The Grinch (2018) – A Movie Review

My six and ten-year-old daughters were very excited to see this latest rendition of Dr. Seuss’ classic, so I made a point to take them on opening night.  I believe they’ve seen the classic cartoon movie, but I don’t think they’ve ever seen the Jim Carrey live-action version.  This will be relevant later.

I have to be honest, for a Friday night, five o’clock showtime, the theater didn’t have many empty seats.  As you can imagine, most of those seats were occupied by people whose feet didn’t touch the ground.  It seems as though a lot of people were genuinely excited to see this.

At a brisk hour and a half, the new Grinch is perfect in terms of length.  It’s just long enough to tell a story, but brief enough to avoid anyone getting bored.

Well, most anyone.  More on that soon.

My daughters thought it was hilarious, cute, and delivered a nice message about reaching out to others while also forgiving past grievances.

So, for the kids, especially those who haven’t seen Jim Carrey’s version, this is probably a really cool movie.

That being said, I was bored silly.

In my opinion, you’ve already seen the best parts during the previews.  Otherwise, it hits most of the same beats as what you’ve seen before while adding new, unnecessary elements.  It’s nowhere near as clever as Jim Carrey’s movie, nor is it as entertaining.  Of course, I’m forty-one, so I’m sure I’m not this movie’s demographic.  And that’s totally fine.  I’ve got my Grinch movie, let the kids have theirs.  Just be prepared to take one for the team on this one–it’s not great.

However, there is much to appreciate.  The animation is absolutely beautiful.  The snow, the hair and fur, the Christmas lights–it’s all stunning.  The characters’ movements are also incredibly fluid and natural.  This movie looks good from an artistic and technical perspective.

There are also a few laugh-out-loud gags.  I wasn’t miserable, not by any stretch of the imagination.  And when I looked over at my kids, they both wore a smile ear-to-ear.  I honestly think your children will get a kick out of it.

Is it suitable for young children?  Absolutely.  In fact, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Grinch is the nicest Grinch you will have ever encountered.  He’s mean for maybe five minutes before he sees the errors of his ways, and he’s not even that mean.  This version is far more sanitized, wholesome, and family-friendly than ever before.

If you’re looking for a family movie, it’s hard to go wrong with 2018’s The Grinch.  The kids will love it, and it’s just short enough that the parents will be able to endure it without complaining …

Much.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Grinch (2018)

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Advertisements

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018) – A Movie Review

My wife and I took our daughters to see The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Friday night and I have to admit that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I think the most striking aspect of this movie is that it looks exquisite.  The costumes, sets, and scenery are gorgeous.  It seemed to me that much of it featured real people on real sets.  There existed some CGI, of course, but generally speaking it appeared that the actors were interacting with actual props and materials.  The movie wielded a certain weight that many CGI-laden films do not.

Furthermore, I found the actors and actresses both capable and, more importantly, likable.  It’s hard not to like Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, though, isn’t it?  Mackenzie Foy, who plays Clara, is easy to root for even while not being particularly charismatic, and her nutcracker captain, Phillip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight, is also generically appealing if not particularly memorable.  I’d like to say, though, that I think both of these new faces have great potential.

Believe it or not, Sugar Plum stole this movie.  She crackled with electricity and proved very entertaining to watch.  Oddly enough, I couldn’t place her–I couldn’t figure out who played this fairy.  Imagine my surprise when the credits revealed Keira Knightly as Sugar Plum!   I think this is probably my favorite part ever played by Knightly.  I’ve never seen her so relaxed, magnetic, and … well, fun!

Best of all?  The ballet dancing!  It should come as no surprise that they included quite a bit of ballet in this film.  I found the inclusion of ballet inspired.  They didn’t just toss it in for the sake of throwing it in there–it serves a real purpose to the overall story and looks fantastic.

Again, the whole movie is really a sight to behold.  While the story is full of adventure and even a little creepy at times, it’s incredibly intricate at all levels.  Everything looks like a piece of art.

Both of my kids enjoyed The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, though neither of them were “wowed” by it.  Anytime we see a new movie, at least one of them usually says it’s their new favorite, but that didn’t happen this time.  I’m not really sure why.

In my opinion, you should certainly take your kids to see it.  It won’t make their hearts skip a beat, but it’s still a very well-crafted family film that will probably please everyone, albeit in different ways.

Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Richard E. Grant, Eugenio Derbez, Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Misty Copeland, and Jayden Fowora-Knight in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Mother! – A Movie Review

Though this film came out in September of 2017, I just got around to watching in on Amazon Prime Video.  I remember the reviews were mixed at best with most unable to pinpoint the exact nature of the movie.  This controversy, along with the fact that Darren Aronofsky wrote and directed it, made it required viewing in my mind.

I knew things were going to get interesting as soon as the title appeared on screen with the exclamation point appearing a few beats after the word “Mother” with an emphatic sound effect.  The punctuation seemed almost comedic in delivery, which gave me the sense that things were going to get a little crazy.

I was wrong.

Things got a lot crazy.

The premise is that a young unnamed woman, played by Jennifer Lawrence, lives in a huge house in the middle of the countryside with her older, also unnamed, husband.  Played by Javier Bordem, he is a writer suffering block.  As he struggles to create, she busies herself with repairing the house bit by bit due to a horrendous, and mysterious, calamity that occurred at some previous point.

A stranger soon appears at their door, played by Ed Harris.  He brings general chaos with him as a bad house guest after Bordem’s character, the husband (none of these characters are given actual names), invites him to stay.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays Harris’ wife, and she’s the next to show up.  She too brings bedlam.

Lawrence says very little in this film, but her facial expressions tell the viewer everything they need to know.  She is a doting wife trying to appease her husband at every opportunity, yet it’s obvious she is irritated to no end with the rude interlopers.  As are we.

As the movie continues, more and more strangers appear with the husband inviting each and every one of them in.  The wife cannot understand why he’s inviting insanity into their lives as she constantly strives for self-control.

The film next shifts into a higher gear as it somehow grows even more surreal.  It really captures the helplessness of a nightmare — it felt very much like some bad dreams that I’ve had.  Lawrence’s character can only accept impossible events as normal occurrences even though her eyes endlessly scream, “This cannot be happening!”  As we watch, we are saying the exact same thing to ourselves.

There are many theories as to what this film is about.  I personally feel that it is about the creator’s need to constantly destroy those things created.  Or maybe it’s about purgatory, and Lawrence’s character is trying to atone for mistakes made in life.  Or maybe Bardem’s character is the devil, intent upon making people suffer in their own personal Hell, one person at a time.  Or maybe it’s about the fact that no matter how much control we think we have, no matter how hard we fight to build the perfect life, the discord of the world outside will always disrupt our harmonious existence.

Or maybe it’s about none of that.

Who knows for sure?

I will say this, though — the sound effects in this movie are amazing.  I watched it on my Kindle with earbuds which enabled me to enjoy every anxious breath, every creaking floorboard, and every conversation from the next room.  I’ve never felt such impact by sound in a movie.

The camera movement also impressed me.  I love the way the camera follows characters around the house, up and down the stairs, through shortcuts from room to room.  It’s very fluid, yet also sometimes dizzying.

Finally, Lawrence absolutely portrays a sympathetic character trying so hard to deal with the pandemonium surrounding her.  Bardem plays a likable husband who infuriates us nonetheless.  Harris and Pfeiffer manage to irritate us from the moment they walk on screen until the moment they walk off.  There’s also several surprise appearances that I won’t spoil for you.

I don’t really know if I actually liked Mother!, to be honest.  It certainly captivated me.  It absolutely demanded my active engagement.  However, I’m not sure I would recommend it to the casual movie goer.  It’s definitely aimed at those with a lot of patience and a high threshold for ambiguity.  It’s a strange movie.

If you give it a watch, or if you’ve already seen it, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you.

Image result for mother! movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest books HERE!)

 

 

Why I’m Passing On Venom

Last April, I posted the following comic panel …

EPSON MFP image

As you can tell, the first Venom trailer did not impress me.  I’m sure you’ll find this surprising because I’m something of a fan of that genre.  If it’s a comic book movie, I’m pretty much guaranteed to watch it.

But something about Venom just turned me off from the start.

Trust me when I say no one suffered more surprise by this than me.  I love Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Jenny Slate.  I haven’t personally seen Riz Ahmed’s breakout role in The Night Of, but I hear he’s phenomenal.  Even Woody Harrelson is in this thing!

With all of the high-quality actors involved, I felt certain Venom would be unlike any other “comic book” movie.  The pre-release photographs looked amazing.  The promotional posters were super cool.

And then I saw the trailer.

Yikes.

Nothing — and I mean nothing — about that trailer spoke to me.  Nothing looked original.  Nothing looked engaging.  Tom Hardy’s weird accent just sounded silly.  Venom, while undeniably awesome in appearance, also looked like more of the same CGI that has plagued comic book movies during the last fifteen years.  (I’m talking to you Doomsday, Juggernaut, Ares, Steppenwolf, and Abomination.)

You want to know what aspect of the trailer sealed my disdain for Venom?  The “venom” appendages that would pop out and help Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy’s human character).  They were beating up guys, grabbing errant motorcycles, and doing all kinds of crazy actions.  This is all fine.  But the visual of the arms flying out of Brock’s sides and then retracting without ripping his clothing or jostling them in any way just struck me as … unbelievable.

Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds.

I normally have no trouble suspending my disbelief, but those “venom” bursts just bugged me to no end.  There may very well be an explanation provided by the movie makers or comic books for this phenomenon, but I’m certain that explanation won’t help me get past the literal visual.  It took me totally out of the moment and seemed unnecessarily fake when compared to all of the texture on Venom’s CGI body.

While I’m at it, I think they made a mistake in touting Venom as an “anti-hero” movie.  With movies like Logan and Deadpool, the term “anti-hero” has gotten a bit stale.  Those two movies had great concepts that made them both quite unique when compared to other comic book movies, but it seems that Venom doesn’t utilize any such distinctiveness.

Personally, I think they should have gone after a straight “horror” vibe.  In my opinion, Venom can’t be the hero, anti- or otherwise.  He needs to be the monster, the one we fear, the thing that keeps us up at night.

I’d also like to acknowledge that this movie probably isn’t made for me.  I’ve got Secret Wars #8, the issue when Spider-Man got the black orb that provided his new costume.  I’m also fortunate enough to have Amazing Spider-Man #300, Venom’s first appearance.  I bought these when I was a kid — I had no idea Venom would become a pop culture icon.  I just really liked Spider-Man!  This movie version of Venom doesn’t seem to be my Venom.

Several teenagers have told me that they cannot wait to see Venom.  Apparently, from what they’ve shared with me, it looks to closely follow the Venom origin story from the Spider-Man cartoon.  I haven’t seen this cartoon series, which may explain why the trailer didn’t connect with me.  Furthermore, the studio has clearly stated that they realize Venom is extremely popular with teenagers and that they aimed the movie at those fans.  This is totally fine, just unexpected.

I say it’s unexpected because it never occurred to me that Tom Hardy would make anything less than a movie that reflected his personal sensibilities.  Making a movie specifically for teenagers doesn’t seem like his style, but who’s to say?

Maybe I’m wrong about this whole thing.  I’ve been wrong about many things in my life.  It’s entirely plausible that  Venom could be an incredible movie that will blow people away.  Judging from early reviews, though, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Either way, I’ll never know.

Image result for venom movie poster

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Operation Finale – A Movie Review

Operation Finale is a movie based on historical fact.  It chronicles a team of Israeli agents sent to Buenos Aires in Argentina to capture the Nazi war criminal named Adolf Eichmann.  As records show, they were delayed several days after securing Eichmann and had to keep him in a safe house as they awaited extraction.

Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, an actual member of the team that captured Eichmann.  He is credited with wrestling Eichmann to the ground when the murderer sensed something amiss.  Ben Kingsley plays the high-ranking Nazi official who organized the transportation of Jews to their deaths who, along with several Nazis, took refuge in South America.

My wife loves historical movies, so we went together to see this.  She enjoyed it even more than I did, and that’s saying something because I liked it quite a bit.

We agreed that for such a complicated story, it was surprisingly easy to follow.  The editing felt very smooth and the story unfolded fluidly.  Though I can’t say I totally remember every character’s name–there were several–each appeared visually unique and had a distinct personality which made them simple to recognize.

In fact, overall all, we thought the acting was superb, particularly in regards to Ben Kingsley.  Kingsley played Eichmann as a regular man.  He did not portray him as a two-dimensional villain, nor did he deliver a pompous, raging despot.  Fifteen years after the war’s end, Kinglsey characterizes Eichmann as quiet, reserved, even gentle.  But every once in a while, you see a flash, a brief glimpse, of the conniving, murderous Nazi hiding behind those eyes.

The filmmakers utilized another shrewd storytelling technique as they revealed snippets of Eichmann’s past, little by little, in short, potent vignettes.  Those scenes eventually piece together a vision of Eichmann that is horrifying and in stark contrast to the man being held prisoner at the safe house.  I specifically loved the image of him annoyingly wiping ink off of his cuff during a Nazi meeting.  He wore the same expression upon his face as he wiped something entirely different from his uniform near a death pit.  These little touches were remarkably effective at conveying character.

Make no mistake, however, even though Eichmann seems powerless while in custody, he is not.  He’s engaged in subtle, almost imperceptible, mental warfare with his captors, and the audience is led to believe he might just outlast them all.

Though I liked the movie very much, I’m the first to admit it’s a little on the slow side.  This disciplined pacing, though, absolutely illustrates the tension in the safe house as they waited nearly ten days to take Eichmann to Israel.  During this holdover, everyone is beginning to climb the walls, and it’s Oscar Isaac’s Peter Malkin who must keep his head for the sake of them all.

Truthfully, I entered the theater believing most of the movie would occur in the courtroom.  I thought we were going to see quite a bit of Eichmann’s trial.  This did not prove to be the case, and I felt totally fine with that.  We all generally know the outcome of that trial, but I knew virtually nothing about Eichmann’s detainment.  They were smart to zero in on the more enigmatic material of the story.

Operation Finale is a period film that appears authentic in terms of both era and locale.  It does not offer much in the way of special effects.  It’s fairly quiet.  But it’s also focused, deliberate, and well-constructed.  In the end, it was nice to experience a movie intent on delivering a captivating story with superb acting.

Image result for operation finale

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest books HERE!)

The Predator – A Movie Review

Maybe you remember the other Predator movies fondly, like me, and have an urge to check this one out, especially because it’s directed by Shane Black.

Resist that urge.

This movie is awful from start to finish.

I’ll admit that it’s got a few funny one-liners, but the general story is a convoluted mess, the characters are about as thinly developed as possible, the special effects are not particularly impressive, and it honestly made absolutely no sense at all.

Furthermore, it treated mental disorders as punchlines throughout and made a rather insensitive reach regarding autism for the sake of trying to introduce a plot element.

At least with the other Predator movies we had actual stars that oozed charisma, but I can’t even tell you the lead actor’s name in this thing.  I felt really bad for Thomas Jane, by the way, an actor I really enjoy in The Expanse.  Man, he really lowered his standards with this thing.  I typically like Olivia Munn as well, but her character was all over the place.  One minute she’s a scientist, the next she can operate heavy artillery.

Another misstep is that there wasn’t enough Predator in this thing!  We spent far more time with humans than Predators, and those humans were not at all interesting.  Sadly, I couldn’t even keep track of the Predator’s story line.  The movie introduces a ridiculous premise involving a particular Predator while providing zero background information or motivation for said Predator.

Finally, at the risk of spoiling the ending of the movie a bit, Sterling K. Brown is set up to be the “bad guy” of the film.  At the end of the movie, he’s in a group with the “good guys” trying to survive the Predator.  I literally have no idea what ever happened to him.  I asked my friend who saw it with me, and he had no idea either.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Predator dog who decided to be man’s best friend for absolutely no reason at all.

Do yourself a favor, go see The Meg instead of this.  It’s terrible, too, but at least it attempted to make sense and was somewhat comprehensible.

Image result for the predator movie poster 2018 official

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

The Meg – A Movie Review

I realize this has been out for awhile, but maybe I’ll get lucky and this review will still prove helpful to you.

If you have the chance to see this movie, let me go ahead and save you some money by saying you should pass.

Don’t get me wrong — I had a great time watching it.  It’s just that most of my joy derived from the movie’s terrible dialogue, lackluster acting, and enormous plot holes.  In other words, this movie was so bad that it was good.  If you’re into that kind of thing, then you should go for it.

But if you’re coming for Statham’s amazing fighting skills, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  There’s not one fistfight to be seen in this film.  If you’re hoping for incredible stunts, you’ll be let down on that front as well.

However, if you’re into special effects, The Meg will delight.  Obviously, the CGI shark is pretty incredible.  Don’t discount the nearly seamless blending of CGI and reality, as well.  I honestly had a hard time discerning where the CGI ended and the real materials began.  The underwater portion of the film was amazing, by the way.  It looked really, really good.

There were also some genuine thrills in The Meg.  One moment even made me jump.  Much of it will strike you as fairly predictable and cliched, but it’s still exciting to watch.

The movie comes crashing down a bit when you start to think … even a little.  There are several plot holes that are hard to overcome.  Even harder to get past, though, is the bad, bad, really bad acting.  I think the little girl in the movie may have been the best actor.  Contemplate that for a moment.

The real reason I wanted to see The Meg is because I heard somewhere that it was the best shark movie since Jaws.  Trust me when I say it’s not.  I have no idea what other shark movies outrank it, because I’m not that into shark movies, but this dud failed to give me what I most wanted — a giant shark wreaking havoc at every opportunity.  There were too many near-misses for my taste.  The film was far too kind to its characters.  Not enough wanton destruction for a monster movie.  I’m generally not into wanton destruction, mind you, but if I’m going to monster movie, then, yeah, I want wanton.

So if you want a fairly mundane giant shark movie, The Meg might be up your alley.  Probably not, though.  It was good for some laughs, however.  And yes, I was that annoying guy laughing at all the wrong moments.  Sorry.  I couldn’t help myself.

Related image

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)