I won’t name names, but it was a fun, though brief (and unnecessary), surprise.

While Hemsworth’s physicality in Extraction is mesmerizing, there’s nothing about him in this film that sets him apart from any other classic action hero. He didn’t even get a zippy catchphrase like you would expect from Arnold, Sly, or Bruce. In fact, Hemsworth barely speaks at all in Extraction. We all know that Hemsworth oozes charm, charisma, and can be quite funny. None of that was on display in Extraction.

Finally, the ending really bothered me. And when I say the ending, I’m talking about the last two seconds of the movie. What little emotional investment I developed quickly fluttered away during those last two seconds.

In the end, Extraction is a fast, entertaining action film. It won’t capture your heart or your imagination, but it will certainly thrill, and it will look good while doing it.

 

Code 8 – A Movie Review

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Have you noticed a movie on your Netflix Top Ten list called Code 8? Know anything about it? No? I didn’t either.

In fact, it wasn’t until I read an article over at Wired that I even became aware of Code 8. This movie has a fascinating history, one that prompted me to see the film

In short, this was a crowd-funded independent film that began as a short, then had a limited theater release, and is now part of Netflix’s Top Ten. That’s quite a story in and of itself!

Starring Robbie Amell and his cousin, Stephen Amell, Code 8 is about a city full of super powered beings who are treated as second class citizens. Despite their power, they are discriminated against, hated, and treated less than human. These are not super heroes–these are just regular people trying to squeak out a living. When the mother of Robbie Amell’s character desperately needs expensive medical treatment, he turns to Stephen Amell’s character and a life of high-paying crime in order to save her. But how high of a price is he willing to pay, even if for his mother’s life?

If the name “Stephen Amell” sounds familiar to you, it’s because he played Oliver Queen on the CW’s Arrow. His cousin, Robbie, also played a smaller role on the CW’s Flash. I’d like to say that it was refreshing to see Stephen Amell playing a different kind of character. There were plenty of similarities, to be sure, but Stephen definitely has a “star” quality. And, frankly, so does Robbie. Both men more than carried Code 8.

Speaking of which, is Code 8 actually any good?

Yes, it is. At just over an hour and a half, it’s full of action, has some cool special effects, and it knows how to tease us with the captivating robotic police officers called “Guardians”–they give us just enough of these things to satisfy, but definitely leave us wanting more.

However, Code 8 didn’t quite stick the landing for me. I felt that the last five minutes were a little awkward and inconsistent with the rest of the film. Generally speaking, though, Code 8 kept me entertained, and what more can you ask for during these difficult days?

If you enjoy action, sci-fi, fast-paced movies, or just simply the Amell cousins, I recommend you give Code 8 a chance.

 

Onward – A Movie Review

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We love both Disney and Pixar in this family, so we intended to see Onward in the theater. Unfortunately, the outbreak had other plans for everyone.

Amazingly, Disney rushed Onward to video-on-demand weeks after its theatrical release. Until this moment in time, such a thing was unprecedented. Perhaps even more surprising, Disney announced that Onward would then arrive on Disney+ soon after the video-on-demand debut. Though I would have otherwise paid for Onward with video-on-demand since the entire family could enjoy it, we decided we could instead wait until it came to Disney+ since we subscribe to that service.

Onward debuted on the streaming platform today, and we just finished watching it.

First of all, the animation is incredible. It’s a beautiful movie to watch, and the details are now so nuanced in these things that you can actually see dust particles in the air. Secondly, it’s a very fun movie. The idea of fairy tale creatures living in modern times is not necessarily new, but I haven’t seen it done before with quite such an irreverent attitude. Biker pixies? Yeah, so what? Garbage eating winged-unicorns? Big deal. Dragons as house pets? Not impressed. I found this blase tone of the movie in regards to these things really funny. Finally, it’s hard not to root for characters played by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. These are two of Hollywood’s most likable men, after all.

And while my kids enjoyed it well enough, and I enjoyed it well enough, it didn’t touch me the way typical Pixar movies do. Cars, Toy Story, Coco, Inside Out–these are Pixar films that sparked a real emotional connection with me. On paper, Onward should have, but it didn’t.

Is this because of the movie, or is this because we were all piled on the couch, hitting pause for snacks, and talking whenever we felt like it? I don’t know. I’d love to know what your experience was like with that aspect of home viewing.

However, it is certainly a fun family movie. I absolutely recommend it if you’re all looking to spend some time together watching a film. It’s funny, has great graphics, and moves very quickly. Just don’t expect that emotional touchstone. Maybe that’s not a bad thing during these hard times? Nothing wrong with a little fun escapism, right?

Mute – A Movie Review

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Mute is a sequel of sorts to Moon, which you may remember I enjoyed quite a bit. Ducan Jones wrote and directed both, so it makes sense that they exist in a shared reality.

I have to admit that I did not enjoy Mute nearly as much as Moon. Mute has a run-time of two hours and six minutes, and because it felt every bit of that, I found myself drifting away. The movie is very slow to start and features Alexander Skarsgård in the beginning, which also contributed to my disinterest. In Mute, he plays the protagonist, and a mute hero at that. Skarsgård is a fine actor, particularly when he plays a villain, but he just can’t carry a movie as the star in my opinion.

The plot features a man living in Berlin in the near future. He grew up disconnected from technology and suffered a terrible accident in his  youth, which led to his muteness. He’s now a bartender, and when his troubled girlfriend goes missing, he desperately tries to find her. As he searches, he becomes mired in all kinds of villainy.

Like I said, the first half of this movie is rather slow. However, when Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux begin to dominate the second half of the film, it really picks up. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the last thirty minutes. Rudd and Theroux play former military medics, men who seem decent enough, but as the movie progresses, their depravity becomes more and more apparent. I enjoyed the end so much because I’ve never seen Rudd play someone quite as edgy as “Cactus Bill.” He fully committed to his role, and he mesmerized me much like Sam Rockwell did in Moon. In fact, had Mute featured only Rudd and Theroux, it would have been far more captivating (though it obviously would have needed a different title).

That’s really the main issue I have with Mute–it’s almost two different movies in one. One movie features a silent man looking for his missing girlfriend, the other features two men who are very likable but also really quite awful. Eventually their worlds collide, but only because they must.

If you want to see Paul Rudd do something drastically different from his usual fare, I highly recommend Mute–his charisma is no less potent even as a morally ambiguous miscreant. However, if you’re just looking for something to stream on Netflix, I wouldn’t settle on Mute. Pick Moon, instead.

 

Knives Out – A Movie Review

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I saw this quite a while ago but never got around to reviewing it. However, now that I see it is available on demand, and because quite a few of us have a lot of extra time on our hands, I thought I’d share my thoughts.

First of all, if you’re looking for a compelling grown-ups movie, a movie that a couple might enjoy for a “date night,” this is the one for you.

It is funny, mysterious, thrilling, and–best of all–endlessly entertaining.

The general plot revolves around a famous author dying unexpectedly at home while his entire family happens to be visiting. Each member of the family stands to benefit from his death, and each is a suspect. They, consequently, believe that his home health care assistant–Marta Cabrera–could be at fault. Daniel Craig enters the movie as Detective Benoit Blanc, a seemingly inept investigator. He doesn’t even know who hired him, but he means to get to the bottom of this mystifying case.

The acting in this film is a hoot. Daniel Craig utilizes a ridiculous southern drawl that doesn’t take long to become charming. Chris Evans is at his absolute best when he’s playing a cocky jerk. Ana de Armas loses every ounce of glamour as Marta which makes her all the more sympathetic. And those are just the main players! The film also has excellent performances from Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, and Christopher Plummer.

The writer and director, Rian Johnson, reminds us that movies don’t have to have huge special effects, CGI, or muscular people in tights to be great. This movie thrives on an irresistible mystery, quirky details, and superb acting.

Like I said, if you need a movie that will appeal to a variety of grown-ups, you can’t go wrong with Knives Out.

Moon – A Movie Review

I’ve been meaning to watch Moon for a really, really long time. (After all, it came out in 2009.) For some reason, I never knew quite enough about it to warrant devoting an entire evening.

Recently, I saw a list of the top science fiction movies on Netflix. I can’t remember what website I saw this on, but Moon topped the chart. That, coupled with the extra time we all now have, prompted me to finally give it a chance.

At barely over an hour and a half, Moon came in at just the right amount of time. The premise is both simple and complex. Sam Rockwell plays a man in the near future supervising a large moon station that’s responsible for mining helium and sending it back to Earth. He is the sole human in the station, though he does have an artificially intelligent robot called GERTY that is tasked with preserving his health and maintaining the station’s mechanics. Because of a persistent malfunction with the station’s live stream capabilities, Sam is completely cut off from his wife and child. However, the end of his three-year contract is only two weeks away, and Sam could not be happier to get back home. As you might expect, a complication arises, one that threatens both Sam’s homecoming but also the entire understanding of his existence.

Sam Rockwell, who plays the aptly named “Sam,” is always fantastic. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first starring role that I’ve ever seen him in. He is likable, vulnerable, and–most importantly–charismatic. To watch a movie featuring virtually one actor … well, it takes a special person to pull off that role.

I also appreciated the mystery of Moon. A strange occurrence happens early in the film, and from that moment on, Moon keeps you guessing. It’s a quiet movie with moments of intense action, but it’s never boring. The special effects, by the way, are exquisite.

As I said, you can stream Moon on Netflix right now. I’ve read that another movie available on Netflix, Mute, is a sequel of sorts to Moon. I’ll have to check that one out soon and let you know my thoughts.

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The Lost City of Z – A Movie Review

I’ve meant to watch The Lost City of Z for several years now. I would see it on my Amazon Prime Video menu, but would move along due to its 2.5 hour run time. I typically won’t watch a movie at home until my kids are in bed, so that run time would keep me up way too late.

Well, as may be the case with you, I’ve found myself with a little extra time lately. Though it still took me two nights to watch, I gave The Lost City of Z a shot, and you know what? You should, too.

If you’re like me and you don’t know much about the premise, it follows Percy Fawcett, a British soldier, adventurer, and explorer as he charts the Amazon and develops a theory that an ancient, complex civilization once existed in the depths of the jungle. He becomes obsessed with the idea and returns over and over again in the hopes of discovering evidence. Interestingly enough, The Lost City of Z is based on a true story (and a best-selling nonfiction book).

As I said, I highly recommend this film, and for many reasons.

First of all, it’s gorgeous. Much of the movie takes place in the Amazon. They filmed on location in Columbia, and it shows. However, the movie also occurs in beautiful English countryside, war-torn WWI trenches, and stunning architectural interiors.

Secondly, the acting is excellent. I’ve always liked Charlie Hunnam. He consistently manages to bring a masculine energy to any character he plays, one that is rare with a lot of Hollywood’s elite. I wish he had better luck with some of his choices–both The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword failed at the box office despite being very good. Robert Pattinson managed to surprise me with his supporting role. As you may know, he’s currently filming the lead in The Batman. I’ve heard his work outside of Twilight is very good, but I haven’t been impressed with him until now. (I did not care for either High Life or The Lighthouse.) Sienna Miller, whom I have not seen in a film for quite a while, made “Nina Fawcett” more than just the wife left behind as she strives to keep her family together and push the boundaries of convention. There is yet another actor in this film that I won’t name. I did not expect his appearance in the movie despite having a large role, which proved a pleasant surprise and contributed to the film’s emotional ending.

Finally, while I admittedly didn’t know much about this story, I presumed the entire thing would take place in the Amazon. This was not the case at all. As previously mentioned, there is an incredible trench warfare scene, as well as some wonderful moment’s in Fawcett’s home, a British meeting room, an extravagant party, and more. In fact, The Lost City of Z spanned several decades of Percy Fawcett’s life, so this obviously contributed to many, many different locales.

While full of action, suspense, and thrills, The Lost City of Z is not a typical “action movie.” It does have it’s quiet moments, as well as several emotionally potent scenes. It portrays Fawcett as more than just an adventurer. It also allows him to be a father, a husband, a friend, and–perhaps most importantly–a person.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch The Lost City of Z right now as part of your service. I recommend you do just that.

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1917 – A Movie Review

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1917 proved to be an amazing experience. I heard the film was special because it was made to look like a single sequence, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, two soldiers are given orders during World War I to let a commander know that he must cease his impending attack–that it’s a trap. If the two men fail to deliver this message, thousands could die, including one of the men’s big brother. 

The story of the film unfolds as you would probably imagine without any real surprises, but that’s not what this movie is really about. Not to me, at least.

Instead it’s the way that the movie is shot that makes it so extraordinary. First of all, like I said, it is made to appear as though it is one single shot. In other words, there are no obvious cuts. The film’s story runs mostly in real time. They got a bit clever with one moment which allowed for several hours to pass, but otherwise it’s happening as you sit in the theater. You really can’t envision what a “no cut” movie looks like until you see it for yourself. It’s mesmerizing. The camera must track around the characters, move in front of them, then behind them, then next to them–it’s beautiful. 

Furthermore, 1917 shows you the horror of not just war, but WWI in particular. You are drudging through those trenches with the men, you are crawling over the dead, decaying bodies, you are avoiding bullets by mere inches and blind luck–you are right there, just over the characters’ shoulders, for all of it. The rubble, the ruined countryside, the dead soldiers and animals littering the ground and half-buried in craters–it’s awful. Yet, from a production standpoint, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen better. Even the costumes and props were incredible. 

From a purely technical standpoint, 1917 deserved to win Best Picture. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I did not connect with the main characters all that much, nor can I say that the actors gave particularly breathtaking performances. Now, to be fair, it’s hard to be too poignant in a film that is moving at a breakneck pace with the actors either walking or running almost the entire time, but the story never quite captured my heart.

Even with that being said, however, I consider 1917 required viewing. For the casual patron, it will thrill you. For those interested in the art of film making, it will revolutionize your ideas of what’s possible. 

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn – A Movie Review

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I really, really wanted to like this movie. The trailers looked vibrant, action-packed, and fun. I didn’t see how this film could miss. Unfortunately, I can only describe it as “fine.” It wasn’t bad–not at all. However, it also wasn’t especially good.

As I think on it, I believe the biggest misstep occurred by having Harley Quinn share the screen with others. We already know Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, so the film might have been wise to simply pick up her story and go from there. Instead, they included Dinah Lance (Black Canary), Renee Montoya, Cassandara Cain, and Helena Bertinelli (Huntress), which resulted in a great deal of additional exposition. The movie had to introduce and explain these new characters as it also tried to intertwine them with Harley Quinn’s plot. This resulted in several start and stops, many flashbacks, and more than a few backtracks.

The fact is, Margot Robbie and Harley Quinn can carry a movie by themselves. The more I see Robbie in other movies, the more I appreciate her as Quinn. She really lays it all on the line with this character. There are so many interesting places to take Quinn. After all, she’s a former psychologist, an actual doctor. While treating the Joker, she descended into madness herself. Or, perhaps she finally accepted her own madness. That alone is a compelling thing to explore. Sadly, they only touched upon these aspects and instead chose to focus on her more manic tendencies, which, admittedly, lend themselves to frenetic scenes and a visually exciting experience.

Much of the movie revolved around her break-up with the Joker. For a film that touts Harley Quinn’s emancipation from the Clown Prince of Crime, it spent a lot of time focusing upon that issue. That being said, I found it odd that they neglected to actually include the Joker. They showed drawings of him, or the back of his head or shoulder in a few scenes, but never his face. If they simply said they broke up and left it at that, I wouldn’t have found the awkward flashbacks with him so … awkward. It’s as though they refused to let Jared Leto reprise his role as the villain while Joaquin Phoenix is attempting to win an Oscar for playing the same character.

It was fun to see Rosie Perez (Renee Montoya) on screen again, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Black Canary) stuck me as a true movie star, but they simply weren’t necessary to the story. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was completely mishandled. Her “Huntress” barely even appeared in the film. (If you want to see her at full strength, check out 2017’s Fargo FX series, which also stared Ewan McGregor, believe it or not.)

Speaking of whom, I’ve never seen McGregor so villainous. His take on “Black Mask” kept us off balance because he was at times childish, at times charming, at times brutish, and even feminine in some moments. So while the character remained consistent, we never knew what actions to expect from him.

By the way, the action is mesmerizing. Women fighting men twice their size have to be creative, and there is a great deal of creative fight choreography in Birds of Prey. There’s one particular scene in which Harley Quinn wields a bat, and it is beautiful. I’ve heard others say this is DC’s best action movie, and I think that’s accurate. There’s ample eye-popping action to behold.

I want to recommend a movie featuring not just primarily female actors, but female DC characters as well. I think it’s a meaningful development not just for the genre, but for the movie industry. Unfortunately, Birds of Prey simply failed to capture much of my interest due to its attempt at explaining all of the new characters it included. It’s a fun action movie with entertaining humor and hypnotic visuals, but it could have been far more with Margot Robbie at the helm.