Monday, December 31, 2018

Top Twelve Cinematic Discoveries of 2018

And so, here we are on the last day of 2018. I cannot thank you all enough for visiting Land of the Nerds over the past year, I hope you've enjoyed reading this site's assorted reviews and editorials as much as I enjoyed writing them! I'm still about a week or two out from having seen enough 2018 movies to publish my Best Movies of 2018 list, but I won't be devoid of a Best of 2018 list until then! I don't just review new movies on this website, I also cover classic movies (movies released before this site started up in May 2014) in my Classic Write-Up Reviews! I managed to catch up on a lot of iconic movies in 2018 and keeping that in mind, I decided to close out 2018 with my Top Twelve Cinematic Discoveries of 2018, which serves as a look back at my twelve favorite classic movies that I watched for the first time in 2018! Like my lists looking at the best new movies in a given year, I sort these movies in alphabetical order, though I did reverse the order of the last two movies on this list just so I could close out this piece on an upbeat note!

OK folks, let's count down the remaining seconds of 2018 by looking at my Top Twelve Cinematic Discovers of 2018! But honorable mention...

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Final Box Office Weekend of 2018 See's Aquaman Reigning Supreme, Mary Poppins Rebounding And Holmes & Watson Without A Clue

Watching all of the fascinating box office up's and down's that were occuring all throughout this holiday week has made me excited as heck to write up my weekly box office report this morning, there's just so much to talk about! All of this box office discussion over the last domestic box office frame of 2018 kicks off with Aquaman, which topped the domestic box office yet again with $51.5 million, a measly 23% dip from last weekend, one of the better second-weekend drops on record for a superhero movie. The feature has now grossed $188.7 million domestically and seems on course for at least $280-290 million domestically and could crack $300 million domestically if it continues to hold as well as it did over the past and over this weekend.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Bird Box's Better Aspects Get Let Down By An Overly Convoluted Script

Over the course of the last few days, Bird Box has become one of the most talked-about movies of the moment, with memes (which seem to be coming from genuine real-life people despite early reports to the contrary) centered around the movie popping up everywhere and Netflix bragging about their record-breaking viewership numbers for the film. Well, I guess since the internet is now so abuzz with so much talk regarding Susanne Brier's new movie Bird Box, I suppose now is the time for me to pen down my thoughts on the motion picture, which I never could have imagined generating so much widespread conversation, for good and for ill.

Vice Is A Sprawling Saga of Corruption That Kind of Works (Surprisingly Well, In Fact) In Spite of Its Worst Elements

Adam McKay is mad as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore. Even when he was making ridiculous (though often highly hysterical) comedies that involved Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly licking dog turds, McKay clearly had some bitterness over how normalized powerful corruption was in America. Even a disappointingly rote Anchorman sequel managed to find time for commentary on how much 24-hour cable news is fixated on sizzle but not substance while the end credits of his comedic masterwork The Other Guys are dedicated to explaining how Ponzi schemes work. Is it any wonder then that his shift over to dramatic features with The Big Short and now Vice would tap directly into that frustration? What was subtext in his comedies is now the entire point of these more serious-minded, though frequently comedic, motion pictures that serve as McKay's most recent directorial efforts.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Children of Men Is A Riveting Post-Apocalyptic Tale As Only Alfonso Cuaron Could Tell It

Right after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, director Alfonso Cuaron had a whole heck of a lot of clout, the man who had previously been known for doing more offbeat fare like Y Mama Tu Tambien was now the filmmaker behind one of the biggest movies of 2004. Cuaron parlayed this influence to get a large-scale action movie made that differed in many ways from conventional action fare, namely in its dour tone and how its lead character was not a John Rambo-esque figure that could pick up a gun and take down any person who crossed his path. Instead, the lead character would be a bitter individual going through the motions of daily life who's thrust into a narrative far larger than himself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Hysterical Lead Duo of Never Goin' Back Make This A Solid 2018 Indie Comedy

For the teenage lead characters of Never Goin' Back, it's all about getting to Galveston. Specifically, a Galveston vacation that life-long best friends Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone) have been saving up money for, a not so easy task given the small paychecks they receive at their day-to-day job. The movie follows them over the course of a handful of days as things spiral wildly out of control in their lives as they got robbed, have their jobs threatened and accidentally gobble down some weed that sends them on one heck of a drug trip. During it all, they're both clinging to the hopes of managing to get to Galveston and also their crucial friendship.

Welcome to Marwen Is Too Enamored With Empty CGI Spectacle To Go Beyond The Valley, Er, Town Of The Dolls

Gotti. Life Itself. Red Sparrow. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. These are the worst movies of 2018 and their newest companion is none other than a brand new Robert Zemeckis directorial effort. The man responsible for making toons and humans interact, for taking us to places that don't require roads and for making us all cry over a volleyball can also now be known as the filmmaker guilty of bringing Welcome to Marwen into the world. Clearly meant to be a stirring inspirational drama, Welcome to Marwen is instead a staggeringly inept endeavor, a whole bunch of motion-capture animated nonsense that doesn't even try to be thoughtful or introspective regarding the experiences of its lead character.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Bumblebee Has Got The Touch And Also Has The Power To Emotionally Move Viewers

Bumblebee takes the live-action series of Transformers movies into a bold new direction, namely in the direction of actually good filmmaking! It's also taken the series into prequel territory, which means this feature takes place in 1987, about twenty years before the first Transformers movie, with Bumblebee arriving on Earth to help establish a new base for his Autobot brethren. While arriving on this unfamiliar planet in a damaged state, an 18-year-old girl named Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld) stumbles upon Bumblebee in his VW bug form and takes him home as her very first car. It isn't long before she discovers that this new automobile of hers is actually a robot and the two develop a friendship just as two evil Decepticon robots come to Earth searching for Bumblebee.

Aquaman Comes To Shore With $67 Million Bow As Competing Family Movies Bumblebee & Mary Poppins Underperform On Opening Weekends

I've been oh so curious for months now to see how this particular weekend would go at the domestic box office. With so many big movies entering the marketplace, who would thrive, who would struggle? Turns out, the champ among this gaggle of high-profile releases was Aquaman, which bowed to $67 million. That's the lowest opening weekend for a live-action Marvel Comics or DC Comics release since X-Men: Apocalypse in May 2016 but it's the ninth biggest December opening weekend in history and this time of year really allows big blockbusters like Aquaman to stick around in the marketplace.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns Is Far Too Familiar Given Its Unpredictable Lead Character

Mary Poppins Returns kicks off in 1935, twenty-five years after the first Mary Poppins movie, with Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) now being not just an adult but also a single father of three kids who is under incredible stress to find the necessary funds to keep his families house. All of these efforts to try and make ends meet aren't just put on the shoulders of Michael, his three kids are also all business and no imagination. Clearly, things are glum around the Banks household and that means it's time for a certain Nanny to return. Yep, here comes Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) to take care of Michael's offspring and teach them, plus their father, some important lessons.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Aquaman Is 2018's Answer To G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. That's A Compliment.

Aquaman has been given a bum rap in American pop culture. Because Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory (the paragons of pop culture contemplation) made jokes saying Aquaman was stupid, that's been his reputation in the 21st-century pop culture landscape, which is a pity because of how much fun the character can be in properties like his "Outrageous!" portrayal in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Much to my delight, James Wan's Aquaman movie decides to eschew constantly apologizing for the weirdness of the character and his world and just embraces all the high-concept underwater absurdity that Aquaman could possibly get into, a choice worthy of a mighty Jason Momoa delivered "YEAH!".

The Outstanding Cinematography Of Foxtrot Alone Makes This A Movie Worth Seeing

The camera is constantly on the move in Foxtrot, which isn't normally a visual characteristic you'd imagine would be applied to a quiet drama about coping with past transgressions. Many similar films go for a restrained style of camerawork that can work beautifully for their specific stories but who's to say the opposite approach also can't work like gangbusters? One size does not fit all, as they say, and Foxtrot demonstrates just how fitting more active camerawork can be to certain small-scale stories about human grief and remorse. Going for this approach means Foxtrot gets to have some truly remarkable cinematography that serves as an outstanding visual compliment to its thoughtful father/son story.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

In Laman's Terms: How Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Captures Intimate Parts Of The LGBTQA+ Experience

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!


"And whenever I feel alone, like no one else knows what I'm going through, I'll remember my friends that do." - Miles Morales reflecting on his new Spider-hero friends.

None of our identities are shaped in a vacuum. Frequently without even realizing it, external factors help shape who we are as a person  Just ask Miles Morales, a Marvel comics superhero who's also the star of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, one of the best movies of 2018. The films central story involves all kinds of delightfully over-the-top elements ranging from alternate universes to gigantic goblins to a pig superhero but at the base of it all is the intimate story of a boy growing into and embracing his identity as a Spider-Man like no other. It's a touching tale that garners extra levels of poignancy because of how well it works as an allegory for the experience of growing up as a member of the LGBTQA+ community.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Roma Is A Showcase For Impressive Camerawork And A Similarly Superb Performance From Yalitza Aparicio

For his 21st century directorial efforts, Alfonso Cuaron has gone big in scale. He's helmed films about time-traveling wizards, a post-apocalyptic chase movie and also a struggle for survival in the vacuum of space. Though all of these films were heavily character-driven, they spared no expense in communicating the grandeur of the situations its protagonists had become entangled in. Though his newest movie, Roma, has its fair share of scenes depicting events like wildfires or revolts that are large-in-scale, this is a more intimate affair compared to what Cuaron has done in his 21st-century filmmaking career, one informed by his own personal childhood rather than fantasy worlds concocted by J.K. Rowling.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Launches Holiday Season Box Office In Style While The Mule Has Solid Bow And Mortal Engines Falls Into A Ditch

Though December is known for its financially successful family movies, it's typically not a place where animated family movies go for box office glory. Normally, December is where live-action family movies (most notably 2000's 20th Century Fox fare like Night At The Museum, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Cheaper By The Dozen) shine. Meanwhile, the only three animated movies to open in December and crack the $100 million mark domestically are Sing ($270.3 million), The Princess and the Frog ($104.4 million) and The Prince of Egypt ($101.4 million). But as the massive box office haul of sing indicates, just because animated movies haven't found much box office glory in December in the past doesn't mean they can't ever find box office glory at this time of the year and now the solid opening of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse proved once again how capable animated family movies are at opening to big numbers in December.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Character-Driven Thrills Make Cam Oh So Engrossing

What a difference a year makes, especially when it comes to the reputation of Netflix's original movies. This time last year, we were still a few days out from Netflix's big blockbuster Bright becoming one of the worst movies of last year, a miserable end to a year that primarily saw disappointments (like War Machine or Death Note) fill up Netflix's original film line-up. Flash-forward to December 2018 and Netflix, while not impervious to disappointing movies (remember that underwhelming Jeremy Saulnier film they released?) has been putting out high-quality films on a weekly basis, films like Private Life, Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Other Side of the Wind and Cam.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Is Pure Cinematic Joy

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse feels like a movie just made for me. The heavy usage of hand-drawn animation, its specific style of humor that's both extremely self-referential yet avoids becoming arrogantly snarky, the various actors in its voice cast and its heartfelt attitude towards its characters, it's all just like catnip for me. No wonder then that I fell head over heels for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, a movie that allows the animation studio behind (shudder) The Emoji Movie the chance to step up their game to the next level and deliver something special both in terms of actual story and in terms of animation.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Orson Welles And All His Complexities Make For A great Documentary In They'll Love Me When I'm Dead

The saga of filming The Other Side of the Wind for years on end is a fascinating story in and of itself, there's more than enough material in that saga to fill up a whole documentary or two. But though They'll Love Me When I'm Dead primarily concerns itself with the multi-year process of filming this motion picture, it uses that tale as a springboard for a larger exploration of the career of Orson Welles, which kicked off with a bang with Citizen Kane but spiraled into endless creative difficulties as he struggled to work with studio executives who hindered or outright ignored his work. Welles is a mythic figure of cinema in the modern age just as he was for many young directors at the start of the 1970s, but his career was rife with difficulty that gets explored throughout They'll Love Me When I'm Dead.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Mortal Engines Is Nonsense But More Often Than Not, It's Enjoyable Nonsense

Mortal Engines is as imaginative as it is messy. Based on a series of books by Phillip Reeves, this story goes for broke in all the weirdness it can imagine occuring in a post-apocalyptic fantasy landscape where cities move around on wheels. You've got a giant vehicle that looks and moves like centipedes, the wardrobe's visual aesthetic seems like a collision of all kinds of different time-periods and an undead robot warrior all inhabiting the same story, which makes for a plot that doesn't hold together at all but at least it's usually different enough to be passably entertaining while it's unfolding in front of your eyes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ben Mendelsohn Excels In An Otherwise Average Take On The Robin Hood Mythos

Robin Hood has been a fixture of movie theater screens for exactly 110 years now, with everyone from Percy Stow to Errol Flynn to Disney to Mel Brooks to Ridley Scott giving their own unique take on the Robin Hood mythos. The newest take on this material comes from director Otto Bathurst, making his feature film directorial debut with this project, working from a script by Ben Chandler and David James Kelly that reworks the Robin Hood mythos into something that kind of wants to make the character into a superhero but also into a grounded n' gritty individual as well as a figure of political intrigue. Why they didn't also try to make him into a screwball comedy leading man while they were at it is beyond me.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Desert Hearts Is An Outstanding Poignant Character-Driven Motion Picture

The night of November 29, 2018, was a somber one for film geeks like yours truly. This was the final night of existence for FilmStruck, a wonderful streaming service haven for discovering cinema of all shapes and sizes. Its demise ensured thanks to the idiocy of its new AT&T corporate masters, I was determined to spend this night bidding adieu to this streaming service by watching one last movie on FilmStruck. But what movie? After all, there were so many choices available on FilmStruck! To help me break through all those options, I asked my friends through social media what movie I should watch on here and one of those suggestions happened to be for the 1985 Donna Deitch directorial effort Desert Hearts.

The Rider Masterfully Channels Reality To Contemplate How We Define Ourselves Against Societal Expectations

We'd all like to believe we have a firm grasp on how our identity is formed but that's simply not true. Our identity is much like a river, it ebbs and flows depending on what it runs up against. All those external factors in our lives, some big, others small, have an impact on how we define ourselves. Sometimes such outermost circumstances help us to grow in positive ways, but sometimes they're more constrictive than anything else on our personalities, particularly when it relates to a society trying to keep someone from stepping out of traditional norms. Such a specific scenario is what the lead character of the tremendously thoughtful Chloe Zhao directorial effort The Rider is grappling with.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A Pair Of Animated Movies Top One Last Weekend Before The Christmas Rush Begins

I've already done Ralph Breaks The Internet header images for two weekends in a row, how about a Creech header image to shake things up?
The second awkward post-Thanksgiving pre-Christmas weekend of 2018 was an extremely quiet one, in fact, it was the most second lowest-grossing weekend of 2018. Heck, the number one movie in the world managed not to be a new domestic box office newcomer but Aquaman which grossed a fantastic $93.6 million in China. Meanwhile on the domestic front, two animated films were in close competition for the number one spot. Ralph Breaks The Internet turned out to be the victor with $16.1 million, a 37% drop from last weekend. That's a bigger third-weekend drop than Moana and Coco, though, with a $140.8 million domestic gross after just 17 days of releases, nobody at Disney is complaining. Right behind Ralph was The Grinch, which grossed $15.1 million, a tiny 15% dip from last weekend. That's both a bigger fifth-weekend gross and a small fifth-weekend drop than the ones seen by the live-action Grinch and brings this animated family movies domestic haul to a terrific $223.4 million. Interestingly, Ralph and Grinch topping the box office for the second weekend in a row makes this the first time in history two animated films have secured the top two spots at the domestic box office for two weekends in a row. Animation's dominance at the domestic box office shall continue when Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse inevitably tops the box office this weekend.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Akira Kurosawa Laid The Groundwork For Inspirational Sports Movies With His Directorial Debut Sanshiro Sugata

There was a time when the world of cinema didn't include director Akira Kurosawa. It's hard to even imagine, it's like picturing comic strips with Peanuts or rock n' roll music without The Beatles, but there was indeed a time period for filmmaking before Kurosawa started out his directorial career. Said career began with the motion picture Sanshiro Sugata, which was released in Japan in March 1943 (it wouldn't debut in America for three more decades in April 1974) to resounding success that paved the way for the numerous movies Kurosawa had yet to make. Many of those movies are superior to Sanshiro Sugata, but this is still a solid movie with plenty to offer beyond its historical importance.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Bolder Traits of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle Can't Overcome Its More Tired Tendencies

Andy Serkis may have not planned to fixate his entire career around motion-capture performances but after portraying acclaimed characters like Gollum, Caesar and the 2005 version of King Kong, he's embraced it, to the point that not only has he founded a studio dedicated to this artform but his second directorial effort (following the dreadful biopic drama Breathe) is primarily centered around characters brought to life by the motion-capture process. What project would call for so many characters of this nature? Why, a new big-screen adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book of course, though this time around it's called Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle as an obvious homage to the classic fantasy adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post Impresses With Its Characters And Its Acting

In many ways, you wouldn't know anything was askew at the primary backdrop of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a gay conversion center known as God's Promise. The subdued nature of the movies visual tendencies means there isn't any grim color grading to indicate an atmosphere of misery while many major moments of dramatic importance aren't accompanied by a sweeping score that intrudes on the proceedings. Even the center that God's Promise is housed in looks like your typical summer camp both inside and out. But like the hungry bugs that lure prey with a colorful appearance, something can seem harmless on the outside while being incredibly malicious. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Writer/Director Joel Edgerton Manages To Find Humanity To Accompany On-Screen Torment In Boy Erased

After his directorial debut, The Gift, proved to be a surprise success, Joel Edgerton decided to follow that project up with a classic sophomore directorial effort move: it was time to get serious. It was time to deliver an "artsy" motion picture that proved to the world that Edgerton was no one-trick pony, no, this was a guy who was capable of creating powerful art in addition to fun genre fare. The result of this drive to deliver a more serious-minded feature is Boy Erased, which really aims for the full nine years in terms of dark storytelling material by covering the experience of a gay teenager going to a conversion camp designed to "correct" his sexuality.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Front Runner Is Lackluster Fare Desperately In Need Of Some Personality

The Front Runner is a movie after Dragnet's heart in that it's very much a "Just The Facts, Ma'am" kind of production based on the three-week-long scandal that sank the Presidential chances of Democratic Party candidate Gary Hart. It presents the events that happened, a bunch of the real-life people involved with them but never creates a perspective or a personality of its own in the process. Going the "Just The Facts, Ma'am" route may have helped Dragnet solve some crimes in his own TV show, but doing the same approach here ends up meaning The Front Runner just feels empty as a movie. It's a wannabe political thriller without any of the brains, thrills or thoughtfulness that define the best entries in this subgenre.

Holiday Season 2018 Box Office Predictions

December has arrived folks and that means it's time to break out a whole bunch of annual festive traditions, like decorating your Christmas tree or sending Christmas cards or in the case of this website, doing my fifth annual Holiday Season Box Office Predictions article! Yes, for the fifth year in a row, I'll be predicting the opening weekend and final domestic grosses for the assorted movies opening in wide release throughout December. One quick note before we begin; there are currently no set release dates for wide release expansions for limited release titles like The Favourite or Mary, Queen of Scots that'll almost certainly go into wide release during December. Thus, no box office predictions will be offered for such titles.

OK, let's begin this tradition with the lone new wide release of this coming weekend....

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Psychokinesis Makes For A Great (Allegedly) First Foray Into Superhero Movies For South Korean Cinema

Superhero movies have been a major fixture of American cinema for decades now but why should Americans have all the fun? Countries all over the world have produced their own superhero movies to varying degrees of success, including the Australian comedy Griff the Invisible, the Japanese comedy Zebraman and last year's Russain blockbuster Guardians, which features a dude who transforms into a giant bear. One of this year's newest example of a foreign superhero movie was Psychokinesis, the newest film from Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho and a movie that has been called the first South Korean superhero movie (I have my doubts about that).

Audiences Log Back On To Ralph Breaks The Internet While The Possession of Hannah Grace Has Meek Debut

We're currently in the awkward two-week period between Thanksgiving break and the Christmas break, both of which generate a lot of box office. In between those two breaks, well, not so much. The first of these weekends saw Ralph Breaks The Internet topping the box office for the second weekend in a row with a $25.7 million second-weekend, a 54% drop from its opening weekend, a steeper second-weekend decline than the ones seen by Coco, Moana and Frozen. It appears this Walt Disney Animation Studios title is a more frontloaded creature due to it being a sequel, though with $119.2 million domestically in just 12 days, no one at Disney's complaining.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Green Book Is Occasionally Agreeable And Occasionally Cringe-Inducing

It's very strange to finally enter the critical discourse on Green Book, which has been in full swing ever since the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival nearly three months ago, solely because the most I have to offer up on the movie is that it's usually passable but not much more than that. Green Book is very much a traditional crowdpleaser movie, the kind of upbeat easygoing fare that usually wins a lot of Oscars and that general moviegoers go ga-ga for, it's the kind of paint-by-numbers production that doesn't offer up one the chance to say much beyond "Well, maybe your parents will like it?  Especially if they loved The Blind Side and Million Dollar Arm?"

Overlord Is Simple But Also Frequently Entertaining

Bad Robot Productions has been stepping up their output lately to include a lot more projects that aren't just J.J. Abrams directorial efforts. What used to be a rare occurrence (a Morning Glory here, a Cloverfield there) is now making becoming an annual tradition that promises to grow in prominence in the years to come. Ramping up the amount of movies they make means it was inevitable that they'd eventually make their first R-rated film, which comes in the form of Overlord, a B-movie that keeps things simple and gory. If you're looking for a bit of gruesome counterprogramming during the holiday season movie landscape heavily populated by family movies and prestige dramas, well, you could certainly do worse than this.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Go On An Endlessly Charming Holiday With Katharine Hepburn And Cary Grant

Just like musicals, superhero movies, Muppet movies and documentaries about classic cinema legends, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant movies just make me ever so happy. Few actors have ever had such rich chemistry as these two, Grant and Hepburn just had such a natural rhythm together that made the sight of them doing something as simple as exchanging small-talk a riveting sight to behold. Best of all, their dynamics didn't leave Hepburn on the side as an object for Grant to covet, in the likes of The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, Hepburn gets to go toe-to-toe with and even overpower Geant in their interactions, which is just perfect for a performer like Hepburn whose got spunk for days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

With A Story And Cast This Good, No Wonder Jackie Brown Is So Thoroughly Entertaining

We all know how much Quentin Tarantino loves making movies that extensively pay homage to genres of cinema that proved highly influential to him while also putting his own spin on said genres, it's his own trademark as a filmmaker. While I've heard Jackie Brown frequently referred to as Tarantino doing a homage to blaxploitation cinema of the 1970's, I wouldn't quite classify it as occupying that specific region of filmmaking beyond the font used for the title and of course the casting of Pam Grier in the titular lead role. Like another 1990's movie I reviewed recently, Miller's Crossing, Jackie Brown actually skews closer to 1940's movies like The Big Sleep involving a lead character of questionable morals trying to keep their head above water among numerous intersecting storylines.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Creed II is Satisfying But Disappointingly Not Very Surprising

Creed II is not as good as the first movie. That was inevitable because Creed is one of the best movies of the last few years, how could you possibly top it? Trying to follow up that motion picture was gonna be a difficult task for anybody and new director Steve Caple Jr. (taking over for the original Creed's director Ryan Coogler who is now off in Wakanda) does a commendable job expanding on the story of Creed from the first movie. Even without comparing this sequel to its predecessor though, one can't help but feel like some spark of originality is missing from Creed II. This movie knows how to pack a punch but you can always see the punch coming.

Beautiful Boy Is An Imperfect Drama With Two Great Lead Performances

Drug addiction, as well as addiction in general, is, like many epidemics that affect actual human beings, something that crops up in American cinema frequently as just a cheap ploy to drum up shock value drama. The people actually suffering from the illness of addiction don't get their plight or just their own separate personalities humanized. Writer/director Felix Van Groeningen seeks to rectify this with his new movie (which marks his first foray into English-language American cinema) Beautiful Boy, which is based on two separate non-fiction books chronicling the life of Nic Sheff (here portrayed by Timothee Chalamet) who has struggled with his addiction to numerous different kinds of substances for years.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ralph Breaks The Internet And, Along With Creed II, The Domestic Box Office Over A Busy Thanksgiving Box Office

All weekend box office figures discussed in this article are for the three-day weekend unless stated otherwise.

Remember those TV spots for Saw sequels that proclaimed "If it's Halloween, it must be Saw"? Well, Disney should start doing something similar by having TV spots for their Thanksgiving animated fare that proclaim "If it's Thanksgiving, it must be time for an animated movie blockbuster from Disney." The studios tradition of releasing box office hits (and also The Good Dinosaur) over the holiday timeframe continued on with Ralph Breaks The Internet, which grossed $55.6 million over the weekend, the third-best three-day Thanksgiving opening weekend in history behind fellow Disney Animation titles Moana ($56.6 million) and Frozen ($67.3 million). That opening weekend is a 15% improvement over the opening weekend of its predecessor despite Ralph Breaks The Internet burning off demand with a Wednesday lunch unlike the original Wreck-It Ralph which bowed on a Friday.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Instant Family Stumbles In Trying To Make Heartfelt Family Fare

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne), the two leads of Instant Family, have been debating for a while now whether or not they wanna make the dive into having kids. They finally decide to commit to it though upon learning more about the foster care adoption process which they dive headfirst into by way of doing all the necessary training. None of that training can prepare them for when they actually adopt three kids, teenager Lizzy (Isabela Moner) and her two younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and their whole lives get turned upside down. A whole lot of chaos might just help them become a family, yee-haw.

Layers of Ambiguity Fuel The Beautifully Filmed Thriller Burning (SPOILERS)


Director Lee Chang-dong's newest motion picture Burning is a thriller, but it takes a little bit of time before it reveals itself as just that. At first, the audience is just following around aspiring writer Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) as he putters around in his day-to-day life doing deliveries to earn money as he tries nearly everything, including getting his neighbors to sign a petition, to ensure that his violent father doesn't get a harsh prison sentence. While going about his life, he runs into childhood friend Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) for the first time in ages. The two promptly go out for dinner where Shin reveals that she's about to go to Africa as part of her desire to fulfill her Big Hunger, a term meant to refer to a persons desire to find out their purpose in the universe. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thoughtful Heist Movie Widows Is The Very Best Kind of Expansive Cinema

Widows is so jam-packed with so many plotlines, themes, and social commentary that it feels like it shouldn't work at all, this should be the quintessential case of an overstuffed movie that people refer to as something that should have been an HBO miniseries instead.  A heist thriller with so much going on at once really does sound like it should be the kind of ambitious project that exceeds an artists grasp. Instead, Widows is more than just "not overstuffed", it's phenomenal cinema from top-to-bottom, an immensely impressive achievement that, like an expert magician pulling a tablecloth off a table without disrupting any items actually on the table, manages to do the seemingly impossible so effortlessly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Grinch Is Painless And Average Which Puts It Above Most Dr. Seuss Movie Adaptations

Adapting Dr. Seuss works into feature films is a process that does not have a great track record, to put it mildly. The live-action Grinch and Cat in the Hat movies were abominations, The Lorax missed the darker underpinnings of the story it was adapting and Horton Hears A Who! was the one exception here, being a reasonably charming fare, probably one of the better Blue Sky Studios movies and definitely the best Dr. Seuss film adaptation. The Grinch (this time fully animated compared to the live-action 2000 Ron Howard directorial effort) is the newest film to try and tackle this daunting task and the result is something that's just inoffensive enough to probably rank in the upper pantheon of both Dr. Seuss movies and Illumination Entertainment films, though neither of those are high bars to clear.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Charlie Chaplin Bid Farewell To The Tramp By Embracing Real-World Turmoil In Modern Times

Whether you're Bear in the Big Blue House or Johnny Carson, there comes a time when you must say goodbye. Whether it's because the general public has gotten tired of you, by your own choice or other external circumstances, there comes a moment when all pop culture figures must take their final bows and walk off gracefully into the sunset. This was true even for a cinematic icon like Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp character, who had been entertaining audiences for more than two decades since he first premiered in the 1914 short film Twenty Minutes of Love. Yes, even The Tramp couldn't last forever and so the character went out with a bang with the 1936 movie Modern Times.

Monday, November 19, 2018

John Turturro, The Coen Brothers And Especially John Goodman Are All In Top-Notch Form In Barton Fink

One of the most realistic depictions I've ever seen of being a writer came from, of all places, a SpongeBob SquarePants episode entitled Procrastination depicting the shows titular lead character trying to get an essay about red lights done for his boating class. What constantly gets in his way is his own inability to concentrate, SpongeBob keeps on finding new reasons for him to delay doing his essay, whether it's doing stretches or cleaning his kitchen until it's all shiny and chrome. It's a brilliantly funny episode in and of itself (so many of those classic SpongeBob episodes are) but it especially resonates with me as an accurate depiction of how hard it can be to focus on actually getting writing done.

From The Ashes of FilmStruck Rises Criterion Collection!

The abrupt cancellation of streaming service FilmStruck, which hosts countless classic movies from all over the planet, sickened me for a whole horde of reasons. At least I wasn't the only film geek to be crestfallen by the departure of FilmStruck, in fact, my disappointment was shared with a whole bunch of iconic filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson and Guillermo del Toro who, along with many other directors, signed a petition calling for FilmStruck to be saved and sent it directly to Toby Emmerich, head of Warner Bros. Pictures (which is part of the WarnerMedia family that FilmStruck belongs to).

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Coen Brothers Return To Westerns In Successful Fashion With The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The anthology film refers to movies that are comprised of individual, typically stand-alone, short segments instead of one grander story. Modern examples of this trend are few-and-far-between, but they've been most common in the horror genre which has produced the various V/H/S movies and The ABC's of Death. I guess the wretched 2013 abomination Movie 43 would count as an anthology movie? Easily the most high-profile modern example of this type of feature has to be the newest motion picture from Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which sees the iconic duo weaving six separate stories each inhabiting the Western genre they previously explored with 2010 directorial effort True Grit. 

A Trio of Newcomers, Including Fantastic Beasts 2 And Widows, Underperform At The Pre-Thanksgiving Box Office

Some Warner Bros. executives may be experiencing some Wizard Angst right now given that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald only debuted to $62.2 million domestically, or at least, they'd be experiencing that until they saw the massive $191 million it took in overseas, giving it a $253 million worldwide haul to date, the 38th biggest worldwide box office opening weekend in history. In the U.S. though, the newest Fantastic Beasts films didn't fare so well, scoring the lowest opening weekend for a movie topping the pre-Thanksgiving weekend frame since 2007 and having a 17% lower domestic opening weekend than its predecessor despite costing 11% more to produce. Good thing they hired Johnny Depp for this project or else it might have come in shy of expectations domestically!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Miller's Crossing Is Another Early Coen Brothers Winner

For their third directorial effort, The Coen Brothers (though only Joel Coen is credited as a director) returned to the crime genre that has served them well so many times in their expansive careers. For this particular take on the crime movie formula, they decided to go in the direction of a period piece, setting the tale in the 1920's specifically. Despite being set in the era where the sale of alcohol was banned, the film, entitled Miller's Crossing, was actually taking more cues in its tone and style from 1940's noir features, particularly ones like The Big Sleep involving a single lead character trying to use their wits to make a whole bunch of other peoples agendas work in his favor.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crime of Grindelwald Leans Heavily On Poorly Developed Characters To Dismal Results


One of my favorite childhood memories is when I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the very first time as a nine-year-old boy. I'd heard so much praise regarding about The Boy Who Lived from my friends and family members but it was a whole other experience to actually read it and get enveloped into this world of wizardry and wonder populated by well-realized characters I could relate to so easily. There was so much vivid humanity that informed Harry Potter, his friends and his enemies, it just made that world so compelling. With the newest entry in this sprawling Harry Potter universe, clumsily entitled, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the world, specifically all kinds of extended mythology that takes place in it, has taken precedence over the characters and that results in a total mess of a movie that would be wretched even if it wasn’t connected to an infinitely superior series of books & films.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can You Ever Forgive Me? Is A Skillfully Subdued Triumph

Like the boys (A.K.A. Zac Efron and Corbin Bleau) in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, writer/director Marielle Heller is back after her outstanding 2015 directorial effort The Diary of a Teenage Girl. A movie bursting at the seams with authentic portrayals of all the complexities of a specific teenagers angst, anything she did as a follow-up to that excellent motion picture was gonna grab my attention. But the fact that such a sophomore directorial effort, entitled Can You Ever Forgive Me?, would also serve as a chance for Melissa McCarthy to flex her dramatic acting muscles meant this was a movie that's been very much on my radar for ages now (it probably would have been on my radar anyway though given how many times I've seen the trailer over the past seven months).