Space Jam: A New Legacy – A Movie Review

I found myself thoroughly entertained by Space Jam: A New Legacy as I watched it with my kids.

Look, you know what you’re getting with this. LeBron James is playing basketball with Looney Tunes characters. What more can you expect from a movie with this premise?

Is LeBron the world’s greatest actor? No, but he’s not bad. He really isn’t. And you can’t deny he’s got real charisma both on the court and on the big screen.

Furthermore, the Looney Tunes gang is hilarious. Who doesn’t love Bugs, Lola, Porky, Daffy, and the rest of the crew?

Of course, I love Warner Bros. Entertainment and all of their properties, so seeing character cameos from Harry Potter, Batman, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Iron Giant, Flintstones, Jetsons, Mad Max, Game of Thrones, Scooby Doo, and Lord Of the Rings, among many, many others, proved a delight. I hit pause several times to see who all stood courtside during the big game. Is it corporate synergy at the maximum level? Yes, absolutely. But, again, I’m not asking for much from Space Jam: A New Legacy other than to be purely entertained.

You know who was great, though? Don Cheadle. Of course, this should come as no surprise. I won’t spoil it, but he plays a major role in the movie and he gives it his all. In the span of a few weeks, I’ve seen him in a Marvel movie, a Soderburgh film, and now this. Talk about multifaceted!

And, okay, yes, LeBron isn’t winning an Oscar anytime soon (though–again–he was not bad), but the film’s plot and actual story held up. I found the tone consistent, the ending logically concluded the events preceding it, and the climax struck me as fairly emotional. For a Space Jam movie, I thought it was pretty tightly written and executed with a positive message.

In the end, I think Space Jam: A New Legacy is a fine family movie. I laughed the whole way through, loved all the character cameos, and remembered why I enjoyed Looney Tunes so much as a kid.

Gunpowder Milkshake – A Movie Review

There’s a lot to like about Gunpowder Milkshake. It’s a star-studded action movie with plenty of style and pop. Karen Gillan has paid her dues since Dr. Who, and it’s wonderful to see her in a big-budget starring role. Let’s not forget about Hollywood stalwarts such as Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, as well as up-and-comer Chloe Coleman. (Seriously, check out this young lady’s IMDB page. She’s 13 years old.) Paul Giamatti is even in this thing!

Karen Gillan plays Sam, a prestige assassin who finds herself stuck in a moral dilemma when she takes responsibility for a young girl’s safety. Though she hasn’t spoken to her assassin mom or her mom’s … eccentric … friends in years, she reluctantly goes to them for help. They help her, there’s a ton of violence, we see huge action scenes, and we get plenty of chuckles along the way.

While I appreciate the film’s verve as well as the above actors giving it their all, the tone of the movie truly confused me. Sometimes it was very heartfelt, sometimes it seemed to be a satire, sometimes it wanted to be a pure action flick, sometimes it tried to prove itself as a hyper stylized piece of art, and sometimes it came off as a comedy. I’m all for bending genre, but Gunpowder Milkshake created a jarring experience that ultimately distracted me to the point I couldn’t settle in.

Honestly, there were moments when I felt as though I was watching a bad imitation of Quentin Tarantino.

It’s such a shame, because I wanted to like Gunpowder Milkshake so much more than I actually did. I was rooting for it to be great. However, there’s plenty of room for a sequel. I will definitely give it another chance if they keep the story going on the basis of the actors alone.

Black Widow – A Movie Review

Let me put it simply–it was worth the wait.

We just finished watching Black Widow on Disney+. It’s full of story, full of action, full of humor, and full of heart. I have to be honest–I’m stunned.

I honestly didn’t think we needed a Black Widow movie. Obviously, I was wrong.

I promise not to spoil anything here as I review the film.

Though I won’t reveal when Black Widow takes place, I felt it was perfectly positioned in the MCU timeline. It answered a lot of questions about Natasha’s past, but it also revealed a fresh, captivating look at the character as we knew her. The story, in other words, did everything it needed to do and more. It exceeded my expectations.

The action blew me away. The first half of the film felt more like a spy movie such as Bourne or Bond than a super hero film. Tons of fight scenes, tons of car chases, tons of things blowing up–incredible. Truthfully, there were moments when I said to myself, “She’s got to have a concussion by now,” but I didn’t care. I suspended that disbelief and simply had a great time.

Speaking of having fun–it’s a fun movie full of humor. Yes, you read that right. Somehow, amidst all of the action and serious story concepts, there’s a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. It was nice to see Scarlett Johansson get to let Natasha breathe a little. The stakes were always so high for the character in the Avengers movies, other than a few one-liners, we never got to see her like we do in Black Widow. You’ll understand what I mean.

Think about the fact that, other than Scarlett Johansson, virtually everyone else in Black Widow is new to the MCU. Yet these new names include actors such as Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz. These are very, VERY good actors who are, more or less, sharing the screen with Johansson in some capacity for the majority of the film. The chemistry between these four actors is a blast to watch, and without them Black Widow would have virtually none of its heart. I knew Harbour could be funny, but I had no idea Pugh had such comedic timing. Plus, Pugh is keeping up step for step with Johansson in terms of action. And Weisz? She’s been showing us how it’s done since The Mummy over twenty years ago.

Finally, I will NOT reveal anything about Taskmaster other than to say it was so cool to see the mimic aspect of the powerset. I loved this character in the comics and, while you simply can’t translate Taskmaster directly to film, I thought they did a great job with the imitation abilities.

Black Widow absolutely holds its own as an MCU movie. If this is indeed Scarlett Johansson’s last performance as Natasha Romanoff, she’s ending with a peak performance!

The Tomorrow War – A Movie Review

I honestly had no idea what to expect from The Tomorrow War. Chris Pratt is always a little hit or miss with me. I love Sam Richardson, but I’ve only seen him in funny movies. I also love J.K. Simmons. I only knew Betty Gilpin from GLOW, a dramedy. I’d never heard of Yvonne Strahovski. The director, Chris McKay, sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place his name.

Anyway, I figured what the heck. The trailer showed time travel and monsters, so that’s really all it took for me to give it a shot. (In addition to Sam Richardson, of course.)

Though The Tomorrow War is FAR from perfect, I still very much enjoyed it.

The premise is that soldiers from the future come to the present in order to recruit ordinary citizens to fight aliens back in the future. They’ve literally run out of people, so now they are drafting those from our era in order to keep fighting. Chris Pratt, a science teacher and former combat soldier, is one such draftee. He must leave behind his little daughter and loving wife in order to save the future, and none of them believe they’ll ever see each other again.

Once Pratt’s character arrives in the future, things get both visually spectacular and a little hard to accept. On the one hand, the special effects look amazing with horrifyingly beautiful aliens. On the other, I simply could not believe that a platoon of regular men and women from 2021 would be able to fire an automatic weapon, much less operate as a cohesive unit. After all, they had virtually no training and still wore their street clothes.

However, after that initial hiccup, the movie took some very interesting twists and turns. Yes, The Tomorrow War is part comedy, part sci-fi action film, part drama, part horror movie, part war flick, part family saga, and part social commentary, but it’s ALL entertaining. Really, in the end, isn’t that what you want?

By the way–Chris McKay? He directed The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. Things are making more sense now, right?

Truthfully, The Tomorrow War triggered far more emotions that I anticipated. I don’t care for Chris Pratt as a sex symbol, but I really liked him as a dad just trying to do the right thing. I also found the dynamic between J.K. Simmons and Chris Pratt quite interesting. And, as you know, Sam Richardson owned every scene that featured him. Unfortunately, Betty Gilpin found herself underutilized. If you want to see her full range, check out GLOW.

Furthermore, I mentioned that I didn’t know Yvonne Strahovski. She ends up doing a LOT of emotional work in this film, and she pulled it off well. I still don’t know where she came from, but I think she’s got a solid future in acting ahead of her. (UPDATE: I’ve since realized that she is Serena Joy Waterford from The Handmaid’s Tale. No wonder she’s so good! Obviously, she’s already had a very successful career and will continue to do so.)

The Tomorrow War is literally all over the place. Yet, I have to say that it delivered a fairly tightknit story that, as far as these kinds of stories go, mostly made sense. Obviously, when time travel is involved, nothing makes sense, but you know what I mean.

One more thing–The Tomorrow War looks great. The effects are amazing, the aliens appear grounded in reality, and the cinematography is visually striking. Sometimes these heavy effects movies don’t quite look right on the small screen, but not so with The Tomorrow War. Amazon got it just right for our living rooms.

If you like action movies, Chris Pratt, time travel stories, J.K. Simmons, special effects, or monster movies, I think you’ll get a kick out of The Tomorrow War. If nothing else, just watch it for Sam Richardson.

No Sudden Move – A Movie Review

I watched No Sudden Move on HBO Max last night frankly because I wanted to watch an actual movie and it seemed like the best option available. I also knew Steven Soderbergh is a celebrated director, and that fact, coupled with an impressive cast, made it an easy choice.

Set in the early 1950s, No Sudden Move is about two men hired (along with a third) to hold an accountant’s family hostage as the accountant retrieves a document from his boss’ safe. At that point, things move oddly fast for a movie called No Sudden Move and the story becomes more and more complex with each passing moment.

In the end, I can certainly say that I enjoyed No Sudden Move. However, I enjoyed it primarily due to the cast. Don Cheadle put on quite a mesmerizing performance. He’s understated in No Sudden Move, yet captivating at the same time. Benicio Del Toro was also interesting to watch. Furthermore, you’ll see Brendan Frasier, Julia Fox, Kieran Culkin, Amy Seimetz, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, and a surprising performance by David Harbour.

The cars, set pieces, and clothing also gave the movie a sense of reality that helped the audience to engage. Furthermore, Soderbergh, as is his fashion, consistently chose unique angles and perspectives for his shots. At times I thought they were a little overdone, but for the most part it’s a beautifully shot film. You’ll also notice that he seems to play with lenses to some degree.

I can’t claim to have been smitten with the story, though, because half of the time I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. Soderbergh does not reveal the big picture until the very end, and while it ultimately (mostly) made sense, I felt as though the audience could have been clued in a little sooner. It is only because of Cheadle and Del Toro that I just rolled with it–I simply enjoyed watching them act.

In the end, I recommend No Sudden Move for the performances. Watching all of these gifted actors will move the film along even as the plot is not clearly evident.

Luca – A Movie Review

Quite honestly, when I sat down with my daughters to watch this movie, I had virtually no idea what it was about. We wanted to do a movie night, we all generally like Disney Pixar films, Luca was pretty new, and so we decided to go for it.

The animation immediately caught my attention–it is beautiful. This, of course, is in large part due to the scenery. Most of this movie takes place in brightly lit underwater locales, on a lush island, or in a quaint little town I assumed to be somewhere in Italy. Every scale, every pebble on the beach, every thread of clothing, every wave–it’s all exquisite.

I also loved the timelessness of the film. Other than the Vespa and a train, there is no real indication of a specific time period. I believe the Vespa arrived in 1949, if Google is to be trusted, and so that gives Luca a very wide range, which, to me, was very much part of its charm.

However, I have to admit that the story took a while to really catch my interest. Once the primary theme became evident, though, I found myself captivated. I won’t spoil the specific plot, but the movie ends up examining childhood friendships that take place in those early teen years. Those are the years when one is still a bit of a child, but also a bit of an adult, and friendships can be very complex as a result. I adored the complicated friendship between the three main characters, the loyalty they had to one another, and the difficulties each experienced as they had to ultimately walk their own path.

Of course, I’ve just made Luca sound far heavier than it actually is. Disney Pixar is notorious for inducing tears, but, in the case of Luca, if one does cry, it will be due to joy. To me, this is a feel-good movie celebrating everything that is good about friendship.

By the way, there’s some great voices in this film. Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan were inspired casting as Luca’s parents. The kids–Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Emma Berman–delivered the emotional and comedic beats quite well. Oh, and I challenge you to pinpoint Sacha Baron Cohen as you watch Luca. I couldn’t believe it when I saw his name in the credits!

I definitely recommend Luca as a fun, wholesome, funny movie for the whole family to enjoy.

Army Of the Dead – A Movie Review

As far as zombie movies set in Las Vegas go, Army Of the Dead was more than entertaining.

I can’t claim this film was cinematic genius. I can’t argue it shifted the paradigm regarding zombies. I can’t even say it was the best zombie movie out there.

However, I can truthfully proclaim that, if you’re looking to sit around with a few friends and enjoy a popcorn action flick, Army Of the Dead won’t disappoint.

Yes, some of it didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t completely consistent in terms of tone. Much of it felt like it was setting up prequels or sequels. But, hey, the special effects were fantastic, the action satisfied, and seeing Las Vegas as a quarantined apocalyptic ruin filled with ravenous, undead cannibals proved a feast for the eyes.

And there’s no denying the stars had real charisma. Dave Bautista, believe it or not, really is a pretty decent actor, and a master thespian by action movie standards. There’s a reason big-time directors are casting him in their movies. Omari Hardwick, Matthias Schweighöfer, Ella Purnell, Raúl Castillo, and Ana de la Reguera all had a ton of charm. Of course, Tig Notaro delighted even if she did typically look like she was digitally inserted into the movie–because she was. In the end, this cast was simply a blast to watch.

You can perhaps argue that the director, Zack Snyder, was trying to comment on the greed of modern-day America. Maybe he was trying to say something about the inhumane treatment of detainees. He could even have been ripping on our politicians. But I don’t think any of that was the case. I think Zack Snyder just wanted to make a frenetic zombie movie that could entertain for two and a half hours, and, on that note, he most definitely succeeded.

Tenet – A Movie Review

I wish I could say to you that Tenet is an intellectual masterpiece, that Christopher Nolan has broken with cinematic convention to such a degree that he has essentially reinvented the medium, and that the story is so complex it works as the equivalent of a Russian doll.

I wish I could say all of that, but I can’t.

Tenet is a confusing mess of a plot with wooden dialogue and an obvious atmosphere of overinflated self-importance. From the minute it started to the minute it ended, I didn’t quite know what was going on, nor did I particularly care.

You could argue that I simply didn’t get it. Maybe I’m not smart enough to decipher the enigma of Christopher Nolan’s work. I don’t think that’s the case, though. I don’t believe Tenet was conceived or written particularly well.

However, there were some highpoints. John David Washington is very charismatic. Though he seemed stiff and restrained throughout the film and had truly awful dialogue, he still emitted an undeniable quality of stardom. Robert Pattinson, believe it or not, is absolutely a good actor and fun to watch. Elizabeth Debicki also had terrible dialogue to work with and little to do in the film, but the six foot, three inch actress also displayed charisma.

In truth, even if Nolan’s plots don’t always click for me, the direction and cinematic quality typically win me over. This was not the case with Tenet. It didn’t look especially beautiful, the shots were not awe-inspiring, and even the angles struck me as rather mundane.

There’s no denying that Christopher Nolan normally makes good movies worthy of praise, but, in my opinion, he missed the mark with Tenet.

Godzilla vs. Kong – A Movie Review

It’s all in the title, right?

Let’s start with the positives–the special effects in Godzilla vs. Kong are spectacular. You see every hair on Kong’s body, every scale on Godzilla’s face. It really is very impressive.

Also, when the two behemoths clash, it is epic. The falling buildings, the crashing waves, the displaced earth–they’ve got the physics of their brawling down pretty well.

Furthermore, the actors–respectable names like Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, and three minutes of Kyle Chandler–they’re trying. They’re trying. So. Hard.

And the director, Adam Wingard, he’s doing his best. He really is. The movie looks great. The actors are obviously giving it their all. I think he’s got everyone motivated, he’s got the film appearing exquisite, and he’s got the technical people overachieving.

But, despite all of those positives, the movie is just dumb.

There’s no other way to put it.

I wish they would stop trying to insert human stories into monster fight movies. I wish they would stop trying to humanize monsters. I wish they would stop trying to force motivation upon the monsters.

Here’s my monster fight movie–monster’s fight for 75 to 90 minutes. Multimedia news reports are spliced in to provide context. Done. Everyone is happy.

Godzilla vs. Kong has a lot going for it. It’s a fun, entertaining spectacle with sublime special effects (even on the “small” screen through HBO Max). But there’s a lot about this movie that just plain doesn’t make any sense at all, no matter how suspended the disbelief.

Emma. – A Movie Review

After truly enjoying Little Women with my wife and daughters, I thought Emma. might be another hit with the family. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we never quite got around to watching it. My wife and I noticed that it was now available on HBO MAX, so at around ten o’clock at night, after the kids were in bed, we decided to give it a shot.

Let me quickly note that I have never read the book nor have I seen any previous film adaptation of the source material. The previews made it look bright, cheerful, amusing, and pretty. With a PG rating, I thought it would be perfect. We figured we’d preview it for an hour to be sure it was family friendly, then restart it with the kids the next day.

Let me be frank–I was bored. So. Bored. I didn’t find Emma. charming, amusing, or cheerful. However, it was definitely bright and very, very pretty. More on that in a moment.

Emma is a handsome, clever, and rich young woman who is surprisingly unlikable in this film. Is she equally unlikable in the book? I don’t know. As I said–I haven’t read it. She’s supposed to be a matchmaker, yet I found her motivations selfish, contemptable, and ill-intentioned.

Furthermore, in the end, she was rewarded for her bad behavior, which I found troublesome.

So, as you can tell, the story did nothing for me.

However, there’s no denying that Emma. is a beautiful film. The colors are bold and bright. The costumes are magnificent. The scenery is exquisite. It’s shot very well and it looks great.

My wife and I ended up watching the entire film, which kept us awake past midnight, so there must have been something engaging about it.

Even with that being said, I’m afraid I can’t recommend Emma.